Excessive overcrowding at St Pancras Int’l

The cream of Franco-British collaboration and torch-bearer of the legacy of Concorde! Yes, I’m waxing lyrical, I bloody love Eurostar going from St Pancras Int’l, wouldn’t dream of going to Paris any other way. It’s mad that flying costs less, when we’re supposed to be targeting carbon-neutral. In fact, cut the pussy-footing, we should ban all flights under 1 hour, including international.

But my loyalty has been severely tested this Bank Holiday Saturday, by-jimminy, not because my Beloved Eurostar broke down. No, the engine is purring blissfully just as it should. My full cup of tea on its perch is rippling just as it should. Not because of the breakfast which was light and odourless. Not because of the in-flight personnel who are relighting my will to live. I asked my one about the cattle market situation and he looked pained. ‘It makes it hard for us, the passengers arrive all riled up’.

 

Beginning to feel pacified here

No, it’s beCAUSE of the ‘shit show‘ at St Exodus Int’l. It’s just getting worse and worse. The walking and sitting and hovering spaces  are wholly inadequate for the volume of passengers. Who designed that station? ‘There’s FAR too much retail’ a fellow migrant observed.

The queue zig-zagged 7 times and that’s just the Eurostar welcome hall, before trailing all the way to the back of the station, meandering outside almost up to the Camden Council building and doubling back on itself. One incredulous face after another was approaching staff, trying to comprehend the garbled and increasingly frustrated instructions about where to go. The elderly, the frail, buggies, all sent outside in the cold; luckily it wasn’t raining. A mile long it felt like.

The endless queue out into the cold; no shelter, no seating

Shouty crowd managers were losing it. ‘Don’t ask me any more questions’ one quipped, grasping his brow. Still, it was unprofessional and indicated the stress the employees are under, managing confused disgruntled crowds all day long.

Ample space for a frikking piano…

‘Join the queue’ the staff shouted.

‘Which queue?’ challenged a passenger.

‘The queue. The queue’, the guard gesticulated excessively.

‘Which queue?!’ repeated the customer, gesticulating back.

They were 3 queues deep, with non-Q and 9:31s all milling and clumping inconveniently everywhere.

The crowds just kept coming

‘Are you 9:31s?’

‘No 9:01s.’

You walk on. Are you 9:31s?

‘Yes!’

‘Jesus be praised.’

‘This is thanks to Brexit’ someone said, ‘everyone has to be stamped now’.

Pointless apologies kept wafting across our chaos. Delays of course, mine was 30 mins late.

‘This is ruining the Eurostar experience.’ I said to one walkie-talkie carrier. He just gave me a ‘Non-disclosure clause’ look.

‘We need a queue for each train’ I said.

‘There’s no space Madame.’

The Eurostar station manager kindly came out to comment. She was sincerely sorry for the delays, assured me they were doing everything possible. But Saturday morning with 4 trains leaving an hour and 750 passengers per train… So that’s 3,000 just accessing Eurostar. Why schedule so many trains if the station can’t handle them? Not worth asking.

I asked a station guard if it was always like this, and apparently yes. It’s not the Bank Holiday glut so much as insufficient passport control officers having to stamp everyone. Why not add more kiosks?

My questions for the Station Manager of St Pancras Int’l:

  1. Would you agree that the current layout in shopping malls has prioritised retail revenue to the detriment of passenger convenience and comfort?
  2. Will there be a redesign of the Eurostar terminal taking into account slower processing of Eurostar passengers due to Brexit bureaucracy? For example by removing adjoining retail outlets to accommodate passengers more comfortably and efficiently. As they are doing in Paris.
  3. Are you considering increasing the customs and passport channels to speed up though-put?
  4. How many passengers is the station designed to hold and how many do you actually process?

Now I’ve had my rant I’m going to enjoy Paris.

Gare du Nord

On my return, the contrast in the Gare du Nord welcome area was irksome.

And look what I saw… if they can get their act together, why the hell can’t we.

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