After having spent the last three days in and out of the studios for the past three days criticising the performance of Eurostar and Eurotunnel in the face of the breakdown and then cancellation of the Eurostar trains, I now wonder if I have been too critical. After all, it was an unprecedented event with five trains breaking down simultaneously and it does seem to have been an unlucky conjunction of events.
But then thinking about it more, there is no doubt that Eurostar’s performance was severely lacking in several respects, especially the failure to communicate information on the broken down trains and the fact that their staff seem to have gone AWOL. The company’s readiness to abandon its service entirely, rather than trying to get as many people to the other side of the Channel as possible and the management’s rather half hearted apologies were further failings. It was only when on the third day that St Pancras was flooded with staff – and free croissants – that the company had seemed to get its act together.
The railways have not come out with any credit and that must go for the train operating companies, too. Where is, for example, the regular briefings from the ATOC press office – and the individual train companies – on what services are like across the country and what can be expected over the next few days. My inbox has been empty. Yet again, the rail industry shows that it just does not understand PR as witnessed by the fact that no one from Eurostar or any other company has phoned me over the past few days, and yet I have been on virtually every major media outlet. I have had to call them for briefings – which to be fair to Eurostar have been very good – but they need to be more proactive to try to influence the agenda, rather than just sitting back and hoping for the best.