Eurostar trains have slashed their planned timetable for the upcoming weeks following a lack of demand from passengers amid the coronavirus outbreak. As countries close borders and fear about catching the flu-like virus increases, more people are cancelling holiday plans and staying home.
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The rail operator, which connects London St Pancras with France, Brussels and Amsterdam, is running just 10 trains on Friday. It would usually be operating 56.
The reduced timetable will continue for the coming weeks and customers are advised to check with the company website for further updates.
However, there are still trains running to all destinations and the usual terms and conditions apply.
A statement from Mike Cooper, CEO of Eurostar, was posted to the company website. He said: “On behalf of everyone at Eurostar, thank you for your understanding at a difficult time. The situation is changing by the hour, and both you – our customers – and our teams are facing unprecedented challenges.
“We’re working hard to maintain an essential service, keeping in mind that so many individuals, families and businesses are relying on us.
“We’re closely following advice from governments and health authorities in our destination countries. I’d like to personally reassure you that your health and wellbeing is our main priority.”
He continued: “We’ve also reduced our timetable over the coming weeks due to lower demand and will be in touch with anybody who is affected
“We know this is a worrying time for everyone.
“Please rest assured that we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely and we thank you for your understanding.”
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Meanwhile, a Eurostar train manager posted a tweet on Wednesday when he revealed the stark reality of the lack of demand which had pushed the train line to make this drastic decision.
He said: “21 years of #Eurostar-ing and today must have been my weirdest shift ever with 14 passengers.”
He added that there was less than one passenger per coach, and four stops where no one disembarked.
A spokesperson for Eurostar told Express.co.uk: “We have introduced a minimal timetable in response to lower demand for international travel. “This will be in place until further notice.”
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Can passengers get their money back for planned journeys?
With many passengers optionally changing travel plans due to fear of the virus Eurostar issued information on journey cancellations on its website.
It said: “Eurostar’s principal priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues and we are closely monitoring information regarding coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We are paying close attention to, and follow the official travel advice of the Travel Ministries of the countries across our network.
The cross-channel operator will continue to operate trains to all destinations excluding our ski destinations (Bourg-St-Maurice, Moutiers and Aime-la-Plagne) and Disneyland Paris.
Eurostar continued: “We recognise that many customers are changing their travel plans based on government advice, travel restrictions or to protect their loved ones.
“To provide you with flexibility and peace of mind we are able to offer you an eVoucher if you are due to commence your outbound Eurostar journey between Friday 13 March and Tuesday 7 April 2020.”
eVouchers can be used to make a new booking by 30th June 2020, to travel up to the 12th December 2020.
Due to high demand for eVouchers travellers are asked to be patient while the company works on automating processing time.
Those who have booked a train and hotel package through a tour operator or travel agent should contact them directly.
Mike Cooper adds: “If you’ve booked a ticket and need to rearrange, we’ve also put together a detailed plan so you can still travel with us at a later date.”
However, at this stage little is known about whether passengers can receive a full cash refund.
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