To be honest the service I received on the days following the 19th December was some of the worst I have experienced in any country, including developing ones. So the fact that it was from Eurostar in the most developed part of Europe was a surprise to say the least.
I was made aware of the troubles with trains passing through the channel tunnel only once I was already on the TGV from Zurich to Paris, so it was already too late to turn back. At the Paris terminal the long queues greeted me, but this was to be expected and I was patient as was everyone else. The food at least gave some comfort.
When I asked the lady at the desk my options she said that I still may be able to travel and that a train was about to leave, with priority for people who needed to get back to see their families, of which I was one. Indeed I was issued a place on the train and was happy to finally be leaving, although the priority checking mentioned by the lady on the service desk seemed to be non existent and anyone who asked was issued a place. Sitting on the train ready to leave I was much relieved. However, this was just the start of a chain of broken command, incompetence and plain bad organisation that was soon to follow.
Once the train got close to the French entrance to the tunnel suddenly we stopped and it was announced that we were heading back to Paris and no trains would be able to pass for the rest of the day. Hello, but where was the option of staying close to the entrance of the tunnel, making it easier to take a ferry? At least we should have been asked if this is what we wanted to do. Unfortunately not and back towards Paris we went, before stopping outside of Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport and being told that we would be put up there for the night in hotels. Once again what about the people that didn’t want to be put up in hotels at an airport and would rather return to Paris? Over the course of the following day we encountered the following events/mishaps:
1) Waiting at the airport for hours in the cold and one minute being told to stay on the train and then next to get off the train
2) Queuing up for tickets for hotels that apparently guaranteed us a place but then finding out that the hotel had no spaces left and being herded back on to the bus
3) Being handed a cheap plastic tray full of processed foods of which most were meat based; not particularly helpful for the veggies like myself
4) Never been informed of what the next step in the “master plan” was; most likely because there was no master plan
5) Being told we were now responsible for finding our own way to the UK and then suddenly getting a call from reception the following day to say be down in reception in 20 minutes as buses are waiting
6) Being told the buses are no longer coming and that we are to take taxis to the airport and a Eurostar representative will be at the terminal to pay the drivers
7) Arriving in taxis at the terminal to find a Eurostar representative who worked at the airport who had no idea we were coming and no money to pay the drivers
This was enough for me and I booked myself on the first flight back to the UK, out of the incompetent grasps of Eurostar. I was at least hoping to be reimbursed promptly for my out of pocket expenses but unfortunately my application is still being processed, so they say, six weeks after I submitted it. This hardly seems fair for those people that have very little money and for whom they can’t afford to wait. All in all, for me Eurostar is now synonymous with the word Incompetent, and I believe they should rightly remove the word “star” from their company name.