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back to article Eurostar inaugurates UK high-speed track

Eurostar will this morning try to set a new Paris-London time record during the inaugural run along the recently-completed British "High Speed 1" track to St Pancras International station, Reuters reports. Although the St Pancras terminal doesn't officially take over from Waterloo until 14 November, it will host the arrival of …

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UK trains....

Of course, should a single leaf fall on the line on this side of the channel, the train will be held up for half an hour while someone removes it.

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Anonymous Coward

Pot calling the kettle black

Of all the railway services in the world, Eurostar is the least well placed to cast aspersions on airport security procedures.

The environmental aspect is true though. At least for the French side where the electricity is mostly coming from nice clean, ahem, nuclear power stations.

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Anonymous Coward

Only 20 minutes quicker!!

I can't help thinking that there was too much cost, and disruption for only 20 minutes saving in journey times. Thinking of all those people that had their homes destroyed, moved or high speed railtracks built metres from once tranquil places, for what? 20 minutes that is going to get swallowed up by all the bureaucracy that goes into travelling across borders nowadays. Lets face it, the real journey time wasn't 2 hours 35 minutes anyway, before! On top of that time you had check-in, passport control and customs, which added at least an hour in my experience. Once you got to the other end, the fight to get off the train and out of the station and finding onward transport was another half an hour at least. The taxi queues at Paris Gare du Nord are horrendous! So in all 20 minutes seems quite pathetic really.

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Anonymous Coward

What are miles

Will you ever go on with this strange units ?

Bye

Andreas

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RE: Only 20 minutes quicker!!

I am sure you would prefer us to go around in horse and cart, and broadband should be at what you would probably think is "acceptable" 56k speeds. Very surprised to see someone who hates progress on an IT site...

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Cunning use of the word 'attempt' ...

Given the state of British Railways, the thing will probably run like absolute stink as far as Calais Fréthun and then be crippled by rogue leaves, strike action and the generally shitty state of UK trackage once it's through the Chunnel.

I'd rather take the train than the plane any day, but this just looks like a poor attempt at willy-waving by Eurostar (a bit like GNER saying they'll cut York-London journey times to 90mins or so ... bwahahahaha!)

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RE: Only 20 minutes quicker!!

The 20 minutes improvement is only on the journey times achieved when the first half of the CTRL opened a few years back. Overall the whole CTRL is cutting about 45 minutes off the original Eurostar journey times.

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Let the train take the strain

I love Eurostar, and the new line makes it even better. I worked for an airline for over 20 years and used to love flying, but my last few experiences in the US and Europe have put me off for good. On Eurostar I was through security in 10 minutes, compared to two hours in Washington; I didn't even have to take my laptop out of its bag, let alone get half undressed.

Obviously if I have to go long-haul, I have no choice, but for nearby Europe I would always choose the train, especially the high speed lines. Paris, Lille and Brussels don't have to be end points. I have travelled to Angouleme and Rotterdam recently by high speed trains and the journey was relaxed and fast - and worked out cheaper than even the budget airlines.

Just a shame its 13 years late thanks to Thatcher`s refusal to allow the government to invest in the infrastructure.

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Anonymous Coward

20 minutes a day is a year over a lifetime

20*365*75 = More than a year of your life not wasted.

Consider a London to Paris journey

By train:

* Journey by central london by tube

* Security check

* Train to Paris

* Tube from Gare du Nord

About 3 hours

By car:

5.5 hours driving plus 1 hour Chunnel.= and no place to park at the end.

About 6.5 hours

By plane.

* Tube to central london

* train to Gatwick, 1hour including waiting

* security check

* Flight to 'Paris' (Ryanair call Bauvais Paris!) 1.25 hours

* Bus from Bauvais to Paris (1.5 hours)

About 4.5 hours

Price is still not good, it needs to be <150 euros for normal and <100 euros for discount fairs. Since the airlines have regional centres so the time advantage is only for Londoners.

Checking the Ryanair page, says 59 GBP one way,plus 13 euros for the Paris bus plus 14 quid for the gatwick express. = 120 euros. But thats before 'Ryanair made up taxes', I guess another 40 quid in Ryanair add ons = 180 Euros.

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Bronze badge

Embarrassing

How embarrassing for the English that it's taken so many years to install a high speed line, when France, Belgium and Germany do these things so much quicker.

I just don't understand why everything is so expensive and so difficult in the UK.

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Bronze badge

Matt

"I just don't understand why everything is so expensive and so difficult in the UK."

It's because everything's so expensive and so difficult, of course.

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Want to know what is really embarrasing?

After the first few years of delay and Government incompetence, the country that invented the railway and exported it to the rest of the world had to ask Frenchmen (met one of them, nice guy) to come and live in the UK for years and run the project for us. Apparently we no longer understand how to build railways in the UK and the French had to come and give us a helping hand with infrastructure engineering. Can you imagine the outcry if they had to ask to borrow Gordon Ramsay to remind them how to cook?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Embarrassing

Because we in the UK make ourselves listen to every single NIMBY and their pathetic complaints, whilst the French simply ignore them.

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London-centric Britain

Once again, funding was approved for London's benefit; the rest of the country has to put up with that. Yes, it's twenty minutes quicker for those already in the south east of the UK, but what about the rest of us - what happened to the Eurostar terminals planned for Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, etc? We're all paying for this - surely the money would have been better spent opening out the direct service to the whole country, avoiding the bottleneck that is London.

Dave

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RE: Only 20 minutes quicker!!

Speed of travel to Paris is only part of the reason for building the new track. Since its launch Eurostar has been using a huge amount of capacity of local track. Now that it has this new line, that capacity can be returned for local commuter train use and it will ease overcrowding on some Kent routes. Plus other high speed commuter service can use that new line.

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Target

<quote>

I love Eurostar, and the new line makes it even better. I worked for an airline for over 20 years and used to love flying, but my last few experiences in the US and Europe have put me off for good. On Eurostar I was through security in 10 minutes, compared to two hours in Washington; I didn't even have to take my laptop out of its bag, let alone get half undressed.

</quote>

Yup, until [INSERT TERRORIST OF YOUR CHOICE] realises that having a couple of hundred peope in a tube underground is also as good a taget as a tube of people in the air, and it's going to be a lot easier to attack because of the lack of security. Once this starts then security will start to reach airport levels.

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Is it just London to Paris today?

I'm sure our continental cousins would be well impressed with a 2hr 15minute journey from Paris to London and then queueing for 2 hours for a bus/taxi due to the underground being on strike.

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Eurostar is much nicer than a plane

As a student I had a research trip to paris for 7 months, and found the train much more useful and quicker. I did not have a car, so could not drive, and parking in London/Paris is a pain, and expensive.

The plane worked out as this (using Charles de Gaule).

Central London->Heathrow/Gatwick (1hour, conditions not possible to use a laptop etc.)

Arrival before your plane leaves to permit invasive security checks (>1hour)

Plane flight (~1 hour)

Collecting baggage (30mins @ Heathrow, 20 at Charles de Gaule)

RER [Tube] to Central Paris (Gare du Nord station 1 hour)

Continuation to accomodation (25mins)

Total trip (at best): 5 hours, and it's all broken up into small sections.

contrast this with the Eurostar:

Central(ish) london to Waterloo (as it was then): 30 minutes

Arrival time before train needed to leave: 40 minutes (in reality you could turn up just on the 30 minute deadline, and it's only 10 minutes if you have a first class ticket [did not buy those though])

Travel time to *central* paris, Gare du nord: 2h35

Travel time to accomodation: 25 minutes

Totalling that up we get 4h10, and you have at least 2 1/2 hours of time to work/sleep/look out the window at a changing countryside (apart from 1/2 hour of blackness in the tunnel). On the basis of that and that you could generally bring in much bigger luggage items, the Eurostar was a winner.

If you live near Luton airport (no I'm not calling it London by any hope and a prayer that the airlines want to call it such), then flying might be better, but given the journey is so 'bitty', I much preferred the train; it's much more relaxing as well. 2 1/2 hours of sleep was really handy at times after a tiring visit to London. That was not possible on the plane

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Anonymous Coward

Re:Embarrassing

Matt, remember that Germany, Belgium and France; in fact most of Europe didn't have much of a rail infrastructure after WW2. They had to rebuild them almost from scratch. We're still trying to fit things into the railways the Victorians built and Beeching left us with. By the way any chance of Eurostar ever reaching Scotland like it was supposed to 10 years ago?

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RE: Only 20 minutes quicker!!

Taxi queues in Paris Nord??? Who gets the taxi in Paris? Use the goddamn metro...

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environment

What is the environmental impact of building a high speed rail link? I mean there's the cost of running all the building machines, the fact that power lines are always humming away, damage caused by clearing away natural habitat, etc, etc, etc...

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"I just don't understand why everything is so expensive and so difficult in the UK"

Very simply because in these countries, railways are still state owned and therefore state funded.

Either you pay HIGH taxes and enjoy great railways or you pay much less taxes and suffer underinvesment and high rail prices...

Personally, I chose 10 years ago and don't mind paying high high rail fares...

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Re: expensive and so difficult

At least in Germany, not sure about France, railroads are privatized and Deutsche Bahn is planning to give out shares pretty soon.

Amazingly, since this privatization, the condition of the track system has deteriorated and there have been more accidents due to Deutsche Bahn cutting training lessons for train conductors.

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@Dave

You misunderstand, this whole Kings X improvement was a plan dreamed up by northen monkeys to further punish hardworking Londoners with years of roadworks and delays around one of the cities most important transport hubs.

Don't believe me? Mark my words, by the time the line opens it will turn out that the new high speeds are not feasible anyway, and they'll be throttled back for health and safety reasons (c.f. tilting trains)

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Bronze badge

to: Vincent

The taxes are part of it yes. I used to pay £3500 a year to commute to London in 1997. I pay around €400 a year for the same distance in Belgium. I also pay 50 cents or nothing to park in my local town and so on and so on. So if you take all of the UK hidden taxes into account I'm not so sure.

As I say though it's more than that. My company organises European congresses. We did one in Scotland and it cost more than anywhere else we've ever used. Everything was an extra cost (I know it's nice for the English to say well that's the Scots, but it was worse when we looked at prices in London).

For a country which is supposed to be the fourth richest in the world the average person doesn't seem to see any of the money do they?

Anyway, coming back to the train. I 100% agree with those who want to know why it stops in London. Why not to Glasgow via Manchester?

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Anonymous Coward

@Vincent

"Either you pay HIGH taxes and enjoy great railways or you pay much less taxes and suffer underinvesment and high rail prices..."

From that incredibly reliable of sources, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail :

"Privatisation has had mixed results. Passenger growth has been stimulated, but this has been at extra cost to passengers, who have seen steady fare increases since 1997; and to the public purse which, by 2006, was paying a subsidy more than three times as large as British Rail had received. Freight has also increased."

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Bronze badge

re: Target

"Yup, until [INSERT TERRORIST OF YOUR CHOICE] realises that having a couple of hundred peope in a tube underground is also as good a taget as a tube of people in the air, and it's going to be a lot easier to attack because of the lack of security. Once this starts then security will start to reach airport levels."

Except it's difficult to turn a train into a guided missile, given that it lacks several tonnes of aviation fuel and is somewhat restricted in where it can be taken.

Sadly, anywhere people congregate is a potential terrorist target as (Londoners well know), but I'm guessing that sitting in a train is still just about the safest place you can be, not to mention the most environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B short of the bicycle. (Maybe someone should start apetition to put a bike lane in the Chunnel. )

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To Glasgow via Manchester

Why the trains don't go beyond London is a mystery - Eurostar even built special shorter trains to cope with the shorter platforms in the UK. Sadly these special 'North of London' trains are now being used to run shuttle services between Lille and Paris, due to the massive demand on that route. Apparently these trains are only being leased by SNCF, so Eurostar could get their hands on them pretty quickly if they decided to run a North of London service. 'Nightstar' sleeper trains were also built, but these never saw service as they appeared just at the same time as EasyJet and Ryanair did, so they were sold to Canada.

Another question you might want to ask is why you can't catch Eurostar from Ashford to London - I can get onto the London->Paris Eurostar at Calais, and I can do the return journey, but I can't get onto the Paris->London train at Ashford.

People asking about the time it took the UK to build HS1 might be interested to know that planning permission is a lot easier for the government to get in France than in the UK, and that the French on the whole are much more into megaprojects than the UK (see the Milau viaduct and the Pont de Normandie for good examples - I would think that had the UK government been building those, the solutions would have been very different).

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Anonymous Coward

doesn't add up

68 miles in 2 hours = high speed?

Okay, what I am missing here?

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Re @Matt:

"How embarrassing for the English that it's taken so many years to install a high speed line, when France, Belgium and Germany do these things so much quicker.

I just don't understand why everything is so expensive and so difficult in the UK."

There are two main reasons. Once is that France has twice the surface area of the UK for the same population (with no areas as wild and empty as N. Scotland, and so nowhere as crowded as SE England), so finding land is easier. If France was long and thin, with a mountain range up the middle, things wouldn't be so easy :)

Secondly, a large part of the area of France from Paris to Calais is seriously depressed ex-mining territory with high unemployment, where the local towns were using legal action in an attempt to force the TGV line to run *through* them, to create extra jobs in the area.

On the other hand, the part of the UK from Folkestone to London goes straight through prosperous Kent, the "Garden of England", where no-one wanted a noisy train, and campaigned to keep it as far away as possible.

Also, don't fall into the trap of comparing heavily subsidised French TGVs with British commuter rail and assuming that all French railways are great. Live here, and you'll hear the French complain just as much about the terrible service on their commuter rail as the British do about Network South East, or whatever it's called these days.

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Anonymous Coward

What a bunch of whiners on here...

Oh boo-hoo... London-centric Britain, must have been approved for London, London this, London that...jeez. Give it a break will ya? Have you seen the MAP of the British Isles? The closest point to the rest of the continent is where? Yes, Dover. South East.

HS1 was pushed through to provide alternatives for airports. And for HS1 to work, it has to be fast, fast enough to compete with airlines from LHR, LTN, STN, LGW (yes, yes, yes... they are London-centric airports, blah blah).

Remember 7/7 and the Heathrow security scare? Eurostar was the only option for people to get to the continent quickly, safely, and without a major headache (although Waterloo International's forecourt was woefully inadequate for the amount of travellers... something that St Pancras International has addressed).

Eurostar is hardly London-centric. I am not based in London. I detest London. I hate travelling through London. But:

- St Pancras International, just like Waterloo International, is much more easily accessible from the West via London Paddington (where I come from).

- St Pancras International is easily accessible from the North via Euston (if you MUST, you can use the Victoria line for one stop), and Kings Cross (the new connecting concourse underground is great)

- Waterloo International is easily accessible for both the West (via Paddington and the Bakerloo line) and the South West (via London Waterloo). But I can see why people complain... having to use the Bakerloo, Jubilee or Victoria lines to Kings Cross is a pain, especially with luggage (ideally, travel by Bakerloo to Oxford Circus and switch there for the Victoria).

- Ashford International, Gravesend (Ebbsfleet International) should be a lot more accessible for those in the South East. And I fully support those who complain about Eurostar's decision to decrease services from Ashford. It is easily reachable. Ebbsfleet requires a drive, while Ashford is already on the train network.

Check-in times on Eurostar are a minimum of 30 minutes before-hand, but once on the other side you do not have the wait for your baggage, you do not have a 20 or 23 kilogram limit, you do not have a one-bag-only restriction. On the continent, Avis and other car rental agencies have branches at the terminal so you can rent your car there and go drive. It's not that difficult.

Ticket- and cost-wise, it's more often on par. Stansted for me costs £43 for a return by public transport. Luton is a similar cost. Heathrow is a £20 cost, Gatwick is a £24 cost, St Pancras or Waterloo International are a £26 cost. Then there's the cost for the bus or train on the other end to get you to town.

Tickets are usually one-way, but if you order early enough, you can get your through-tickets easily. I recommend RailEurope instead of Eurostar, mostly because they offer you tickets on other fast services (such as the Thalys from Paris via Lille and Bruxelles to Cologne where you connect with the German ICE service).

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Jay

Budget airlines killed the regional Eurostar

All the carriages actually lie un-used in sidings somewhere, as the emergence of low cost flights ruined the business case originally put forward at the time

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RE: doesn't add up

"68 miles in 2 hours = high speed?

Okay, what I am missing here?"

You're missing that the world doesn't end at the English coast!!!

London to the Chunnel is about 68 miles, but as the crow flies, it's over 200 miles to Paris (Paris to London was the 2 hour run!), never mind the distance if you follow the rail line route..... so yeah, 2 hours is fairly high speed.

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RE: doesn't add up

What you're missing, is the length of the channel tunnel, and the 250 odd kilometers in France.

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Eurostar train security is unnecessary

Can anyone explain why you can get on a 4 and a half hour train trip to Edinburgh from London and not go through a single bit of security, and yet going to Paris on the Eurostar requires walking through metal detectors and having your luggage scanned through x-ray machines.

I don't buy the argument that "it's because it's an international journey". Why should a long train journey from London to Edinburgh require less security than a short train journey from London to Paris? Why do our continental cousins not feel the urge to introduce airport style security checks like Eurostar have felt the need to?

At Gare Du Nord one can walk onto the Thalys train to Amsterdam as if you were taking the Metro to Montparnasse, while trying to board the Eurostar at Gare Du Nord is like trying to get into Fort Knox.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Budget airlines killed the regional Eurostar" and "To Glasgow via Manchester"

The budget airlines were not the only reason for killing the regional Eurostar. GNER ran the regional sets for years (they stopped two years ago) to prove the business case for a regional Eurostar service from Leeds and York.

However, cost overruns on the WCML and Railtrack's administration cost the ECML alignment and extension projects dearly. The viaduct north of Welwyn Garden City and the line doubling on sections of the ECML (where only two tracks exist) were scrapped because of that. Those changes would have made a regional Eurostar on the ECML a distinct reality, just like the Pendolino on the WCML (whose business case slotted nicely into the Eurostar concept at St Pancras).

It's a real shame, because a lot of people could have benefitted from such a change, but considering how much people moan about the £5 billion price tag for HS-1, you can only imagine the drama for ECML improvements.

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Silver badge

What they should do now .....

What they should do now is electrify the rest of the UK's railways (i.e. everywhere north of London) and stick to ONE system this time: overhead AC.

Third-rail DC was the right choice in its time, but innovations in power electronics have meant that AC is a better choice nowadays.

Diesel locomotives actually use a diesel engine (running at constant speed) to spin an AC generator, with electronic control systems and electric motors driving the wheels. This sounds complicated, but bear in mind that no clutch would be able to withstand the starting torque of a fully-laden train. It also means that it should be quite feasible to convert existing stock for dual operation; either on overhead AC power where available, or on diesel power on unelectrified (or third-rail DC) lines. This will mean it is possible to keep services running while work is ongoing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What they should do now

A J, third rail DC is only used in the South anyway... all others either run diesel-electric (Virgin CC, FGW Adelante, FGW HST, GNER HST etc), or overhead catenary (GNER, Virgin WC Pendolino, Eurostar). The third rail is obsolete.

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@David Farrell

Couldn't agree more. Frankly I'd rather take the risk getting on a plane with no security than the endless hours I've spent waiting for security forcing people to put items from a randomly compiled list of non-dangerous products into a clear plastic bag (btw if clear plastic bags are so necessary you may as well make a human-sized one and then we'd all be safe). I take that risk when I get on a [insert form of public transport here] so why not a plane. OK so the argument is a plane can be tunrned into a guided missile - well, let me think, lock the cockpit door. That was tricky.

Rant over.

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Anonymous Coward

Now put bikes and cars on it

Right, so now we have a way to get into centralish main-land Europe on a laptop-battery-charge. That's part one. Now part two would be for me to be able to ride my motorbike onto the train, or even put a car on there. Naturally lounging nicely in the train coupe, not in the car.

This would save me the hellish journey from Folkestone, around congested London and further north.

Part three would obviously be to start the journey north of London completely so I could avoid that cesspool completely.

What a lovely journey that would be... Leave Oxfordshire at 11pm, then 5-6am sometime be chucked off the train somewhere in Germany... lovely!

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Privatisation

I'm interested to see everyone complaining about the privatisation of the railways because my only experience is good. When I were a nipper and lived in the South East my Dad would get up at 6am to catch the misery line to Fenchurch Street station every day to work in the city. I went with him once. They were unreliable, appallingly smelly and dirty trains. Then in the 90s I had to use the trains in the south again, this time Sussex, and was horrified to see they were *still* slam door trains. Then I moved to Yorkshire and they were *still* slam door trains.

Then the trains were privatised. Now I catch clean, air conditioned, reliable, fast and frequent trains to work. I frequently fly out of Manchester and I use the train to get there. They are comfortable and new. At my local station they built brand new stone buildings to replace the bus shelters that had adorned the platforms since the original buildings had been pulled down by BR in the sixties. During rush hour there are trains every ten or fifteen minutes in to Leeds. With a travel card is far cheaper than using the car. Punctuality and reliability is in the mid nineties.

I remember what Cardiff, Temple Meads, and York used to look like. They've all been wonderfully restored to their former glories. Leeds had a multi-million pound rebuild in to a modern station.

Would I want to go back to what they were like fifteen years ago? No way!

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Anonymous Coward

Couple of comments on comments

firstly, surely if the UK was to bite the bullet, and join the Schengen agreement, the security checks could be reduced somewhat?

secondly: AJ Stiles, you might want to check your facts there. Diesel Electric is only one form of transmission used. The shunters used in goods yards, for example, are generally Diesel Mechanical, and the "Sprinter" (15x series) and "Turbostar" (17x) trains that form the bulk of the regional services in the UK are Diesel-Hydraulic. Diesel Electric is the preserve primarily of the Voyager series and HSTs.

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Third rail v overhead catenary

Only problem here: tunnels and bridges. I understand that these make overhead power supply unfeasibly expensive, so southern England will stay third-rail for the foreseeable future.

Thameslink (now called something else - First Central?) trains switch from third-rail to overhead when they stop at Farringdon station. It used to take ages, but now they manage it in a standard stop time.

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Anonymous Coward

This has happened before

<quote>Yup, until [INSERT TERRORIST OF YOUR CHOICE] realises that having a couple of hundred peope in a tube underground is also as good a taget as a tube of people in the air, and it's going to be a lot easier to attack because of the lack of security</quote>

Terrorist (sorry, the correct term form someone supported by the UK and the USA should apparently be "freedom fighters") already tried this one in the 1980-es on the Bulgarian railway. They chose the section of the carriage for disabled, pregnant and parents with toddlers and timed the explosion to be in the middle of one of the longest tunnels on the east-west mainline. It looks like the art has not been forgotten and it is nowdays a repeat performance on the Russian railways every year or so. Once again by "freedom fighters".

It looks like someone in the Eurostar security department has not forgotten this either. Eurostar runs a very reasonable level of security. If it did not it would have most likely been chosen instead of Mardrid, the Paris subway and the London underground.

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Anonymous Coward

Open borders?

Living within the EU i was under the impression we could travel around the EU without the need for a passport. Yet at every entry and exit point (train, ferry and plane) i am demanded to show my passport and treated as someone who has to prove the right to move between countries.

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Re: Couple of comments on comments and Open borders

Security checks have got nothing to do with the Schengen agreement. The Schengen agreement concerns the abolition of immigration checks and controls between a certain subset of European countries (the UK and Ireland being notable exceptions) but NOT security or customs checks.

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Why it dont go north

I worked on the CTRL during the design phase, basically after the tunnel crash the design company, who were supposed to making the money to extend the line through finance generated through trains going through the tunnel made a loss. The whole thing was cut back .. just the Stratford to Kent bit would be high speed and the expensive bit from St Pancreas through to Stratford was canned. Along with my job.

That was about 10 years ago now, and you are seeing the results through this piecemeal approach to extending the high speed links.

I doubt it will ever get further than St Pancreas. No one has a serious design to get it out of London anyway.

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Hmm

"If France was long and thin, with a mountain range up the middle, things wouldn't be so easy :)"

Let's think which country has the fastest passenger trains... Oh, it's Japan, which is long and thing and has a mountain range up the middle. With real mountains, not glorified hills. And the trains here run on time, every time. And we pay 5% tax.

If only you could get marmite I might stay.

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@GrahamT

Try doing a Paris-Nice by train for less than a discount airline... SNCF tarifs are 10 euros less than Air France... and EasyJet are 200 euros cheaper than SNCF...

Oh, and SNCF takes 5 hours, Easyjet, 2 hours, including boarding and "deplaning"...

Then again, when going international, that is a different kettle of fish...

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