“264 minutes late” – how Eurostar evacuated us in the dark countryside

Well, sometimes, it’s not all about luxury my friends ! Yesterday, as we were coming back from spending Christmas at my sister’s in Tours, we got a very difficult journey back to London on the Eurostar.

eurostar evacuation
The Eurostar from the side of the railtracks after our evacuation.

Of course, this blog is more about escapes, dreams and nice places to go to but because it’s related to travel as well, I thought I had to tell you the story of how we spent 7h to get home when it should have taken just over 3 hours.

The plan was that we would go from Tours to Paris , spend some nice time strolling around, having lunch and then leisurely go back to Gare du Nord to take our Eurostar to London.

Initially all went well and we ate a delicious Italian lunch at Le Cherche Midi (highly recommended). A bit of shopping at La Grande Epicerie (not sure I like their new look) , a stop at Montparnasse to pick up our luggage and off to Gare du Nord.

The train departed as planned at 17:15.  But very quickly it started to be worrying as it slowed down just outside of Paris.  We then stopped in the middle of the countryside and the “chef de train” announced that the engine and that the driver was looking into it.  Then followed  a series of  vague announcements about every 20 minutes. Finally they said “we are evacuating the train and another one will come”.

At that stage, I expected something really well rehearsed (after all they have had experience with this in the past) with clear instructions on how we would evacuate the train, where we would stay once outside, how we would get back on the new train, whether we had to retain our seat numbers etc…  But no, none of that.  We were told to go via coach 1 and that was all !

Once outside, on the rail track sides, in the middle of the countryside in the cold and in the dark, we didn’t see any of the staff. Some of us were going to the left, others to the right, others stayed where they were. It was total ignorance.  No staff walking up and down telling us what was supposed to happen, how long the new train would be ..  We stayed there, next to the broken train for 40 minutes.

Some of us started tweeting or Facebooking. Others texted or called their friends.  Funnily one passenger’s friend texted back “why don’t you order a cab” !  Good thing that people were in a good spirit but I did feel for the families with young children or babies that I saw.

Finally, a new train arrived and again we were unsure how to get back on.  So half of us went to the right and half of us to the left;  This took another 30 minutes as people leisurely tried to find where to put their luggage while the majority of us was still outside getting very cold.

The train had no food (despite us telling them that the new train would be fully stocked). The same guy from the bar (more or less the only staff member that I ever saw) came round distributing mini Twix.  Still no announcement of when the train would leave again and it took another 15 minutes before it finally started.

And then as we were finally ambling along to the tunnel, the conductor said “we are 264 minutes late”. You have to admire the precise calculation !

Got into St Pancreas at 23:00.  Eurostar staff were handling some mini bottles of water and a few chocolate bars. However, nobody thought of making sure that there would be a long line of taxis waiting for us.  This being Boxing Day and past 23:00 they were not queuing up for us at all so we had to wait another 25 minutes, in the cold again before finally getting one and arriving at our home at midnight, 5h later than planned.

I think I will remember for a long long time the “264 minutes late” message.

Hope you all had a much safer and pleasant journey for your Christmas.



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