Today the report into Eurostar’s December failings is published, and everything is resorting to normal form.
The Guardian and BBC have straight and factual reports about what went wrong. There’s a new @eurostarcomms account on Twitter. Eurostar has published its response to the review, and has changed some things already. No-one is calling for Richard Brown’s head. Clearly Bell Pottinger’s PR is working. By the end of the day the whole thing will be forgotten in the media. Job done.
Only actually things are not yet right. Yesterday Eurostar had problems once more – snow in Belgium, and a points failure followed by a signal failure on the UK High Speed line. A basic statement warning of delays was displayed on the Eurostar website, yet on the screens at St Pancras outside the check in gates there was no information about the delays whatsoever. Check in was closed for 15 minutes due to overcrowding inside the terminal, and then, once inside it was explained what delays were to be faced. Some kind of live train information on Eurostar.com (or an iPhone app?) would be the logical next step.
Yet how many of the journalists that will follow Richard Brown’s words of contrition to the letter today bothered to head down to St Pancras yesterday and look at how things were? How many will ask fundamental questions about whether Eurostar’s market position is the right one? Whether competition on the line might improve matters? Few, very few. Indeed probably only Christian Wolmar will pen anything really worth reading.
Eurostar will repair their trains a bit, will invest a bit in some more rescue locomotives, will make some changes to their procedures… and then everything will be OK until the trains break down again in 3 years due to the wrong kind of leaves / rain / fog / ice / snow once more, and I’ll be stuck in a terminal somewhere bemoaning the situation on Twitter.
Interesting comment reported in this weekend’s le Figaro, by the CE of both SNCF and Eurostar Guilleme Pepy. He is said to have balled out Eurotunnel managers to their faces comparing their lazy lack of care of Eurotunnel passengers caught in the tunnel, and their lively distancing of themselves from Eurostar (their main customer). I note he didn’t mention his own staff’s equally lazy inaction ….
@french derek – I don’t deny they are promising concrete changes now, and the list of proposals is a good one. But we also heard in 2003 that there would be changes… perhaps I’m too cynical, but will these changes deliver? I hope so, but I am a little sceptical.
I have supported your views on Eurostar so far, Jon, but I need to ask – if the large sums of investment that they have promised to invest in upgrading their locomotives isn’t a “real” response, then what is? Until those improvements are done, they are being wise, surely, in cancelling trains rather than leaving themselves open to even more failures?