Socialist Worker

Strike on Eurostar over safety fears at station

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2615

Confidence on the picket line

Confidence on the picket line (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers on the Eurostar international train line walked out for 24 hours last Saturday in protest at dangerous conditions for staff and customers.

Some 140 members of the RMT union joined the strike, causing delays and disruption.

It came on the same day that faults with the trains on the Eurotunnel meant delays of six hours.

Now the Eurostar guards want to join in on the action, and have started balloting to join the strike.

The St Pancras terminal in central London is becoming overcrowded partly because bosses are selling too many tickets for each train.

This means if there’s a problem with a train, there’s too many passengers to sit on a later service.

Workers are demanding “capping” of services, which would mean a manageable amount of people when delays occur.

A Eurostar worker told Socialist Worker the practice of overselling was “causing a logjam” in the station.

“To further compound the problems, the new trains carry an extra 100 people, so if they fail, they’ve got to re-accomodate them, and 100 people simply don’t have a seat.

“If you’ve got a few backed up, there’s hundreds of people in the terminal”, he said.

The problems partly arise as a result of a redundancy programme and cuts to services rolled out across the Eurostar in the past 18 months. But, as the Eurostar worker explained, “They were expecting a lower passenger volume, but that actually went up”.


This leaves the customer-facing terminal staff with the overwhelming task of keeping passengers safe.

The Eurostar worker also blasted management, who aren’t helping diffuse the stressful environment for workers.

“They’re not willing to put signs about abuse. They say it’s not in keeping with the company image,” he said. “So that’s a bugbear with workers.”

But he added that the threat of workers taking action had already got a response from the bosses. “They issued a communique saying we’re capping all trains up to the end of August,” he said.

Yet with no promises from the bosses to stop overselling tickets past the busiest periods, he warned that strikers were treating the promise with “scepticism”.

Workers on South Western Railway have struck for three days over bosses’ plans to axe the guard on trains. RMT members struck on Thursday and Saturday of last week, and Tuesday of this week. They plan five further days including over the August bank holiday.

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