Tun­nel fire de­lays plans for fast train

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sounds Good - by Trevor Sturgess tsturgess@thek­m­group.co.uk

THE Chan­nel Tun­nel fire has de­layed the planned re­turn of high-speed rail ser­vices be­tween Ash­ford and Brus­sels.

Eurostar has is­sued a re­vised timetable to take ac­count of a re­stricted ser­vice through the tun­nel while it un­der­goes re­pair. It could take sev­eral months to re­store a full ser­vice.

One of the vic­tims of the new timetable is the ser­vice be­tween Ash­ford and Brus­sels.

Eurostar said that the rein­tro­duc­tion would be de­ferred un­til full tun­nel ca­pac­ity is re­stored.

This will be a blow to coun­cils, in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions who bat­tled for its restora­tion af­ter Eurostar con­tro­ver­sially chopped all ser­vices be­tween Ash­ford and Brus­sels.

Eurostar switched all Brus­sels de­par­tures to Ebb­s­fleet, claim­ing that there were not enough pas­sen­gers board­ing the train at Ash­ford to jus­tify keep­ing it.

But af­ter a fierce protest cam­paign, Eurostar said that it now saw po­ten­tial com­mer­cial ben­e­fits from a re­stored Brus­sels ser­vice, which was due to re­sume on De­cem­ber 14.

But fate has now in­ter­vened and it could be sev­eral months be­fore the promised Brus­sels ser­vice comes back to Ash­ford.


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 but that it proved im­pos­si­ble.

“We have looked ev­ery which way at whether we could do this, but we were un­able to do so.”

The re­duc­tion in tun­nel ca­pac­ity has also had an im­pact on the tim­ings of some Ash­ford-Lille ser­vices and means that a con­nect­ing re­turn jour­ney be­tween Ash­ford and Brus­sels via Lille now re­quires an overnight stop.

The num­ber of ser­vices call­ing at Ash­ford In­ter­na­tional for Paris – three a day – and for Dis­ney­land Paris – one a day – re­mains un­changed.

There are six trains a day on week­days from Ebb­s­fleet In­ter­na­tional to Paris, com­pared with seven be­fore the fire on Septem­ber 11.

The num­ber of in­bound trains re­mains un­changed at seven ev­ery week­day.

There are also four trains a week­day each way be­tween Ebb­s­fleet In­ter­na­tional and Brus­sels, com­pared with five pre­vi­ously.

The new timetable shows that jour­ney times are, on av­er­age, 20 min­utes longer than nor­mal, mainly due to slower run­ning through the tun­nel.

Nev­er­the­less, the high-speed rail op­er­a­tor claims a 93 per cent punc­tu­al­ity of its trains in the fort­night fol­low­ing the Chan­nel Tun­nel fire, which is thought to have been caused by a chem­i­cal­filled lorry.

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