Ski resorts by train

Eurostar's Leaky Eye Mask

Tue 30 April, 2019


Daniel Elkan

A big thank you to Frank.

Frank is a skier who likes to travel to the slopes on the overnight Eurostar Ski Train. But, like many people, Frank sleeps better in the dark.

Frank contacted Snowcarbon to highlight the poor quality of Eurostar’s eye mask – which is distributed to skiers taking the overnight Eurostar Ski Train.  Frank says:
“I have used overnight ski train for many years.  Now, with the new trains, the carriage lights are no longer dimmed. Eurostar issues eye masks, but the eye masks are not fit for purpose because they leak light.”

In case you are in any doubt that something as small as an eye mask isn’t a big deal, consider these stats: a Eurostar Ski Train, if full, holds 900 skiers and it has 15 departures per season. Multiply that by a potential eight hours sleep, and that’s 108,000 Eurostar Ski Train potential sleep hours per season. That’s a lot of sleep. And a decent eye mask on a bright train, affects the quality of that sleep.

“When I say the carriages are bright,” says Frank, “they are hospital operating-theatre bright!” LED is clearly in use, strip lighting just below the overhead storage and, from memory, on the carriage ceiling. (see photo below from Frank). I noticed some travellers had their blankets over their heads and eyes. Now that the carriage lights are no longer dimmed, the mask needs upgrading!  And they need to actually test the mask to make sure it does the job.

“When I took the train in March, I raised this point and demonstrated the shortcoming to on board staff,” Frank says. “They shrugged their shoulders and said that managers do not listen to junior staff!! On my return journey, I showed the problem to staff and asked to speak to the manager on the train.  She was due to come to my carriage seat but failed to do so. I was disappointed that the staff did not feel empowered. Did they log my observations as a concern for feedback to management for service improvement? My own fleece mask lets zero light through. It's time for Eurostar to do some tests themselves, compared to off-the-shelf masks.”

I asked Frank to post me the eye-mask so that I could compare it myself with one that I’d recently bought from a shop.  The one I bought is called ‘Go’ and it costs about £5 or £6 from Boots or WHSmith (I forget which) – or online.

As it happens, I was able to do a comparison test ‘in situ’ on a daytime journey by Eurostar to Amsterdam (see picture). The result was clear as day:  Eurostar’s eye mask lets a lot of light in; the Go mask blocks the light out completely. Frank is bang on when he says that Eurostar’s eye mask just isn’t fit for purpose.  The eye mask only has to do two jobs – be comfortable and block light out – and it fails miserably to do the latter. 

I put Frank’s comments to Eurostar’s head office, which has responded with the following statement: “Eurostar is always open to hearing comments and feedback from our customers, and are constantly looking to ensure our product remains competitive and provides a comfortable experience."

We are in the dark about what action Eurostar will take, and when.  But with Franks’ comments having shed some light on the problem, the hope is the Eurostar treat this as a wake-up call, improve the mask so that Eurostar and its sleeper train clients can finally see ‘eye to eye’ over the mask.

As Frank concludes: “Millions spent on the train sets, yet the Eurostar logo-designed eye masks aren’t up to scratch. The whole point is for people to be able to travel in comfort."

If you have any feedback on any aspect of rail travel to the Alps, please do get in touch.

Two footnotes here:

1.    The overnight Eurostar Ski Train doesn’t have flat beds, only sit-up seats.  So if, like many, you really only sleep well lying flat, then eye mask or no eye mask, this train might not be for you.

2.      A fantastic book about the importance of sleep for health, mental ability, avoiding injuries and all kinds of other benefits, is Mathew Walker’s Why We Sleep.