Published 8th March 2012
LONDON - Passengers travelling to and from London’s St. Pancras International to mainland Europe had their travel plans seriously disrupted by two separate incidents outside Eurostar’s control on March 5.
Snowy conditions in France caused power cables belonging to EDF the French energy company, to collapse and fail in March 5 bringing interruptions to the railway traction current supply. The disruption was compounded by a suspected fire on a Thalys train which obviously had to be dealt with as fire is a terrible risk on a moving train.
We would like to offer our sincere apologies to all of our customers affected by the disruption of the 5th March.
Firstly a Thalys train stopped on the line with a suspected fire on board. This alone would have caused substantial delays to morning services, but in the early afternoon an additional issue arose when a power cable (part of the French national grid, not the railway infrastructure) came down south of Lille, falling onto the cables used to power trains on the high-speed line.
This caused the power to be cut for several hours on a long stretch of the track we use in France, halting all rail traffic in the area. After this, we and all other operators had to use the non-high-speed lines for much of the rest of the day, which naturally became quite congested as a result.
Throughout the day, we were of course trying very hard to minimise disruption wherever we could. Unfortunately, as you know, in many cases this wasn't possible and most of our trains between London and Paris suffered serious delays. This then had a knock-on effect on other services, as some trains and crews were not where they needed to be in order for us to keep to our timetable. In some cases, we even found ourselves forced to cancel some services and re-accommodate customers onto others.
Passengers were obviously seriously inconvenienced and were stuck for up to ten hours in some cases. They used social networking sites to tell everyone about their problems and one designer was reported in a London evening paper the next day as the whole thing being a disaster.
A disaster is not being delayed, it is when there is loss of life, such as on the recent Cruise Liner accident or as on the M5 motorway last year on bonfire night.
It seems that many delayed passengers were attending the Paris fashion show and seemed to be a little emotional at the events. But as with many rail delays, the factors were outside the control of railway authorities which is not realised or understood by passengers.
The fact is that High Speed services are very reliable – far more than conventional lines with a mixture of traffic ranging from slow freight trains to older commuter services mixed with fast modern trains.