Eurostar Revamps Services In A Bid To Lure Fliers

Long-distance train travel is making a comeback with Eurostar announcing plans to expand its services. The high-speed train, which primarily serves London, Brussels and Paris, has its sights set on new destinations across the European continent.

Eurostar says its entire system is undergoing an overhaul – from the booking process, to the routes, to the trains themselves. The company’s website has been given a facelift in order to create a more user-friendly booking portal, and brand new uniforms have been designed for the crew. Updated trains are also in the pipeline and are expected to be up and running by 2015.As far as network expansion goes, Eurostar says it has its eye on a number of possible routes including London-Holland and London-Germany. Eurostar’s Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic says he will be looking closely at routes that currently have a lot of air traffic. He told CNN he hopes travelers will eventually come to think of train travel the same way they think of flying.

Eurostar’s overhaul comes in the wake of stiff competition from German train line Deutsche Bahn, which has said it will offer trips across the Channel Tunnel starting in 2016.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mike Knell]

Spirit of Britain super-ferry enters service on the busy Dover-Calais route

spirit of britain

This morning, Dubai owned P&O ferries took delivery of the Spirit of Britain – one of the largest ferries in the world. The vessel will operate on the Dover-Calais channel route, and is capable of transporting 2000 passengers.

Compared to the ferries of the past, this new vessel is more cruise ship than ferry – with an upscale shopping center, private lounge, shower facilities, free Wi-Fi and various restaurants.

Passengers on the 90 minute journey can drive their car onto the ship along with up to nine passengers for just GBP19 ($30), with 6 free bottles of wine and a free breakfast. There is room on its decks for 180 freight trucks, for a total of 400 vehicles – or almost 2.2 miles of cars and trucks.

Despite the introduction of the Channel Tunnel back in 1994, ship traffic between the two countries is busier than ever. On this short route, P&O has to compete with two other ship operators.

The Spirit of Britain is the sixth ferry from P&O to operate on the channel route, and will be joined in September by the Spirit of France. The ships were built in Finland by STX shipyards, the same yard responsible for building the massive Norweigan Epic cruise ship as well as various Carnival cruise ships.

[Photo: AP]

Eurostar to suspend Channel train service indefinitely

Most people think “airlines” when the topic turns to the misery of holiday travel. Well, the trains are getting in on the action now. European railway Eurostar‘s Channel Tunnel train, which connects England and France, is being shut down indefinitely. It’s a natural side-effect of having more than 2,000 passengers trapped inside the tunnel for several hours because of technical glitches.

Several hours? Try 15 of ‘em! Sans food, water or information, passengers had no relief from a truly miserable situation.

Eurostar has promised that it won’t send any more trains into the tunnel until the problem has been identified and resolved. On Sunday, it said that the malfunction was related to “acute weather conditions in northern France,” according to a report by The Associated Press. The area is suffering its worst winter in recent memory.

The suspension of train service under the English Channel forced 31,000 people in Great Britain, France and Belgium to cancel their travel plans on Saturday, with another 26,000 estimated to have been impacted on Sunday. The backlog is still building, and Eurostar isn’t planning to start selling tickets again until after Christmas.
So, time to hop on a flight, right? Not quite.

The winter storm conditions that Eurostar is blaming for the train’s being trapped in the tunnel forced air carriers to cut almost half the flights departing from both airports in Paris through the middle of Sunday afternoon. More are expected for Monday. Lines were long at the airport in Brussels, as well.

[Photo by OliverN5 via Flickr]

Channel tunnel to remain closed through the weekend

The Channel Tunnel between France and England will remain closed throughout the weekend as unseasonably cold weather continues to cause travel headaches across northwestern Europe.

More than two thousand passengers were stranded in the Channel Tunnel for up to 16 hours on Friday when five Eurostar trains had electrical malfunctions. Thousands more were stuck on either side of the tunnel with no way to get across. The problem is being blamed on the temperature differences between the cold conditions outside and the warm air inside the tunnel.

A few Eurostar trains did go through the tunnel this weekend but two showed symptoms of the same problems as those on Friday. Eurostar says there is no guarantee that trains will be running on Monday since they have yet to determine the exact nature of the problem and how to fix it.

Passengers who suffered delays are being offered a refund, £150 compensation and a free return ticket.

Thousands trapped in Channel Tunnel

More than two thousand passengers were trapped in the Channel Tunnel last night when unusually cold weather in northern France made four Eurostar trains break down at the same time.

Four trains coming from Brussels and Paris entered the tunnel between France and England and promptly broke down because of the temperature change between the cold air in France and the warm air inside the tunnel.

Some passengers were evacuated after a few hours, but others had to spend all night in the tunnel. The blockage caused a huge traffic jam of cars on either side of the tunnel.

Eurostar has warned that services will remain severely disrupted throughout the weekend and that passengers should seek alternative ways to get to their destination. Eurostar has apologized for the delays and has offered refunds. It’s also considering compensation.

But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Heavy snowfall and unseasonably cold temperatures have disrupted travel in many parts of England and Scotland. Drivers are being turned away from the Channel Tunnel and being warned not to drive on the M20 near Folkstone or Dover. The Port of Calais in France is also closed.