Eurostar is expected to pay out up to £10m in compensation to the 100,000 passengers who had their Christmas travel plans disrupted following the breakdown of the high-speed cross-Channel service.
The company has conceded that the money is likely to be paid, despite the official inquiry into the travel chaos not being due till the end of the month.
The high-speed train operator blamed the breakdown of five trains in the tunnel on heavy snow in northern France. Snow and ice collected in the engines of the trains, which melted in the tunnel and caused the electrical systems to short circuit.
Some passengers were trapped for up to 18 hours in the tunnel, with little food or water supplies. The company came under heavy criticism for its handling of the breakdowns, in particular for the lack of information passed on to passengers, the length of time to organise a recovery and the lack of emergency food and water supplies.
Of the 100,000 people compensated, 5,000 who were severely delayed have received free rail tickets and £150 per person, according to The Telegraph. The rest of the customers will also receive a combination of refunds and free tickets.
Richard Brown, the chief executive of Eurostar, has written to passengers saying that the company has taken measures to prevent a repeat of the incident.
Improvements include passengers getting quicker and more accurate information in the event of a breakdown, food and water supplies on trains will be increased, more station staff on hand. During poor weather, trains will run more slowly to stop them being engulfed by “snow clouds”, which are thought to have caused some of the problems.
Brown told The Telegraph that the company would accept all the recommendations of the inquiry and was implementing changes as soon as possible.
He said: “I take responsibility for what happened to our passengers, and our operational contingencies, frankly, weren’t up to it. We recognise we’ve got a way to go to recover the confidence and trust of our customers.”
“A lot of things went wrong. Hands up, a lot of mistakes were made. The purpose of the letter is to say the review is under way and we want to reassure our passengers. We recognise we let a large number of passengers down very badly on December 18 and also in the subsequent disruption.”