For the second time in barely a week, a high-speed Thalys train came to an unexpected standstill, after which hundreds of passengers were stuck for hours while waiting to be evacuated.
On Sunday evening, a Thalys came to an unexpected standstill in the French department of La Somme. Similar to what happened last Tuesday, when some 750 passengers were stuck on a scorching hot train, the air conditioning system immediately failed, after which the temperatures inside went up very quickly.
After nearly two hours were people allowed outside to get some fresh air, according to the passengers. However, only after being stuck for more than five hours, travellers were able to continue their journey – on another train.
"Yesterday's incident has nothing to do with Tuesday's incident. It is a coincidence, but a very unfortunate one for passengers," Thalys CEO Jacques Damas told VRT on Monday. The cause of both incidents is still under investigation, but he said that the two are not connected, as the situation is completely different.
Balancing safety and consideration
Damas added that he "fully understands" that travellers are starting to have doubts over taking another Thalys train in the near future. "It is up to us to restore that confidence. We must learn from the two incidents and we will do everything we can to ensure that this does not happen again."
After the first incident last Tuesday, he told VTM News that it was impossible to stop all traffic during rush hour to get people off the train – something he repeated on Monday. "We cannot open the doors immediately, that would be too dangerous. Safety comes first, there cannot be any traffic on the side where the passengers get off."
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According to the union of train, tram and bus users TreinTramBus, Thalys needs to be more concerned about the well-being of its passengers. "Railway companies are very concerned about safety: they do not want to let passengers get off just like that. But they do have to make sure that people are evacuated quickly."
"It is like with a car: if you stay in a stationary car at these temperatures, without air conditioning, it quickly becomes unbearable," the union said, stressing that Thalys must find a solution that balances safety and consideration for passengers.