Eurostar's famed reliability under threat?

5 Oct 2015 by Alex McWhirter
At the weekend, Dr Julia Reid MEP tweeted: "Owing to recent problems with the Channel Tunnel I've given up on travelling to Brussels on Eurostar. Now flying to Brussels". In another tweet she added: "As an MEP I have to use reliable public transport. Unfortunately Eurostar delays have meant me, & others, missing meetings". I am sure I'm not alone in thinking other business people must now be thinking the same? For many years, compared to air travel, Eurostar was easily the most reliable way to travel between London, Brussels and Paris. The high-speed train service could boast high standards of punctuality and reliability, both so essential for business people with appointments to keep and busy schedules to maintain. Not forgetting that, for those travelling beyond Lille, Brussels or Paris — and in this "age of the train" many more people are making longer trips — reliability is vital for making connections to Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and so on. But this year has seen a reversal in Eurostar's performance, yet in almost all cases the problems were not of its own making. The main issue is the situation at Calais, but there have also been technical problems within the tunnel itself (ageing infrastructure, perhaps?) which have caused knock-on delays. Consider that within the past week alone, there have been three separate publicised reports of disruption. On Saturday, Eurostar's trains did not start running until late morning because of problems at Calais. Had train service been delayed on a weekday, business people would have been vocal. A few days before, services were delayed for three hours after a Eurostar train struck a wild boar which had strayed onto the high-speed line in France. And a few days before that, there were more delays on the line owing to "cable theft". That's not all. There will be no Eurostar trains to Brussels from late Thursday and all day Friday owing to strike sction in Belgium. And this afternoon, Eurostar tweeted an alert of a 45 minute delay at Calais. Even earlier today, another passenger took to Twitter to register his disatisfaction at a delay. @GreatDrams said: "@Eurostar on the 11:13 from Paris currently stuck outside Calais for last 90mins any update on estimated delay? 1hr? 5hrs? No info for ages." It is true that air travellers can also suffer delays. The difference here is that, chiefly and with the exception of weather, passengers are forewarned of any disruption. For those readers living or working in the London area, what "high road" options remain? Paris
  • From Heathrow - Air France or British Airways to CDG
  • From Luton, Gatwick and Southend (from early 2016) - Easyjet
  • From London City - Air France (operated by Cityjet) to Orly
  • From Southampton (often used by south-west Londoners) - Flybe to Orly
  • From Heathrow - British Airways and Brussels Airlines
There are no other flights from any London area airport, but Cityjet operates from London City to Antwerp while VLM operates to Antwerp out of Southampton. Alex McWhirter
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