As hundreds of Eurostar passengers languish, Eurostar ignores Twitter

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Last night I saw a couple of tweets from people saying they were waiting for friends to arrive in London from Paris on a Eurostar train. I thought nothing of it. But gradually it emerged that the train had become stuck in the tunnel underneath the Channel, trapping 2,000 passengers.

This morning it appears hundreds of passengers are still trapped, languishing on a siding, even after the train had been pulled from the tunnel. It is a failure of monumental proportions. Some passengers were evacuated by a filthy car transport train, but many more still remain on the original Eurostar train.

Reading tweets this morning I was struck at how many people felt like they had no idea what was going on. The lack of information on suck a big accident was staggering.

Meanwhile it’s emerged that technology PR Colette Ballou, founder of Ballou PR, in Paris – which represents both Facebook in France and a number of France’s hottest tech startups – has been stuck on the Eurostar 9059 train for over 15 hours without food or water. Although her twitter account is protected she has given me permission to highlight her anger about the situation. This tweet was sent two hours ago, around 8.30am:

Meanwhile, the Eurostar Twitter account, which could well have been used to communicate to passengers about what was going on – and loved ones at home – is being used by someone in Shanghai.

Well done Eurostar, well done. Great brand protection. Great foresight.

As far as I can tell, one lone Eurostar employee just joined to try and send out information on what happens next.

UPDATE: It turns out Eurostar is on Twitter, after a fashion, but is not using it during this crisis.

It owns a Twitter account at @little_break, allied to its marketing site This was registered and run by “conversation agency” This is an agency which claims to be expert in the use of social media platforms like Twitter to communicate with the public. They appear to be slow to waking up to the crisis.

At the same time there is an official Twitter account for @Eurostar_uk. The last Tweet from this account was on December 16. Here is is:


@coletteballou has contacted a friend via phone, who has passed on this from her: “Baby has run out of diapers. How hard is it to get us these things? We can *see* stores from here… Still outside of Eurotunnel. Another baby has run out of food, the mother is asking for help. Is this a 1st world country?”

Just to put this in context – as of 11.30am this morning she has been stuck in Folkestone for 7 hours (that’s 7 hours after they left the tunnel) and 15 hours after leaving Paris.

Meanwhile, the @Little_Break twitter account used by Eurostar’s marketing people says only that “we’re currently awaiting more news for a full update, please see for advise on the disruption to service”

UPDATE III: Eurostar customers are receiving email newsletters from Eurostar’s marketing team which don’t mention the crisis but are suggesting to passengers that they “give a continental gift this christmas”.

UPDATE IV: Eurostar Belgium Twitter account has now flickered into life, 16 hrs after the accident.

UPDATE V: (12.12pm). @coletteballou now says: “Some girls have raided bar and handing out cokes and rum. Only service we get is from other passengers.”

UPDATE VI: (12.25pm) @Eurostar_Uk came to life 5 minutes ago – that’s about 17 hrs after the accident folks – with the news that people should “Check” for updates.

UPDATE VII: (12.47pm) We’re getting word that the final passengers are now on their way to Kinds Cross, including @coletteballou.

UPDATE VIII: It turns out the @Eurostar_Uk is NOT AN OFFICIAL twitter account. It has now been suspended.

UPDATE VIV: WeAreSocial eventually put their side of the story here at 11.37pm.

  • Jon Worth

    Official Eurostar Twitter account is but there’s nothing there either, and nothing on their Facebook page.

    (BTW I’m stuck at Gare du Midi, Brussels, waiting for a Eurostar)

    • Paris75

      “If Twitter does not exist, the earth will still turn.”*


      * : Galileo ? No

  • Jon Worth

    Irony too that Eurostar mailed all its customers this newsletter:

    last night at the very same time as the first train broke down in the tunnel…

  • Rob Sanders

    It’s a bad week for customer support apparently, I’m getting nowhere with the Tesco representatives to get my festive wine delivered. Why is it so hard for companies to take their customers seriously and get correct information out?

    Hopefully everyone gets off safe and Eurostar resumes their regular service. I’m traveling to my family in the Netherlands on Wednesday with them.

  • Max Niederhofer

    The whole communication policy during the night was atrocious. There are no working phone lines. There is nothing on the website. There are no SMS updates, no emails, no social media – nothing. I finally got through to a station manager at Ashford International at 2 am, who provided 20 seconds of no BS, straight talk. That’s all it took for me to know that @coletteballou was safe and being evacuated.

    Instead, some Eurostar spokesman is on BBC News talking about “avoiding casualties” and “passengers are safe…at the moment.”

    It’s not like the first time this has happened – three trains were stuck in the tunnel in Sept 2008 ( One would think they’d (1) sort out their comms policy, (2) put emergency supplies like extra water, food and toilet paper on each train and (3) have a back-up plan when a train emerges from the tunnel that can’t continue to London.

  • Max Niederhofer

    P.S. And it’s not like this is over. The train with @coletteballou has been stuck in Folkestone for 7 hours now. 7 hours after they left the tunnel, 15 hours after leaving Paris, passengers still don’t know how or when they’re getting to London and there are zero updates from Eurostar. What muppets.

  • Sacha Van Straten

    I am due to return home to France on Monday, using Eurotunnel. My sister and her family are due to take the Eurostar on Monday as well.

    Imagine my surprise when Eurostar sent me an email this morning, offering me a cheap break to Paris!

    Utterly ridiculous. And a shocking indictment of European engineering.

  • Gemma Went

    Surely they should have a comms contingency plan for this after the last time this happened? That should be standard policy for a brand like Eurostar.

  • Mike Butcher

    See our updates above. Babies are running out of food and diapers.

  • David

    Are these the same English that were stoic about World War II bombings? What would happen if there was a real problem? When your car breaks down, can you immediately tell people exactly when it will be fixed? Half a day without food! What an insufferable problem!

    • Richard Walker

      @David – Yes. The same “English”as in the language you use poorly. Like the less sympathetic Wodehouse characters, you bluster about making little sense. You are more likely to be “insufferable” as in “insufferable twit.” Your sarcasm is painful. Your “car” example is a real puzzle. Come again? Or, “Thank you so much for trying!”, meaning, “You failed in a manner most complete.”

      P.S. to author: typo in 1st sent. “there” -> “were”

      • Richard Walker

        @David, “When your car breaks down, can you immediately tell people exactly when it will be fixed?”

        Yes, David, I can, because I don’t own a car. I can, but may decline to, tell people my non-existent vehicle will be repaired post-haste. Where’s Bertie? Jeeves is an absolute genius with road-side repairs.

    • Richard Walker

      @David. One parting shot to discourage you from trollish anonymous cowardice.

      May your travels be fraught with difficulty, such as days, half-days and hours without food, or stranded, on the tarmac, under water, in the tunnel, off the rails.

      May your Grinch- and Scrooge-like indifference to “hungry babies w/o diapers” bring you pain — being stuck for 7 hours in a car full of those babies would be a just punishment.

    • Deejay

      I agree, hope for the best, plan for the worst – and don’t expect the system to save you.

  • Blake

    Bit of a PR fail all round for Eurostar, within the last half hour after a shocking interview on Sky News with a passenger *still* stuck on board a train with terrible conditions and no food or useable toilet facilities, the newsreader said something along the lines of “we’ve been trying to ask Eurostar to speak to us all morning but so far nobody has come forward”.

  • Dan

    This is a terrible event, but on what planet is this a Twitter story? Communications should be through the train PA at worst, and in person on the ground at best. If they updated a Twitter account and thought that was in any way helpful in the real world it would be outrageous (and a PR exercise only, when an emergency procedure is what is really needed).

    • Max Niederhofer

      The issue was more the complete lack of any distributed info from Eurostar, both on the trains as well as for waiting relatives. It doesn’t matter in what way that info is first distributed, but there was just a total lack of any granular info on train status, likely process, state of well-being, etc.

      It becomes a Twitter story because at least 10 folks waiting on the ground at St Pancras were constantly checking Twitter and providing updates to those around them, which meant that during the night e.g. Sky News were the most helpful because they were talking to Eurostar and Eurotunnel and then distributing via their site, TV and Twitter.

      • Mike Butcher

        Exactly, Max nails it. There should be information going out on ALL channels. Twitter turns into a very valuable tool in situations like this. The fact Eurostar has never bothered to claim its @Eurostar account speaks volumes about it’s attitude.

      • Dan

        Yes, agreed – that’s a bit more balanced than both my original comment and the article!

      • Gerry R

        Nah not really convinced – a little bit lost in techcrunch there – twitter is useful for the 2% of people that have and use it, as a guess the vast majority of people on these trains (and their relatives) don’t.

    • Gemma Went

      Dan … this is a communications story, and Twitter is a major communication tool that could be utilised to help deal with it. This has nothing to do with PR, its about practical ways of dealing with the issue effectively. As a real time tool, Twitter is well placed to deliver updates as and when they happen.

      I fear you don’t appreciate just how many people on the train, waiting at stations and at home waiting for news of loved ones are using Twitter.

  • Jon Worth

    @Dan – what a ludicrous comment.

    Firstly Twitter was invaluable for those of us awaiting departures today stuck at railway stations. We were able to network people stuck in Paris, Brussels and London. A message to those people would have been handy.

    Secondly, there are Eurostar comms people sat in an office in Ashford at computers. Not hard for them to write 140 chars. Much harder to get them to the track to help babies with no nappies.

  • Jen

    This isn’t surprising – but at least Twitter from passengers is making this debacle known.

    I was on the Eurostar that broke down in the middle of nowhere in France in April last year and the lack of information from staff on the train was appalling. That was a 15 hour wait overnight for help.
    We luckily had some French speakers near us who told us what the one employee who wandered past said – which was basically we’re fucked, no one is coming and there’s no food or water here.

    The *only* good thing was the post incident customer service. If you happened to write to Eurostar to request a refund, they sent you a box of wine and food.

    In all seriousness – this is a company that can’t handle failure in any way shape or form.

  • Mike Jennings

    Urm, “ignoring Twitter”? I reckon they had more important things to do rather than updating the Twitter feed – like fixing the train, for instance.

  • Tom

    Shouldn’t the headline be “Eurostar ignore customers”?
    I don’t think they’re “ignoring Twitter” if they don’t even use it in the first place – In that sense they’re ignoring it as much as discussion on Facebook or similar networks.

    Companies should get face to face customer service right before deciding to operate it through social networks.
    Clearly they need to work on their customer service, but nothing comes before face-to-face support in these situations and that’s where they need to improve.

  • Robin Grant, We Are Social

    Hey Mike

    We’ve been working hard since early this morning to get updates out about the situation.

    The @little_break Twitter account and related Facebook page are now being updated with whatever information we are able to provide.

    Just to clarify, the @little_break Twitter account and website is indeed run by We Are Social. Their primary purpose is to provide information about Eurostar destinations, however we acknowledge that it’s an important channel to keep everyone updated, alongside the main channel of updates on the homepage of

    We’re currently working closely with the Eurostar team by both feeding back issues that are being highlighted online as well as providing information to their customers as and when it comes through.

    • Dan Carter

      “We’ve been working hard since early this morning to get updates out about the situation.”

      The first Tweet on @little_break gave no information and didn’t appear until 11am. Not exactly on top of things there Robin…

      Eurostar and We Are Social have obviously never heard of a 24/7 duty mobile or an integrated crisis communications plan.

  • Serge Jespers

    Stuck in London. Really amazed by the lack of information Eurostar is providing. They’re clearly not very organized…

  • Dan Carter

    What makes me laugh is how the founder of We Are Social never wastes a second in commenting on how bad he thinks the PR industry is at social media, and how much better the new breed of agencies like his are. Not so quick and cutting edge in this case….

  • @dewilded

    Not to rain on the social media pride parade going on here (and I wholeheartedly agree that they have to get their acts together, now!, and that TechCrunch is proving it’s strengths once again) but how about finding out how to get those poor ladies with the babies some food and diapers NOW!

  • Mark Pack

    Dan: I think you’re being a little harsh there as I suspect what this really reveals is the problem when marketing and customer services aren’t joined up – so you’ve got use of Twitter for marketing, but when a customer service issue kicks off that’s a different team (often different building and different suppliers too) that doesn’t turn to the marketing channels also in order to communicate.

  • vania alban-zapata

    As a Eurostar client, I am shocked and extremely angry at this company’s attitude. Eurostar sells tickets, there is a contract linking them to their clients. We as clients never fail to fulfill our part of the contract, which consists in paying for our tickets. Eurostar however regularly fail in fulfilling their part of the contract, on a daily basis through delays, and once in a while in a much more grave manner: by failing to provide security and information to their clients.

    It’s not like Eurostar sells milk shakes or pay as you go telecommunications. They are selling tickets to travel on huge very high speed machines, that can obviously be dangerous if not properly built and ran. We as clients are putting our lives between their hands, pretty much like we do when buying a flight. As such they must provide a serious infrastructure that can take a hit, especially since they’re far from being bulletproof.

    Their lack or structure and communication already showed in september 2008. One would think things changed, they haven’t budged. I would imagine they cut corners and try to save money by keeping staff as low as possible. But they must be forced by governmental agencies to provide proper service in case of emergency. They need to have a scalable structure that enables them to bring in extra interim workers in such cases. This is surely very feasible, and of course would cost money to put together, but that is a cost that needs to be forced upon them.

    I called their *only* available phone number (08432186186) at 9am sharp, time of opening of their lines. Already surprised they didn’t provide any line earlier given the circumstances. A gentleman spoke to me for about 20sec, asked how I booked my tickets, then put me on hold. After 15min waiting, the line was hung up, simply. After this I tried to call every 5 to 10 mins for over 3 hours, the lines were *closed*, not just saturated, but leading nowhere else but a repeated message saying the service was unavailable.

    Again we’re not talking saturated lines where you wait 30min before speaking to someone (as I am now, I’ve spent 1h02min on their line). We’re talking *closed* lines. Eurostart ignoring their clients.

    At 12h35 I eventually got the waiting message and eventually spoke to someone. I informed them of my desire to re-book my tickets and file a formal complaint. I was transferred to their manager, Ian, who painstakingly tried to convince me Eurostar was not at fault, that the lines weren’t closed but saturated, that he had to call in poor employees who took on their own time to come in on a saturday morning. He even had the nerve to mention how costly this all was for the company! Basically he was without knowing describing everything my complaint is about: lack of proper structure in case of emergency. He had the usual passive aggressive attitude of people in his position trying to defend the company they work for at all costs. When I remained calm and determined, he then proceeded to trying to tell me I was wrong and the lines weren’t interrupted, but merely saturated. When I asked if he implied I was lying or wrong about the dozens trials I made to contact them, he acknowledged their lines might have been cut-off following an overwhelming number of calls, and went on describing out of context examples to excuse Eurostar (“imagine a football stadium with 10 tills and 5000 people pressing against them), and treating me like a child with simplistic yet inexact examples.

    Again I remained patient, knowing this is just a technique to tire people off in the hope they’ll give up. I waited patiently and once he was finished told him I didn’t agree with the arguments put forward. The reason so many people were pressed against their walls is the result of a fault on Eurostar’s side, bad engineering, and it is their responsibility to provide for such a situation.

    Still willing to file a formal complaint, I informed him so, and he then started speaking very fast. I asked him to repeat, he went on to explain the complaints service is closed and open monday to friday 9 to 5. How appalling is this?

    He then said he would put m through to the booking service, I have been waiting 45min since, with a looping message playing. Whether this is a normal waiting time (much longer than I originally waited) or revenge on his part, I will never know.

    One thing is for sure: we as consumers need to get together and prevent this from happening again. I will post on as many blogs as I can, try to gather people, perhaps a petition would be the best approach? I am not sure how to go about this and would love to hear from anyone who has an idea how to deal with this. I have kept the names and precise call times of the people I spoke to, and will definitely follow up on this. I just hope I won’t be the only one out there, and if others do the same it would be good to join forces and push this towards the media, make things change.

    I haven’t even mentioned the worst part of all this: the lack of safety for travelers. Simply because I wasn’t on one of these trains, I cannot witness. But obviously the most appalling part of this situation is the lack of physical structure to comply with incidents: spare food, water, diapers – proper management of urgent situations on the team’s part (imagine a plane in danger where the cabin crew hides in the cockpit and lets people take care of themselves!) – adequate emergency team on the go and ready to react at anytime to provide safety.

    Anyone who agrees and wishes to join efforts, please get in touch here and I will provide my personal email address.


    • Gemma Went

      Vania, great idea. Count me in.

      • vania alban-zapata

        I am working on setting up an online petition, stating clear requirements, and will post it here asap. Never done this before so give me 24h or so.

        Anyone interested please let me know, any advice welcome.


    • eurostarclient

      @vania I don’t disagree with you frustration, however if I understand correctly your call did not have any urgency? I would have waited to call maybe on monday, after they had sorted out the crisis situation and avoid stressing the system even more.

      • vania alban-zapata

        Not any urgency other than my wife having booked a working space to rehears her work on monday, and my daughter being super sad not to see her grandparents. However, it’s not a matter of urgency here. Just a matter of a company selling a product, not being able to provide their goods after having taken my money, and hiding away from me when they should deal with it.

        I’m not saying Eurostar should have put us in a train regardless of external conditions, what I am saying is it is unacceptable to just retreat in silence when faced with unsatisfied paying customers.

        What kind of urgency does it take to get someone on the phone and deal with their faults?

  • Gemma Went

    Dan, that is a little harsh. What this comes down to is information being fed from Eurostar to We Are Social. If the BBC (and plenty of others) weren’t able to get hold of this information earlier, We Are Social will have the same difficulties.

    • Richard Pendry

      It’s quicker, surely, for We are Social than a BBC Online news reporter to get hold of people in Eurostar with the necessary information. They they talk to them every day. It’s their client, after all.

    • Dan Carter

      It’s not harsh at all Gemma. As a company Eurostar has a duty to ensure its communications and customer services are prepared for incidents like this. Everything from the call centre to the PR team to the web team should have a set of operational guidelines and a series of processes in place. Just like the ones operated by most major airlines.

      As the ‘social media experts’ responsible for managing what appears to be the only official Eurostar Twitter feed in existence, We Are Social should have considered an eventuality like this and made sure they were a joined up part of any contingency planning. We’ve known for a good couple of years now that people use Twitter to campaign, vent anger and engage directly with brands and companies; all via the social media channels that are immediately available to them. Strikes me as a pretty significant oversight..

  • Jon Worth

    This situation has been developing since 2200 yesterday night, and it took until about 1200 today to get some response out on Twitter and Facebook, and I *still* have no e-mail communication as one of the passengers with an internet booked ticket on one of the cancelled services.

    As for it being hard to work out what’s going on: that’s a load of rubbish. Eurotunnel had clear details of the situation on its services at 0930 this morning. Eurostar did not.

    There is absolutely no sensible communications plan from Eurostar – for any social media, or even for e-mail. At best We Are Social have not been proactive. At worst they have been downright negligent in their dealings with Eurostar and should have provided social media crisis comms advice.

  • Alastair McKenzie

    See what’s been preoccupying the minds of the We Are Social ‘team’ over the last 24 hrs.

    Not (until 15 mins ago) their Eurostar client, that’s for sure.

  • Nigel Jones

    I was not in any way involved in this, but I do agree with the command about customer service vs marketing in terms of use of social media.

    There should be a 2 way dialog with consumers using this outlets. It’s not just a “publishing” mechanism light a marketing leaflet, it’s about getting a dialogue going with customers.

    That means give/take & also currency. If something happens these channels can be invaluable — indeed having multiple channels is important.

    Effective communication could have turned a major problem into a massive coup, instead it’s demonstrated a failure.

    Further, quick effective evacuation could have been a testament to safety procedures, instead there’s been people stuck in the tunnel for hours. Ok there wasn’t a fire, but still there was a lot of discomfort. Doesn’t this now cause poeple to question safety.

    Again if this had been effective it would be another proof that the tunnel is very safe.

    So a double failure from eurostar here. Best they can do now is be transparent about the whole affair and figure out how they can do it better for the future. No fancy pr polished marketing just some open honesty and the opening up of a dialog.

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