For the first time, guide dog owners travelled through the Channel Tunnel on Eurostar, during a journey from London Waterloo to Paris last Wednesday, October 8th. Previously, blind and vision-impaired owners had been unable to take their guide dogs on-board as the carriage of all animals was banned.
Helping to promote Guide Dogs' Access Campaign, the two guide dog owners - Dr Mike Nussbaum with guide dog Gretl (from Milton Keynes), and Colin Davies with Robert (from Brighton) - visited shops and cafés within the Eurostar terminal, whilst waiting to board their First Class carriage.
The travellers were hoping to raise awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act, which gives vision-impaired people with their guide dogs the same rights of entry and service to retail premises as everyone else.
Over the past few months Eurostar staff have been training with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and working closely with DEFRA, to put in place the procedures and facilities required to enable this new customer initiative to operate efficiently and effectively. Guide dogs will travel on Eurostar free of charge.
Guide Dogs Head of Communications, Robin Hutchinson explained: "We are delighted that Eurostar is committed to the guide dog partnership ensuring that blind and partially sighted people can maximise the independence achieved through their guide dog.
"Our Access campaigns promote freedom and mobility for guide dog owners, ensuring confidence when using trains, as well as retail and leisure services and whilst walking in pedestrian areas.
"Guide dogs are well behaved and discreet. The grooming regime puts considerable emphasis on hygiene, therefore, as far as other people are concerned they should hardly notice their presence."
Eurostar's Director of Communications, Paul Charles commented: "This is an important initiative for Eurostar and after the introduction of guide dogs we will in the future review the possibility of carrying other 'working dogs'. However, it is key to stress that Eurostar continues its policy of not transporting other animals or pets."
Watch out for a further report by our intrepid international reporter John Beacock in a forthcoming issue of OUR DOGS .