Eurostar counts down to faster rail link to Europe

14th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 14, 2006 (AFP) - Rail operator Eurostar unveiled Tuesday plans for a showpiece London station for its high-speed trains, which from next November will whisk passengers to Paris and Brussels in barely two hours.

LONDON, Nov 14, 2006 (AFP) - Rail operator Eurostar unveiled Tuesday plans for a showpiece London station for its high-speed trains, which from next November will whisk passengers to Paris and Brussels in barely two hours.

Launching the countdown, Eurostar executives said they will switch services from Waterloo International in central London to a revamped St Pancras International, further north, on November 14, 2006.

The station's architects said they drew inspiration from other landmark mass transit buildings including Amsterdam's Schipol Airport, and especially New York's premier rail station.

"Much like New York's Grand Central Station, people will want to go there, even if they're not catching a train," said Stephen Jordan, director of London and Continental Stations and Properties.

Tying in with a push by European railways to rival cheap airlines, Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown called it the "most significant" event since Eurostar was launched 12 years ago after the building of the Channel Tunnel.

Claiming advantages over the airlines, officials said rail travel is more punctual and produces 10 times less carbon dioxide — which many scientists say produce dangerous global warming — per passenger.

London and Continental Railways, owner of Eurostar Ltd, said its high-speed line from St Pancras to the tunnel will be finished on time at a total cost of 5.8 billion pounds, well within the 6.15 billion pound budget.

Speaking at the press conference in a building opposite St Pancras, the rail executives said journey times will be cut by an average of 23 to 25 minutes.

Eurostar's fastest trip from Paris's Gare du Nord station to St Pancras next year will take two hours and 15 minutes, down from two hours and 40 minutes, the fastest time currently available, officials said.

It will take one and 20 minutes to northern French city of Lille from London, and one hour and 51 minutes to Brussels from the British capital.

Built in 1868 by railway engineer William Barlow, St Pancras will become a European showpiece as the new 21st century station is built within its Victorian shell, said Jordan.

With drills pounding in the background, he said the aim was to restore its 19th century grandeur and remake it a "cathedral of transport" in a state-of-the-art setting of shops, bars and restaurants.

The station, he said, will feature the longest champagne bar in Europe where customers will catch stunning views of hi-tech trains departing and arriving with the Victorian facade and tower as a backdrop.

He predicted that 45 million people will pass annually through the station.

The switch from Waterloo to St Pancras will take place on the night of November 13 in order to minimize disruption. When the move occurs, some 80 million travelers will have used Waterloo.

Copyright: AFP

Subject: French news

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