Eurostar delays continue at Gare du Nord

Disruption to passengers travelling on the Eurostar from Paris Gare du Nord to London is continuing linked to industrial action by customs officers, though the situation has eased compared to a month ago.

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Eurostar no longer has formal warnings on its website as it did last month when it was strongly recommending people not to travel unless absolutely necessary – however out of six trains leaving this morning between 7.00 and 11.00 five show delays of an hour to an hour-and-a-half on its website and the last one is expected to have a half-hour delay.

Customs officers have been protesting at sites around France, including the Gare du Nord, but also at Channel ports and other locations – this week long tailbacks were caused on the motorway at the border with Andorra in the south of France, as customs officers carried out work-to-rule checks on passports and identity cards of car passengers.

The SNAD, the CGT union’s customs branch, says customs posts are understaffed and pay and conditions have not progressed adequately in recent years despite extra work due to terrorism and potentially more expected linked to Brexit.

The union’s interregional head for the Ile-de-France, Yann Kerhervé, said there has been no movement towards meeting their demands, however he said traffic at the Gare du Nord had become "relatively fluid" compared to before (when delays of up to six hours were being reported) partly due to Eurostar obliging them to open up a maximum of x-ray scanner aisles for checking bags.

“Our industrial action is continuing intermittently, more or less all over France. Not necessarily work-to-rule protests, but lots of other protests, like unfurling banners on offices, handing over contentious ledgers, motions, boycotts of joint committee meetings…”.

He added: “I wish to stress however that not all the delays that there might have been at the Gare du Nord are due to work-to-rule by our officers. An enormous amount of trains have been cancelled deliberately by Eurostar and there have often been unfair announcements that said all the delays should be attributed to the customs officers, which was false. Often equipment, such as the x-ray scanners, breaks down. It’s happened again today. So, our colleagues have to make the best of it.

“So in fact in recent days delays have been more due to equipment problems and poor management by Eurostar than our officers very strictly applying the rules.”

Mr Kerhervé said the unions have asked to pursue negotiations with the Public Accounts Ministry, which is ultimately in charge of their pay and conditions, but they have had no response since March 26.

“We have a customs director, but he answers to the minister, Gerald Darminin. And despite multiple requests from ourselves we’ve had no response from our bosses or the ministry.”

He added that the fact that Brexit has been put off has changed little with regard to their protest action.

“Our work will indeed to increased by Brexit, in any case, but it wasn’t the main cause of the movement.

“It’s true however that it did spark it off and it will give us extra work and we don’t think the amount of customs staff they plan to deploy to cope with it will be enough. That’s not changed.

“But the delay to Brexit doesn’t really change anything, and the situation has become all the more tense recently between our colleagues and bosses. Numerous disciplinary actions have been taken against colleagues and that’s made things more tense and it’s not being resolved.”

Asked about the current situation at the Gare du Nord, a Eurostar spokeswoman said: “We’re continuing to see delays at the moment caused by the industrial action at border control and we’re sorry for the impact that this has on our passengers.”

Connexion has also asked the ministry if it wishes to respond.

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