At least 15,000 thousand Eurostar passengers will wake up on Wednesday in the wrong country - and all too aware of the limited rights for rail travellers compared with airline passengers.
The cross-Channel train operator cancelled all its services on Tuesday afternoon, after taking advice from Eurotunnel - which could not guarantee that the link would be clear for travel for the rest of the day.
Twenty-five trains were cancelled. When flights are axed at short notice, airlines have a duty of care to provide passengers with meals and accommodation as necessary before re-booking them on the first available train. Eurostar does not have the same obligation, instead inviting travellers to fend for themselves - and pay all additional expenses before applying for a refund.
The train operator’s allowances are generous: passengers are told that they could look for a hotel themselves, and claim back up to £150 per room, £35 per person per day for meals and up to £50 for a taxi. In addition, even though the cause of the delay was beyond Eurostar’s control, it is likely that full refunds will be given for the extreme delays they experienced.
Passengers hoping to travel on Wednesday are being conflicting advice. At Lille Europe, for example, some Eurostar staff were advising people who needed to get back to the UK urgently simply to turn up at 7am for the first service, at 8.36am, but others were telling passengers to rebook online.
Travellers on ferries from Dover to Calais have fewer rights. P&O Ferries, the biggest operator, says it will allow up to €80 per person per night for a hotel, plus transport between the port and the accommodation. Refunds for tickets will not be given because the cause is an industrial dispute, which P&O cites as an exception to its normal compensation policy.
P&O is operating a shuttle service to clear the backlog of cars and trucks.
Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais is not covered by the same European rules, and options for compensation are very limited.
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