Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

If it wasn’t for bad luck…

Posted in Customer service, Europe, Great Britain, High Speed by Chairman Pip on 18 February 2010

If people are honest, it has not been a great few weeks for Eurostar. They’ve had their snow difficulties, for which the independent report has just been released, while they’ve now had to cancel all services between London and Brussels due to the train crash at Halle until at least Monday next week, as well as sustaining severe criticism for their continuing refusal to stop at Stratford International. Obviously there is little they can do about the situation in Belgium, which is not only affecting their services, but also those of Thalys between Paris and Brussels. They will simply have to wait until the area is cleared, as the crash occured at a point where the high speed line from the French border meets the ordinary network on the approach into Brussels. As regards Stratford International, Eurostar are adamant they will not stop there until the local transport links are improved connecting the station with Stratford, which primarily means the DLR extension. However, in this instance, surely it is up to the passengers whether they choose to use the station as it is, with a bus connection operating. The train crash was bad luck for Eurostar; the Stratford issue is bad judgement.

As regards the independent report into December, Eurostar have said that they will implement all of the panel’s recommendations, of which the main ones are:

  • Improved reliability of trains
  • Better communication
  • More sophisticated rescue plans

Of course, the rescue plans don’t need to be especially sophisticated – having access to your own rescue locomotives does well enough for the major inter-city operators in Great Britain. And, if it’s the case that services along High Speed 1 were suspended owing to a failed train in the tunnel, then it doesn’t really matter if the Thunderbird locomotive isn’t very fast. After all, the Class 0001 locomotives that Eurotunnel used to rescue the failed trains in December aren’t high speed. So, as an additional recommendation, Eurostar should purchase a handful of locomotives that it can use on its own, without recourse to Eurotunnel, which could be stored close to the tunnel for easy access in the event of a train failure. Obviously having electric trains would be an advantage, as it would save on fuel costs and allow Eurostar to retain its claim to be carbon neutral, so utilising their remaining Class 92 locomotives would be ideal, given their dual voltage systems. A further idea could be, as I stated before, building a further stop on High Speed 1 at Folkestone, which could be utilised by Southeastern as a regular stop, but would also allow Eurostar trains access to the ferries in the event of a failure in the tunnel. Were the idea of passenger shuttle trains to be implemented (where passengers could just walk up and get on a train, just like on the ferry), a Folkestone station could be utilised for this as well. Indeed, given the imminent introduction of the Super Express and concurrent withdrawl of the InterCity 225, there is a large amount of readily available, thoroughly refurbished and well maintained electric passenger rolling stock, with a powerful electric locomotive at one end that could also be used in a rescue scenario. Seems fairly simple to me.

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