by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, March 18, 2019
Eurostar is telling passengers not to travel “unless absolutely necessary” as five-hour queues at Gare du Nord look set to continue into the week.
After a week of industrial action by customs staff in France, hopes that the disruption would eased have dissipated as the cross-Channel rail operator said “long queues and delays” are expected until Wednesday. Eurostar first issued the warning last weekend, but reiterated it last Wednesday and again on Monday morning, advising against travel until Wednesday (Mar 20).
“We recommend not to travel unless absolutely necessary,” Eurostar said in a statement. “If you are travelling from Paris until March 20, you can change your ticket free of charge to a future date, or claim a full refund.
“All Eurostar trains are experiencing delays and long queues for journeys from Paris Nord due to industrial action by French customs until March 20.”
Business travel providers Hillgate Travel said it anticipated disruption to stretch into next weekend, adding that Eurostar could not guarantee priority check in lanes for business class passengers.
Three trains have been cancelled for travel from Paris to London on Monday, two on Tuesday and three on Wednesday. Routes to Brussels and Amsterdam have not been affected and disruption at St Pancras, the station from which the Eurostar departs London, is minimal. However, Eurostar has issued the same warning to outbound travellers.
|March 14, 2019|
Passengers caught up in the disruption last week posted photos of the queues in Paris. Peter Frankopan, a professor of global history at Oxford University, tweeted an image of a long, wide queue, with the words: “Four hours of my life that I’ll never get back.”
Customs officials in France are striking over pay and working conditions, as well as staffing levels ahead of Brexit, which they say will lead to longer processing times for each British passport holder.
It is believed French staff have been trialling the sort of thorough checks that will be required once the UK leaves the EU, raising the prospect of further disruption at the end of the month.
According to Department for Transport analysis, seen by the Financial Times last month, queues of 15,000 people could form along Euston Road outside St Pancras, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Eurostar said the suggestion was “extremely misleading and speculative”.
A spokesperson for Eurostar said: “We are working closely with the governments on both sides of the channel, and expect to be able to operate on our existing basis in either a deal or no-deal scenario.”
Eurostar has cancelled up to three trains a day between London and Paris up to March 30 “for operational reasons”.
“If you were to travel on one of the trains… you can exchange your ticket or get a refund,” Eurostar said. See the full list of cancellations here.