Sunday, 18 September 2011

Eurostar Helpful Suggestions

Kapibarasan, beady with disapproval

Eurostar have just texted me asking for comments on their service, which is nice as I have many comments, which I outlined at dull length to them.

(My message went on in this vein for several paragraphs).

I basically love the Eurostar, it seems like a small miracle of the modern world that it only takes me two hours to go from Brussels to London, in great, peaceful comfort. The seats are starting to look quite shabby, yes, and their pricing is out of control, but apart from that it is an astonishingly good and efficient service 90% of the time. The remaining 10% is a black hole of catastrophe as the last two winters have demonstrated, but I did not dwell on those dark, dark times in my response, because I am British, a fact Eurostar relies upon to keep anarchy from breaking out entirely when it is keeping a train full of Christmas travellers prisoner in a metal box in a hole in the ground with only half a stale waffle and a sachet dehydrated Carte d'Or coffee granules between 300.

I also resisted the temptation to ask for one coach to be turned into a petting zoo in the Bompas & Parr 'rabbit café' mode, or indeed to text them the single word “owls”. Instead, these are my suggestions:

1. Segregate the middle managers

A “no corporate bullshit speak” coach where no one is allowed to cock on to their companions or down the phone about how well the kick off meeting went and how busy the next three weeks are looking, or how they've set up a call with the Dusseldorf team because they really need their arses kicking. Maybe seat pockets in these coaches could be equipped with a laminated card you could hand to corporate miscreants that would read “No one gives a shit about the third quarter sales results”. Perhaps they should also have a "corporate espionage" coach where you can listen at luxuriant length to details of the third quarter sales results, and the problems in the Swindon office.

Other coaches needed:

(i) The chatty American senior citizen coach

(ii) The stag/hen party coach

(iii) The bile-inducing beautiful, glossy haired, glamorous job, Euro-fillies coach. I imagine this one would prove popular with gentlemen travellers.

2. Self-opening doors

Because I hate that thing where I’m the person nearest to the door as the train draws into the station. The train always does this ‘I’ve stopped, no actually, I’ve nearly stopped, I’ll just shuffle forward a little. Ok, now I’ve stopped but I haven’t actually done that thing where the whole train sighs and the door release button works’. So Either I wait, and worry that everyone behind me believes I am a halfwit who does not know how to open the door, when in fact I am just WAITING for the moment when the door release button works, or I press it pre-emptively and look like a tit. Take door release out of the hands of passengers, Eurostar. It worked for London Underground, it can work for you.

(This, I realise, is the kind of anecdote people in group therapy were always telling, and I would nod along knowing EXACTLY how it feels to agonise internally about how the way you nodded when the man in the shop asked if you needed a bag could be interpreted as cold and dismissive. Group therapy was good for confirming that you are not the only one experiencing those kinds of thoughts, albeit the others are in the basement of a private psychiatric hospital in north west London).

3. Decoration

Give us something to look at in the tunnel when we cannot even play with our telephones and are alone with the thought that a gazillion tonnes of water sits a few feet above our heads, ready to crush us at any moment. Maybe a nice illuminated mural of fish outside? Some kind of son et lumière? Get Jean Michel Jarre involved. Actually, don't.

4. Get rid of that fucking statue

A ballot box into which we can drop suggestions for something to replace that godawful statue at St Pancras that looks like Jack Vettriano decided to try his witless hand at sculpture. I HATE IT. It is irredeemably naff. I would suggest a gigantic, deformed pigeon in its place, angled so it looks like it is swooping towards your head in low, erratic flight. What would you like?

5. Lavatory matters

Remove shelves from onboard loos, so that I cannot forget my possessions in there like I usually do. Also, what is it with that odd mirror configuration in the loos? If I wanted a slightly vertigo inducing view of my own arse, well. I don't know what exactly, but I DON'T and nor do most other people, I think. Confine such mirror madness to the Euro-filly coach.

6. On-board parlour games

Once passenger per train - selected randomly on the basis of seat number - should be required to dress up as Hercule Poirot and parade up and down the train asking the others searching questions.

7. Improved retail opportunities

Less crap shops on the post-passport control side of the terminals. No one wants to go to Caffe Sodding Nero, it is foul. At least the old Waterloo terminal had a bagel shop. Bring one of those back. As for Brussels, Pierre Marcolini is all very well if you are, say, Peter Mandelson and you have forgotten to buy presents for your serfs, but you need to sell a kidney for an 80 gramme bar of Peruvian Civet Grand Cru. Cheap and cheerful gift corner please: less Edition Limitée ganache, more Manneken Pis corkscrews (yes, you can get a few in the paper shop, but I want MORE) and sickeningly sweet Leonidas Type 2 Diabetes selection boxes.

8. A proper bloody loyalty scheme for the Eurostar lumpenproletariat

Even though you do not let us, the regular passengers who do not pay your ridiculous full-whack business rate ticket prices, earn enough points to reach Lounge Nirvana, the place where you serve roasted swan on a bed of shredded stagiaires, and celestial harps play the Ode to Joy, I think we deserve some recognition. So, I am suggesting that after 20 trips, we should be allowed to have a badge that reads "Regular traveller. Do not stand in front of me and faff for fifteen minutes looking for your passport or I WILL TUT".

I think that covers it. Anything else, Eurostar travellers?


Laura said...

As an American, I love trains but am so rarely exposed to them that being obliged to open the doors throws me into a panic EVERY TIME.

Sorry about my chatty senior compatriot. I'm all the more sorry because I'm pretty sure I'm slowly turning into one of them.

WV: "tamea," which is nearly the name of a really cute animal, I think?

Patience_Crabstick said...

London to Brussels in two hours is pretty awesome. In America, we are sadly behind the rest of the world in the implementation of high speed rail. Amtrak from my city to Washington DC takes two hours, and the distance is half that of Brussels-London. Basically, any train trip takes as least as long as it does to drive the same route, and sometimes more such as the 20 hour train trip from Virginia to Chicago which takes 12 hours in a car.

Anonymous said...

I hate opening the doors too. As I usually travel with 2 teenagers who sit together I always get the odd (aisle) seat and usually end up next to some weirdo who fidgets non stop and gets up to go to the loo and/or 'restaurant' car 19 times in 2 hours. NO FIDGETING ALLOWED, and only one trip disturbing the person in the aisle seat allowed. Perhaps a red card banishing such people to the business twat carriage?

Rebecca said...

I always wonder on Eurostar whether you actually have to open the doors. Since you're at the end of the line, don't they open them all anyway? Perhaps next time you could tell everyone not to press the button, and then we could find out?

I used to love Eurostar until I got chatted up by a prize weirdo last week. 2 hours in a tube being intermittently harassed is really bad.

So I'd say
- no weirdos.
- telly on the back of the seats.

And most of all, how about upgrades for people who take the blasted thing every sodding week. Not everytime, but maybe just once in a while?

mountainear said...

Do hope you pressed 'send'.

Suspect that Eurostar Operative isn't the best career choice for a unicorn though.

Hah! wv is 'sestrain'

Betty M said...

I've taken to going into St Pancras via the hotel so tend to only view the enormous shoes and lower legs of the kissing pair. The teeming hordes round the bottom of the sculpture are more fun. Long gone are my days of glamour Eurostar travelling. The 6.30 am to Poole is the best I am managing this week....

the fly in the web said...

I did the Paris London trek...

Introduce one way only boarding in the coaches to avoid 60 people with lap tops meeting one old biddy with sixteen shopping bags and a determined cast of mind when it comes to right of way.
Shut the connecting doors until take off..or whatever it is.

Nina said...

Thank you for a lovely laugh. Couldn't agree more with the suggestions!

NorthernKath said...

Yes, the price! I live up in the grim north anyway, so flying from Manchester is always going to work out cheaper, and easier but the amount of times even the base eurostar journey (London-Paris/Bruxelles) has cost more than my flight astounds me. I think it has been cheaper once, and it was only by about 10p, but normally it's been like £50 each way worse. (I have a frugal Nana who makes me compare.) When flying with Air France is cheaper than you, you're doing it wrong Eurostar.

(Also, I have noticed the two Kath's in the comments here, I shall change to NorthernKath. And compliment the other Kath on having an excellent name.)

Fat Controller said...

I would move to ban English day-trippers and similar riff-raff. Last time I took Eurostar I witnessed two of my compatriots having a laugh at the expense of the steward (a quiet and sympathetic youn man who, as far as I was able to hear spoke at least five languages proficiently) by telling him repeatedly and at great length that 'They can't make a proper cup of tea like they do at home'.

Also, do they still do quarter-bottles of Mumm Cordon Rouge on board? Just the thing to use up the last of your Euros on the way home.

Alison Cross said...

Oh God yes, the agony of the train doors. I feel your pain.

Never been on Eurostarl, but I think that the addition of a unicorn - or, indeed, a petting zoo could only be A Good Thing.

I would imagine that a creche full of x-boxes and nintendo 3DS would take care of any bored children (ie those reps discussing the 3rd quarter's sales figures).

Ali x

London City (mum) said...

Emma you redeem my faith in the travelling public - you are my ideal companion in that respect, except I would voice your views out loud and probably embarrass every Brit within a five mile radius.


p.s. I just read your comment about the middle managers to OH and he is still laughing. Not sure what that says about him, or me, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

On the London side, how about getting rid of the stupid and dangerous idea (khm, request) that the name on the ticket is the one of the person travelling?

The Lobby said...

And yet no mention of the interminable announcements in three languages e.g. "you will be pleased to read about our bar buffet"....NO I WON'T!

AliceInBlunderland said...

My boss is one of the charming execs with too-loud conversation about streamlining, blue sky thinking and 'apples to apples' comparisons. But in a Belgian accent. Be grateful you merely have to share a train with him, and not rely on him for a living, such as yours truly...

AmyE said...

Cheaper tea at Gare du Midi. That cafe next to Pierre Marcolini charges 2.50Euro for a very small cup of tea - and you have to ask for fresh milk as they only have uht on the counter.

A very British rant I know - but 2.50euro for hot water and a tea bag??

Waffle said...

Ha ha Alice. I used to have one of those. The worst was when I had to travel with him, in a permanent British puddle of embarrassment. I once had a full body spasm on the Thalys as a result and threw my blackberry into a total stranger's handbag. Quality.

I like the buffet staff, The Lobby, so I forgive them their multi-lingual bollox and rubbish beverages.

LCM - My friend Helen suggested that if she and I were to run the Eurostar, we should introduce gags for the middle managers. Branded gags, obviously, with our corporate logo on.

mukuge said...


don't mind #4.

Change the seat covers, will ya? It's been twenty years since the tunnel was dug and seventeen since the first services ran. When I was seventeen there was no way I could fit into my babygrows, and it was not a look I wanted after seventeen years anyway. So. Change it.

"London Underground can do it, Victoria line can do it, so you can do it too Eurostar..."

btw, I mentioned your post on my blog because it struck such a nice chord you were practically singing. In exasperation, of course.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Eurostar is generally brilliant, and vastly better than flying (especially if you have to go via CDG which is hell on earth).

I agree about the statue - I often stop by the Betjeman Bar for my first proper beer on my way back from Paris and am amazed by the number of clueless people taking a. phoo of it. Replace it with a trampoline or a climbing frame or something fun.

And I especially agree about the middle managers who want to handle people's bottoms (must be what they mean when they want to "touch base with you" , no?). Once, on a freebie in 1st class, I had to escape to the buffet car in 2nd - so much more cheerful.

Birkonian said...

Your post has given me a wonderful sense of anticipation because my Eurostar trip to Bruxelles and it weirdness is only five days away. the service is pretty good IMO. I'm on a free Leisure Select return courtesy of a delay on my previous trip.
May be its because I'm male (sorry) but I didn't realise knowing when to open the train door caused a problem to anyone.

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