THE collapse of the Eurotunnel rail service, at the hands of a normal European winter, with no service for four days, and passengers left to deal with it on their own, has been a huge shock to people living on both sides of the Channel.
Passengers were either cut off under the Channel, in the tunnel itself, hungry, frightened and fearing the worst, including suffocation, again without any assistance, or stranded at terminals.
In both cases, they were treated worse than cattle. They were hungry and were sleeping rough, with the owners of Eurostar displaying no interest in their plight.
In fact, this is the perfect picture of how a gigantic private concern owned by the big banks runs. Their watchword is profit, and the passengers are the way that the profit is made, and nothing more, a means to an end, and are treated accordingly.
This is the way that Eurostar treated what it calls its ‘customers’ – as people of absolutely no account what-so-ever.
The disaster also spells out that the question of what would happen when frozen trains met with warm air in the tunnel was never pursued, scientifically or experimentally and resolved.
In fact the temperatures in Northern France, over the Channel, and in Kent were no different from those of an average winter.
However, the government itself was extraordinarily disinterested in the plight of the tens of thousands of people who were having their lives and Christmases wrecked before their eyes.
The Eurostar bosses did not lift a finger to assist those affected by the disaster, and the government followed their lead.
This whole sorry episode proves the need for good, top class public services able to intervene in disasters and bring care and comfort to those involved.
The government and all the political parties are gearing themselves up for a major attack on these services, and the events in the Channel Tunnel and the Channel terminals show that these top class services are needed as never before.
The events of the last few days also prove that Eurostar must be nationalised and treated as a national asset, not as the way for the banks to make super-profits, a recipe for minimal health and safety for passengers.
Not only Eurostar but the national rail mainline must be returned to public ownership, nationalised so that the necessary measures needed to assure the health and safety of passengers are carried out.
In fact the opposite is happening. The government is targeting more and more public assets, the NHS and the Welfare State, for privatisation in order to raise the £1.2 trillion that it has advanced to the bankers in gifts, loans and guarantees to keep them afloat.
The bosses and bankers will never be able to put Eurostar back on the pedestal that it occupied.
While it is in the hands of private owners, transport through the tunnel will be seen as a risky business, where if anything goes wrong, the passengers will be left to get on with saving themselves if they can, while the bosses lock themselves away from the public gaze.
In fact, the rail trade unions must take up the cudgels for the millions that use the tunnel.
Their drivers are also concerned about safety through the tunnel.
All the more reason for the trade unions to demand that the privatisation process be reversed, and the Rail mainline network and Eurotunnel are nationalised and placed under workers control so that safety is the primary issue, not the struggle for the maximum profit.