‘Six months of mis­ery’ af­ter tun­nel blaze

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - by Sarah Mar­shall smar­shall@thek­m­group.co.uk

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.

Dis­rup­tion

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.

Edith Rob­son

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