Advice if you’re travelling across the channel

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By guest writer John Baldwin, student at Oxford Brookes University

Thousands of holidaymakers set to go travelling across the channel to France and Europe are seeing their plans disrupted by the ongoing Channel crossing crisis involving industrial action and illegal migrant activity in Calais. The Foreign Office has already issued advice to all people planning on making the journey to the French port. Eurostar, Eurotunnel and various ferry companies have all been affected by the situation. Here’s a quick round-up of how things stand if you’re travelling to Europe by road or rail.

Train operators

In terms of travelling to France by train, both Eurostar and Eurotunnel have recently offered to fully compensate customers, although this isn’t guaranteed in the terms & conditions of either company. Eurostar’s policy is that any delay of over 60 minutes is compensated with discounted or complimentary travel or a refund of at least 12.5% of the ticket price. One-way delays of over 300 minutes have the cost of the journey leg fully refunded, plus free return. Eurotunnel’s refund policy is normally based on the type of ticket purchased. Its ‘Conditions of Carriage’ states that it will consider all requests for a refund, but you’re only guaranteed compensation if you’ve purchased a ‘flexi-ticket’. Both companies faced costly delays earlier in June and July, with the latter asking the French and British governments for £7 million in compensation for lost revenue. Passengers can receive news regarding delays and other incidents through frequently updated websites and Twitter pages of both Eurostar and Eurotunnel. The Eurotunnel Leshuttle also has a 24-hour phone line for pre-recorded travel information: +44 (0) 8444 63 00 00.

Ferry operators

With such a large number of companies offering cross-channel services, there’s a larger range of refund policies. DFDS Ferries offers a full refund if pre-booked package is cancelled. The company states that no refund will be offered for delay barring ‘extraordinary circumstances’. It says recent events fall within this category. The approach by both P&O Ferries and Brittany Ferries is based around the duration of delays faces by passengers when compared with the length of the scheduled journey. P&O offers flexible tickets, allowing customers to board different vessels, although without specific tickets compensation is less likely. Brittany runs alternative routes, with ferries landing elsewhere in France. Condor Ferries is offering an alternative route to passengers, from Poole to St Malo.

Travel tips

Passengers using any of the aforementioned services are advised to plan around potential delays and leave plenty of time before their departure slot. While many ferry companies are offering alternate routes to ports such as Dunkirk of St Malo, and most train companies will allow passengers to reschedule, it is best to check terms and conditions with specific companies beforehand. Finally, as well as the pages run by travel companies, it is worth checking other sites such as Port of Dover for general updates on the situation.

Insurance

If your train or ferry is cancelled and delayed, you’re unlikely to be able to claim for the cost of the journey itself on your travel insurance policy IF the operator provides an alternative, a refund or compensation. Even if there is a likelihood of a claim on your insurance succeeding, remember that in most instances you would have to pay an excess of, typically, £50 or £100 (and with some policies, that will be per person). That might be more than the value of the claim itself. Equally, you will not be able to claim for cancellation if you simply decide not to travel because of the likelihood of disruption to your journey. That said, you may be able to claim for any loss you incur as a result of being delayed. For example, if you are unable to reach your destination on time, you might be able to claim for the cost of some or all of your booked accommodation. You’ll need to check the terms and conditions of your policy and talk to your insurer.

Car insurance and breakdown cover

If you’re talking the car to France, make sure you have European cover on your car insurance and also consider European breakdown cover.

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