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Eurostar advises passengers not to travel unless 'absolutely necessary'

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Eurostar advises passengers not to travel unless 'absolutely necessary'
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REUTERS / Simon Dawson
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The high-speed railway service Eurostar has cancelled four trains today and stopped selling tickets until Tuesday, March 19, as a precautionary measure.

French customs officers — members of the union UNSA-Douanes — at Paris Gare du Nord continue to take part in a work-to-rule protest that aims to show the chaos that could happen at customs checks after Brexit.

As a result of the strikes, the regular pre-departure security checks are taking longer than usual and causing severe delays on departures from Paris.

Eurostar is an international operator, which means all passengers are subject to customs checks before departure. Trains to and from Brussels are not being cancelled although may be subject to slight delays, according to Eurostar.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience this is causing passengers," a Eurostar spokeswoman told Euronews.

"Our teams are working very hard to look after customers, and to provide as much flexibility as possible, we are offering a free exchange or refund to any passenger who would prefer to postpone their trip."

The company said it was now up to the French government to respond to the customs officers' union.

The Channel Tunnel — connecting Dover, UK and Calais, France — used by Eurostar services holds the record for having the longest undersea railway section in the world and it is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world.

Eurostar connects London with other Amsterdam, Avignon, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Rotterdam and Paris. The service is operated by eighteen-car Class 373/1 trains and sixteen-car Class 374 trains which run at up to 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph) on a network of high-speed lines.

Eurostar offers up to sixteen weekday London – Paris services, eighteen on Fridays, including ten non-stop, twelve on Fridays.

What does UNSA-Douanes want?

Customs officers are calling for "better purchasing power, an increase in the number of employees, and more resources to deal with Brexit," said a statement by the union UNSA-Douanes.

A spokesperson for the union told Euronews the given budget of €14 million or just €50 per custom officer, is not sufficient to handle the operational challenges Brexit represents.

"We learned about Brexit but we have not seen any changes inside the organisation. There was a big denial (sic). It was too much to take in for us" said Vincent Thomazo, General Secretary for UNSA-Douanes.

The union representative said a register of grievances was sent to the French government but they have not received any answers

Which trains have been cancelled so far for this weekend?

March 14, 2019

  • 9019: Paris Nord to London St Pancras (departing 10:06)
  • 9039: Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London St Pancras (departing 15:03)
  • 9059: Paris Nord to Ashford International and London St Pancras (departing 20:07)
  • 9063: Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London St Pancras (departing 21:03)

March 15, 2019

  • 9006: London St Pancras to Paris Nord (departing 07:31)
  • 9042: London St Pancras to Paris Nord (departing 17:01)
  • 9053: Paris Nord to London St Pancras (departing 18:34)

March 16, 2019

  • 9027: Paris Nord to London St Pancras (departing 12:07)

March 17, 2019

  • 9014: London St Pancras to Paris Nord (departing 09:22)
  • 9053: Paris Nord to London St Pancras (departing 18:43)

March 18, 2019

  • 9006: London St Pancras to Paris Nord (departing 07:31)
  • 9050: London St Pancras to Paris Nord (departing 19:01)
  • 9055: Paris Nord to London St Pancras (departing 19:07)

Eurostar has listed further cancellations up to March 30 on its website.

A spokeswoman told Euronews the company would wait for an update from UNSA-Douanes before cancelling more trains.