On Tuesday evening, some 750 passengers on their way from Paris to Brussels were stuck in a high-speed Thalys train for about four hours in the scorching heat, without proper help or communication from the company.
Images circulating on social media last night show passengers in the Thalys train trying to cool down after their train stranded in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, in every possible way: doors are forced open, windows are smashed and people on the platform try to throw bottles of water into the train.
Earlier that evening, the Thalys had left the Paris Gare du Nord station with a one-hour delay due to a technical problem, but after only a few kilometres, the train ground to a halt again in Saint-Denis. To make matters worse, the air conditioning failed, and temperatures rose to about 45°C.
"It was scorching hot on the train. We were soaking wet. Our clothes were sticking to our bodies," Lydie Leers from Antwerp told VRT. She was on her way home with a colleague after spending a day in Paris shopping for her fashion store.
"Some passengers became unwell and had to be taken care of. Some people became aggressive and tried to get out," Leers added. "But we were told not to use the doors in order to use as little electricity as possible so that the air conditioning could come back on."
Around 22:30, Thalys decided to evacuate the train after all, she explained. "After more than four hours, we were able to go outside via a ladder over the tracks. Then, a train took us back to Paris Gare du Nord. But there were no more trains leaving from there in the meantime, so we had to stay overnight."
Late last night, Thalys announced that the passengers would be offered water, refreshments and blankets to spend the night on trains at Paris Gare du Nord station, but many travellers took to social media to denounce the company's communication and approach.
Translation of tweet: "A short overview: no communication about the delay in Paris, no communication when we stopped, wrong communication once we stopped for an hour, and people had to figure out what to do themselves."
"Nothing happened immediately, we always had to look for information ourselves," said Leers.
On Wednesday morning, a number of travellers said that they had found their own solution to get on with their journey, others are still stuck in Paris. Due to a new, general failure on the train network, no trains are running in the entire Hauts-de-France region.
Translation of tweet: "Very big shame to first leave people stuck in a scorching hot train for 4 hours (doors were NOT allowed to open even after many phone calls from the train management!) and then even bigger shame that there was absolutely nothing arranged in terms of replacement transport or shelter."
"The Thalys staff informed us that we would be able to get on another Thalys between 10:00 and 12:00, but I wonder how they are going to do that, because in addition to hundreds of people from yesterday, those trains are also largely booked with other passengers," said Leers.
"We finally decided to take a taxi to Antwerp around 08:00. Expensive, but at the moment we just want to go home," she added. "And fortunately, there is air conditioning."