eurostar slammed over PR disaster

It was not just Eurostar's trains that failed this weekend but also its public relations team, say disgruntled passengers.

As a crisis unfolded deep in the Channel Tunnel, leaving thousands stranded, those on board the trains and their waiting relatives said they were left completely in the dark.

One of those left stranded on the Eurostar 9059 service was Colette Ballou, co-founder of a French-American PR consultancy, who used Twitter to describe the conditions.

She told of the lack of information being given to passengers, the growing frustration, the shortage of food and toilet paper and the resilience of her fellow travelers.
At one point, desperate for information, she even sent a message from inside the train to Sky News reporter Alistair Bunkall asking for an update.

After her ordeal, she wrote on Twitter: "Shocked at how unprepared and uncommunicative Eurostar was.

"Eurostar failed to communicate with passengers and social media told the truth and got it to mainstream media fast."

Many other passengers echoed her views on Twitter and other social networks, while the accounts used by the company's PR firms belatedly began to post new information.

Speaking to Sky News, Eurostar's commercial director Nick Mercer said he acknowledged that "it was clear" passengers stuck on the trains were not given the information they needed.

"The service they received really was not acceptable," he said.

"When trains are in the tunnel, the communications and emergency procedures are carried out by Eurotunnel.

"We believe between ourselves and Eurotunnel, we could really improve on that and we've announced an independent inquiry."

Meanwhile, a PR firm used by Eurostar, we are social, said it had repeatedly "discussed the need for a listening and responding programme" with the train operator before the crisis unfolded.

Commenting on the incident, Sue Ockwell of Travel PR, which specialises in crisis management for the travel industry, said she hoped Eurostar would learn from the criticism it had received.

"It's very strange for an organisation the size of Eurostar to appear not to have a crisis plan in place," she told Sky News.

Ms Ockwell added that while Eurostar had endured emergencies in the past - such as fires in the tunnels - these had been easily understood by passengers.

"This situation was harder for people to grasp," she said. "They're left bewildered, wondering what's going on.

"It's all down to how you handle it at the time. Eurostar just failed to tell people. If people felt like they were making a real effort to organise alternatives, they would have been a lot friendlier."

Read the full Sky News article here