Eurostar LATEST: Don’t travel until April, Paris passengers told

Passengers queuing at Gare du Nord. Photo: The Local
Eurostar told passengers on Thursday to avoid travelling on the cross-channel rail service until April due to the ongoing industrial action by French customs unions.

READ ALSO Eurostar UPDATE: Gare du Nord queues ease but confusion surrounds French customs protest


Paris' Gare du Nord station has seen chaotic scenes and passengers queuing for up to six hours as a work-to-rule protest by French staff continues.

The strike has been running since March 4, and Eurostar on Thursday advised passengers not to travel unless absolutely necessary for the rest of the month of March.




The company said in a statement on Thursday: “Due to industrial action by French customs, we are experiencing lengthy queues at Paris Gare du Nord station and expect this to continue until the end of March. 

“We strongly recommend that you do not travel during this period unless necessary.

“Please, also note that we are unable to offer our priority check-in service.”

In previous days passengers who had made the trip to the station have reported queuing for up to six hours before boarding a train.



As well as lengthy queues, several services a day between Paris and London have been cancelled.

The work-to-rule protest began on March 4 and as originally scheduled to finish on March 20, but has now been extended until at least March 24.

“I completely understand the frustration of the passengers and I'm very sorry for them,” Vincent Thomazo from the UNSA union told The Local.

“But the government aren't responding to us at all so we have to put pressure on them.

“We don't have any concrete information on when it will end — we''ll have to wait and see but we are hoping it won't go on beyond the end of the week.

“The situation is tiring for everyone including those carrying out the industrial action.

“We're hoping to hear that government is willing to give us what we need by the end of the week and we really hope the action will not continue into April and beyond.”

Although some passengers were frustrated, many seemed resigned to the lengthy waits.

“It's France – it's been like this for 25 years, so you have no expectations but no frustrations either,” said Roland, who was at Gare du Nord on Thursday.



Eurostar declined to comment on the impact the industrial action had on the company, saying: “At the moment our focus is on offering customers flexibility around when they travel during this industrial action. 

“For the moment, we continue to advise travellers with bookings in the coming days not to travel unless absolutely necessary. Customers can exchange their journey at no cost, or refund if they would prefer. Those with bookings in the future should check our website for updates.” 

French customs officials are trying to press demands for higher pay and demonstrate what will happen if greater controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, currently planned for later this month.

Instead of going on strike – meaning they would not work at all – the customs officers have been carrying out work-to-rule industrial action which means that they only do what is required by the rules of their contract. 

This means that they precisely follow all safety or other regulations, which has means lots of checks and questions which has slowed down the flow of passengers through terminals at Eurostar, Eurotunnel and the ports in Calais.

The customs agents are demanding an increase in overnight pay, a danger allowance, and more staff and resources to help with greater controls that will be put in place once Britain breaks away from the European Union, currently scheduled in just over two weeks.
French unions representing the around 17,000 workers recently rejected a €14 million budget boost offered by the government as it was “not sufficient compared to the agent's demands”, Jean-Marc Jame of the CFDT union told AFP.
“When divided by the number of agents, there is not much left,” he said.

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  1. I travelled today and it actually wasn’t too bad. Our train was supposed to be delayed for 1.5 hours but left only 20 mins late. It made up 10 mins on the journey as well, so arrived in London only 10 mins after scheduled time.

    We arrived early (2.5h before boarding) expecting hell on earth, but were lucky to be fast-tracked through the queue because we had two young children. Not sure if this was purely luck or company policy – there didn’t seem to be any other small children in the queue, so maybe they were being filtered out.

    Got some angry looks from other passengers, but asking kids under 5 to wait hours seems unnecessarily cruel – and would passengers have preferred to listen to crying and whining for hours in the queue? That wouldn’t make anyone feel better about the situation.

    I also think that many people have heeded the advice and cancelled any unnecessary journies. It was pretty busy, but London on the way out was significantly busier than today.

    Well done to the staff for helping out. The customs officials, EuroStar staff, police and station staff were all excellent. This was our first time in Paris and we were prepared for a far frostier reception than we received. ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ go a long way – which is just as well, because that’s about 50% of my French vocabulary!

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