‘Six months of misery’ after tunnel blaze
THE woman who led the campaign to bring Eurostar’s Brussels service back to Ashford says the train company’s new timetable of limited services following the Channel Tunnel fire means “more months of impossible journeys over the worst of the winter weather.”
Edith Robson was looking forward to the reinstatement of the Ashford to Brussels service which was due to come on track in December.
The fire has not only resulted in that plan being delayed, but there are further disruptions to the EuroDisney service, which stops at Lille, allowing Ashford passengers to change there and take a train to Brussels.
The new timetable indicates that the service will stop at Ashford and Lille in the morning, but will not stop at Lille on its return journey. So, according to the new timetable, you can get to Brussels via Lille but not back.
Mrs Robson fought to try and save the Ashford to Brussels service which was axed last year when the new Ebbsfleet terminal opened in north Kent.
She gathered 15,000 signatures on a petition and delivered it to Downing Street with fellow passengers, MPs and MEPs.
Her husband works in Brussels so they are both frequent travellers.
Mrs Robson was delighted when in August, the train company announced that the Ashford to Brussels service would be reinstated in December. But she now faces months of misery.
Mrs Robson also fears that many passengers do not know the fire has resulted in a revised Eurostar timetable and that those with pre-booked tickets will arrive at the station to find they cannot travel. She is aware of one elderly passenger who has a ticket to travel to France to spend Christmas with her family - but is unaware the train will now leave from Ashford an hour earlier due to the emergency timetable.
Mrs Robson said she was also appalled that the shortlist for the public art which is to be installed at the Ebbsfleet terminal at a cost of £2 million - dubbed “the Angel of the South” - has been announced at a time when passengers face huge disruptions.
Eurostar spokesman Simon Montague said: “We simply cannot start this service on December 14 as originally planned, but it remains our firm intention to introduce this service once the full capacity of the Channel Tunnel is restored. Unfortunately, that is the situation we find ourselves in.”
He added that the operator had tried to find ways of keeping the restored service on schedule.
All Eurostar services to Brussels – including those from Ebbsfleet and St Pancras were cancelled on Monday due to a strike in Belgium.
For more on the impact of the Channel Tunnel fire and safety concerns see page 21.