Independent Eurostar inquiry must be held

Monday, December 21 2009

Tunnel Vision
[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=eurostar+chaos&iid=7416450″ src=”4/2/7/e/Travel_Chaos_Continues_0a81.jpg?adImageId=8510945&imageId=7416450″ width=”435″ height=”315″ /]

Eurostar customers wait for information about train services in St Pancras station on December 21. Photo by Oli Scarff / Getty Images via picapp.

With some Eurostar 55,000 passengers affected by the Eurostar failures and cancellations, followed by today’s news that Eurotunnel are not honouring all reservations for the Eurotunnel Shuttle, Transport Minister Sidiq Kahn’s demand that Eurostar’s internal inquiry should also report to shareholders and himself is a case of too little, too late. An independent public inquiry with sufficiently wide terms of reference is the only way to ensure that the reoccurring saga of Channel Tunnel chaos is terminated once and for all.

Here are the 12 questions that such an inquiry should examine:

  1. Was Friday’s failure of 6 Eurostar trains a freak once in 100 years fault, or had such failures occurred before?
  2. What temperature and humidity tests had the Eurostar trains been subject to?
  3. Is Eurotunnel’s Eurostar rescue model (send in another Eurostar to push the failed train out) the appropriate solution in all circumstances?
  4. How were the different rescue scenarios for the 5 failed trains devised?
  5. Should Eurostar have had their own locomotives on standby or is it sufficient for the company to rely on Eurotunnel’s locomotives?
  6. Were the experiences of passengers whose trains failed in the tunnel merely unpleasant, or a serious health and safety risk?
  7. Was their adequate communication between Eurostar staff and the passengers in the failed trains?
  8. Was there adequate communication between Eurotunnel and the Eurostar staff in the failed trains?
  9. Were appropriate arrangements made to support intending passengers who were stranded by the cancellation of Eurostar services.
  10. How adequate was the response  of the management and board of Eurostar?
  11. How adequate was the response of the management and board of Eurotunnel?
  12. How appropriate were the control procedures ordered by the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority?



One comment

  1. Why hold a public enquiry for the Eurostar breakdowns and cancellations? Would an internal investigation not suffice? Eurostar’s board are answerable to their shareholders, not to the government in office. They are answerable to their customers by way of ticket sales, leading to profits, leading to returns for the shareholders. Granted, a large number of people have been affected, however, with one budget airline cancelling 200 flights, leaving 30,000 people out of position, and 2000 cars stuck on the roads overnight in gridlock in the south-east, surely holding a public enquiry for one company’s breakdowns, and one set of failures is tantamount to people pulling the duvet over their heads and hoping the problem goes away.

    The country has struggled to cope with snow for several winters. Either call a public enquiry into why as a nation we seem unable to cope when in winter a snowfall hits us and the regions affected grind to a halt, or let Eurostar conduct its own internal investigations, feed back into the rail industry and take the learnings from it. A public enquiry into Eurostar’s failings seems an unnecessary waste of money, with very little gain.

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