Can any of us believe what is happening to Eurostar?
This is the travel product, mode of transportation, whatever you want to call it that has not only most affected the landscape of business travel but also our expectations. For more than a decade we’ve heard nothing but praise, and more praise, for this quick, comfortable, reliable way of getting from the heart of London to the heart of Paris and Brussels. It’s been an easy, convenient, productive and stylish way to travel. And we’ve all loved it. We’ve loved how easy it’s become to connect with the Continent.
And it’s changed forever our perceptions of the train. We stopped thinking of rail as something slow and dowdy; Eurostar made travelling by train become something sleek, stylish and suitable for business travel.
How can a love affair that’s lasted for 15 years start to unravel so?
I travelled on Eurostar to Paris on Thursday the 17th of December with the only worry that the industrial action planned for the Friday might delay my return journey. In fact my journey out was delayed, and delayed and by the time I got to Paris industrial action, which only the French can still do in the style of the 1960s, was in full swing and between that and snow and ice in the French capital, taxis were in short supply. In fact they were non-existent. Just as well because that prompted me to change my Friday return to an earlier train which was delayed and delayed and yes, I moaned, but when I woke up to the news on Saturday morning I stopped moaning. I felt embarrassed to be moaning about an hour and a half delay when I heard what passengers on later trains had had to endure.
But Eurostar, oh Eurostar, I’m confused. What has happened to all the brilliant service and customer care that we’ve loved you for? Even on my train, which unexplainably ground to a halt in the middle of a snow covered field in northern France, the announcement was “I don’t know why we’ve stopped but when I find out, I’ll let you know”. Announcements like that don’t fill you with confidence but, eh, they’re better than no announcements.
One plausible blip is manageable. Several send out warning signals. Please, Eurostar, give us those strong, positive messages we used to get. We love you but we miss what you were.