Transport minister says he doubts bad weather could be sole cause of service disruption.
‘Not rocket science’
“We will be investing … to improve the resilience of the Eurostar trains during severe winter conditions as well as passenger care during disruption and customer communication both inside and outside the Tunnel,” it said in a statement.
Christian Wolmar, an independent commentator on transport, said: “These trains are about 15 years old … and half a dozen times they’ve had similar problems.
“When there’s been snow they’ve broken down either in the tunnel or just coming out of it and the problem is Eurostar did not look at this in a systematic way.
“It’s not rocket science … there isn’t that much to do … but they have got to do it otherwise if this happens again it really would be embarrassing for Eurostar.”
Thousands of passengers trapped for up to 16 hours with no food, water, air-conditioning or toilet facilities, when five trains broke down upon entering the tunnel in December.
Services were disrupted for several days before Christmas, badly denting Eurostar’s image and finances.
The report, commissioned by the French and British governments, said passengers on one train suffered panic attacks after loud “explosion type noises” were heard and the train stopped in the tunnel in total darkness.
Passengers stuck on the trains complained that there was no information, no food, no water and confusion about evacuation procedures.
The report called for better crisis communication between Eurotunnel and Eurostar, and must better inform passengers when delays occur.
It recommended establishing a videolink between the two companies’ crisis control centres and said that a facility should be introduced as soon as possible for Eurostar and other train companies to communicate with train crews inside the tunnel.
Eurostar said the trains suffered electrical failure when snow melted after they entered the tunnel from northern France.
The company, which is owned by French state rail operator SNCF, Belgium’s SNCB and British government-owned LCR, accepted the recommendations.
“We fully accept that the handling of the disruption was unacceptable and are very sorry for the inconvenience and discomfort that we caused to our passengers,” it said.