A trio of Paralympic athletes joined Eurostar, the official carrier of the French and Belgian Paralympic teams, at their East London depot yesterday to reveal the unique modifications being made to Eurostar services carrying athletes to the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer.
Britain’s F57 javelin world champion and world record holder, Nathan Stephens; Belgium’s top Paralympic wheelchair tennis player, Annick Sevenans; and France’s leading Paralympic fencing champion, Moez el Assine were among the first to visit the depot - within a stone’s throw of the Olympic Park - to find out how each train will be adapted by Eurostar’s fleet engineering team.
Eurostar became partners with the French and Belgian National Paralympic Committees last month, and, after consultation with both committees have been able to show how they can successfully adapt two trains to accommodate all the requirements of the teams.
For the first time, the trains will be able to carry up to 18 wheelchair users who are unable to transfer from a wheelchair to a seat, as well as many other wheelchair users who can transfer to a seat and other Paralympic athletes with special travel needs.
Stephens commented: “With just over 50 days to go to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, excitement is building across teams and fans around the world.
“One of the biggest challenges for Paralympic teams is the logistics of how they can travel to the Games together, with large numbers of athletes being wheelchair users.
“Travelling as one team to the Games is important for team bonding, so it is great to see how a transport provider like Eurostar is modifying its operations, so it can carry the French and Belgian teams.
“The importance of these types of projects cannot be underestimated.
“I hope that the efforts by Eurostar and the infrastructure providers in the UK, France and Belgium, which will allow the French and Belgian Paralympics teams to travel together to London 2012, will provide inspiration for transport providers across the World, as well as for next Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.”
The majority of the French and Belgian Paralympians, including teams competing in blind football, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball, will travel to London by Eurostar on the August 25th-26th.
They will make their celebratory, homecoming journey to Paris and Brussels on the September 10th.
In addition, some team members will travel to London on other services in order to accommodate their training and Games time schedules.
Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive of Eurostar, said: “We are extremely proud to be able to carry Paralympic teams from the continent to the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer. It’s a great testament to the way that we, the infrastructure providers and the French and Belgian Paralympic Committees have worked together as one team.
“The project has been a source of inspiration for our entire business, and is part of our commitment to making high-speed rail travel easy, accessible and enjoyable for all.”
Eurostar is Official International Rail Services Provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Over the summer, Eurostar services will carry hundreds of thousands of Olympic fans from the continent to London to enjoy the atmosphere of the London 2012 Games.