Paris' Gare du Nord station has been the scene of travel chaos and queues of up to six hours over the last three weeks as French customs staff stage a work-to-rule protest.
Eurostar has been advising passengers not to travel from Paris unless absolutely necessary, and on Thursday indicated that the disruption could last until April.
However on Friday, Eurostar issued a statement saying: “The situation is progressively returning to normal, however it may take longer than normal to proceed through departures in Paris Gare du Nord.”
In a tweet Eurostar said “the situation was good in Paris” and that the customs strike was suspended.
The situation is good in Paris. The french customs strike is suspended so we are returning to normal. Passengers are to arrive at time on tickets. The checks are still enforced but more lanes are open so flow has greatly improved. Bon Voyage.
— Eurostar (@Eurostar) March 22, 2019
However French customs unions told The Local that the improvement in the service was due to travellers cancelling their trips rather officials ending their long-running industrial action.
“It's false,” said Vincent Thomazo from the UNSA union.
“There is still a French customs movement. The reason the queues are better is because Eurostar's measures of asking people to not to travel or change their plans has worked and fewer people are travelling.”
Eurostar added on Twitter that it had no information on when or if customs officials may take action again.
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Customers were advised to arrive at the station for the time indicated on their ticket, and were warned that there were still likely to be queues.
As the industrial action is ongoing, Eurostar has also cancelled several services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Four trains have been cancelled on Friday – the 07:37 from Paris to London St Pancras; the 09:03 from Paris to Ebbsfleet International and London; the 14:37 from Paris to London St Pancras and the 21:03 from Paris to Ebbsfleet International and London.
On Saturday one train has been cancelled – the 20:07 from Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London – while on Sunday three services have been cancelled, the 16:37 from Paris to London; the 20:34 from Paris to London and the 21:03 from Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London.
— Evie Burrows-Taylor (@Eviebt) 21 March 2019
The work-to-rule protest began on March 4, and on Thursday the customs union told the Local that it could not say when it would end.
“I completely understand the frustration of the passengers and I'm very sorry for them,” sad Vincent Thomazo from the UNSA union.
“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.”
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.