Infobox rail company
bgcolor = 27404E
image_filename = Eurostar at St Pancras railway station.jpg
widthpx = 300px
franchise = Not subject to franchising
International joint operation
service began 1994
logo_filename = Eurostar.svg
nameforarea = stations
abbr = ES
regions = London St Pancras,

Paris Gare du Nord,


secregions = Ebbsfleet Int., Stratford Int., Ashford Int., Calais-Fréthun, Lille-Europe, Marne-la-Vallée, Avignon Centre , Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Aime-la-Plagne, Moûtiers
fleet = 27 Class 373 sets
stations = 13
parent_company = Eurostar (U.K.) Ltd.,
website =

Eurostar is a high-speed train service in Western Europe connecting London and Kent in the United Kingdom, with Paris and Lille in France, and Brussels in Belgium. In addition, there are limited services from London to Disneyland Resort Paris (Gare de Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy) and seasonal destinations in France. Trains cross the English Channel through the Channel Tunnel.

The service is operated by 18-carriage Class 373 trains at up to 300 km/h (186 mph) on a network of high-speed lines. Since Eurostar began in 1994, new lines have been built in Belgium (HSL 1) and Southern England (High Speed 1) to the same standard as the LGV Nord line originally used in France, enabling journey times to be reduced. The two-stage High Speed 1 project was completed on 14 November 2007, when the London terminus of Eurostar transferred from Waterloo International to St Pancras International station.


The history of Eurostar can be traced to the 1986 choice of a rail tunnel to provide a cross-Channel link between Britain and France. In addition to the tunnel’s shuttle trains, this decision provided for through passenger and freight trains. British Rail and SNCF contracted with Eurotunnel [Eurotunnel, the company that built and runs the Channel Tunnel, is a completely separate entity from Eurostar.] to use half the tunnel’s capacity. In 1987 Britain, France and Belgium set up an International Project Group to specify a train providing an international, high-speed service through the Tunnel. Having been operating high speed TGV services since 1981, and with construction of a new high-speed line between Paris and the Channel Tunnel (LGV Nord) underway, it was unsurprising that TGV technology was chosen for the trains. An order for 30 trainsets was placed in December 1989.

Testing the trains revealed problems on the 750V third rail system in Britain. The trains were designed to shut down if causing electrical interference with signaling, and this happened frequently. However, the problems were solved and on 14 November 1994, Eurostar began between Waterloo International station in London, Paris and Brussels. Services to Ashford International followed on 8 January 1996.

Regional Eurostar and Nightstar

Part of the proposals for Eurostar were direct services to Paris and Brussels from cities north of London (NoL): Manchester (via Birmingham on the West Coast Main Line) and Glasgow (via Edinburgh, Newcastle and York on the East Coast Main Line). Seven shorter NoL Eurostar trains for these Regional Eurostar services were built, but with predicted journey times of almost nine hours for Glasgow to Paris, the growth of low-cost air travel during the 1990s made plans commercially unviable. [cite news|url= |title=Eurostar extension in doubt |publisher=BBC News|date=1999-04-28|accessdate=2007-12-31] Three of the Regional Eurostar units were leased by Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) to increase domestic services from London King's Cross to York and later Leeds. The leases concluded in December 2005, and most of the NoL sets have been transferred to SNCF for TGV services in northern France.

An international Nightstar sleeper train was also planned; this would have travelled the same routes as Regional Eurostar, plus the Great Western Main Line to Cardiff. These were also commercially unviable, and the scheme was abandoned; in 2000 the coaches were sold to VIA Rail in Canada.

New high speed lines


Improvement in times between London and Brussels occurred when a Belgian high speed line, HSL 1, opened on 14 December 1997. A further four-minute improvement for London-Brussels was achieved in December 2006 with a 435m Brussels South Viaduct. Linking the international platforms of Brussels-South railway station with the high speed line, the viaduct separates Eurostar from local services.

High Speed 1

The next improvement came in September 2003 with the opening of the first section of the British high-speed line between the Tunnel and Fawkham Junction in north Kent. London–Paris times were cut by 21 minutes to 2 hours 35 minutes, and London-Brussels reduced to 2 hours 20 minutes.

Shortly before the opening, two runs took place. On 4 September 2007, a record-breaking train left Paris Gare du Nord at 10:44 (09:44 BST) and reached London St Pancras in 2 hours 3 minutes 39 seconds. French driver Francis Queret took train-set 3223/24 through France, Briton Neil Meare through Kent. Transporting journalists and railway workers, the train was the first passenger-carrying arrival at the St Pancras International station. The train passed through the new £100 million Ebbsfleet International station near Dartford in Kent on the way; both stations will provide direct services to the 2012 Olympics at Stratford, London. [cite news|url= |title=Eurostar sets Paris-London record |publisher=BBC News|date=2007-09-04|accessdate=2007-12-14]

On 20 September 2007, Eurostar broke another record as it completed the journey from Brussels to London in 1 hour, 43 minutes. The train left Brussels-South Station at 10:05, and reached St Pancras International at 11:48. [cite web|url= |title=Eurostar breaks another record |accessdate=2007-12-31] From 30 October to early November 2007 Eurostar conducted an Integrated Volume Testing programme in which some 6000 members of the public were involved in passenger check-in, immigration control and departure trials, during which the 'passengers' each made three return journeys out of St Pancras to the entrance to the London tunnel.

At 18:12 on 13 November 2007 the last Eurostar service left Waterloo International, and on 14 November commercial services began over the whole of the new High Speed 1 line. The redeveloped St Pancras International station became the new London terminus for all Eurostar services; at a cost of £800 million this has been extensively rebuilt and extended in length to cope with the 394 m (431 yd) Eurostar trains. [cite news|url=
title=The transformation of St Pancras |publisher=BBC News|date=2007-11-06|accessdate=2007-12-14
] The first service left St Pancras at 11:06 for Brussels, with the first arrival from the same city pulling in at 11:09. The first train to Paris departed at 11:03. [cite news|url=
title=Eurostar arrives in Paris on time |publisher=BBC News|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-12-14

The completion of High Speed 1 has brought the British part of Eurostar's route up to the same standards as the French and Belgian high-speed lines. Line speeds are 300 km/h, except within the tunnel sections where slower speeds apply for safety reasons. Non-stop journey times have been reduced by a further 20 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes for London-Paris and 1 hour 51 minutes London-Brussels.

Current routes and services

Since 14 November 2007 all Eurostar trains have been routed via High Speed 1 from the redeveloped London terminus at St Pancras International. Eurostar intended to retain some services at Waterloo International terminal, but this was ruled out on cost grounds.

Eurostar offers 18 weekday LondonParis services (20 on Fridays) including 6 non-stop (8 on Fridays), and 10 London–Brussels trains including 3 non-stop. [cite web|url=|title=Eurostar Servicefrom 9 December 2007 to 5 July 2008|accessdate=2007-12-16] In addition, there is one round-trip London–Disneyland Paris and two seasonal services: from July to September there is a weekly London–Ashford–Avignon service, and in the winter twice-weekly "Snow Trains" to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Aime-la-Plagne and Moutiers in the Alps; one runs overnight and the other is a daytime round-trip.

Intermediate stations are Ebbsfleet International in northwest Kent, Ashford International in southeast Kent, and Calais-Fréthun and Lille-Europe in northern France. However, since the opening of Ebbsfleet International, only three trains a day to Paris and one to Disneyland Paris stop at Ashford. No Brussels trains serve the station, meaning residents of Kent and Sussex change at Lille for Brussels, or travel to London or to Ebbsfleet, increasing journey times. These changes have been controversial within the affected communities, [cite web|url=|title=New station means Eurostar change|publisher=BBC News|date=2006-09-12|accessdate=2007-12-14] and a website has been set up by Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the South East, Sharon Bowles, to campaign for more Ashford services. [cite web |url= |title=Save Ashford International| |accessdate=2008-02-18] On 3 April 2007 a petition with 8,000 signatures was taken to London Waterloo calling for an EU enquiry into the impact of the reduced services from Ashford International. [cite news|url=|title=Petition opposing Eurostar cuts|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-04-03] On 31 July 2008 Eurostar announced that from December 2008 they will be re-introducing one daily Ashford to Brussels service. [cite web |url=|title=Eurostar to strenghten links between Ashford and Brussels | |accessdate=2008-08-01]

Completion of High Speed 1 has increased the potential number of trains serving London. Capacity exists for up to eight per hour in each direction from London to Continental Europe, moving the bottleneck to the Channel Tunnel. Separation of Eurostar from UK domestic services through Kent means timetabling is unaffected by peak-hour restrictions.

Eurostar is a member of the Amadeus CRS distribution system, making its tickets available alongside those of airlines worldwide. [cite web |url= |title=Eurostar available alongside airlines on the GDS systems | |accessdate=2007-12-28] Through-fares are available from 68 UK towns and cities to destinations in France and Belgium. [cite web |url= |title=Through-fares from 68 UK towns and cities to continental Europe now available on | |accessdate=2007-12-28]

Operational performance

Eurostar's punctuality has fluctuated but in 2007 91.5% of services were on time. [Eurostar uses the airlines' definition of 'on-time': within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival time. The measure used for long-distance services in the rail industry is within 10 minutes.] [cite web |url= |title=High Speed 1 delivers a record year for Eurostar | |accessdate=2008-01-10]

Eurostar has a dominant share of the combined rail/air market on its three-capitals routes. In 2007 it achieved highs of 71% on London-Paris and 65% for London-Brussels. [cite news|url= |title=Eurostar passenger numbers surge |publisher=Financial Times|date=2008-01-10]

Eurostar's passenger numbers initially failed to meet predictions. In 1996 London and Continental Railways forecast numbers would reach 21.4 million by 2004, [cite web |url= |title=Select Committee on Public Accounts Thirty-Eighth Report | |accessdate=2007-12-15] but only 7.3 million was achieved. In 2007, Eurostar's target was 10 million passengers by 2010. [cite news|url=|title=Eurostar speeds from Paris to London in 123 minutes||date=2007-09-06]

Past fleet

Eurostar has operated a number of other types in the past:
* Class 37 - a diesel locomotive intended to operate sleeper services over non-electrified parts of the railway network in Britain. Eurostar retained three locomotives for the rescue of failed trains, route learning and driver training, but disposed of them when the new Temple Mills Depot opened in November 2007.
* Class 73 - an electro-diesel locomotive used primarily to rescue failed trains. Eurostar operated two of these from its North Pole depot until 2007, when they were loaned to a pair of educational initiatives having become redundant following the move to Temple Mills. [cite web |url= |title=Eurostar loans a class 73 locomotive for south wales regeneration initiative |work=Eurostar |accessdate=2007-08-21] [cite web |url= |title=Eurostar teams up with Railschool in East London to create training opportunities for young people |work=Eurostar |accessdate=2007-08-21]
* Class 92 - an electric locomotive intended to operate the sleeper services. Eurostar owned seven units of this class, which never saw service until they were sold in 2007 to Europorte 2.

Future developments

A number of possible future developments affecting the Eurostar service have been mooted:

ervices from Stratford International station

The intended purpose of Stratford International station was to act as a London stop for regional Eurostar trains. However this plan is under review [cite news | url =,,2-2144275,00.html | title = Ghost train station that cost £210m | accessdate = 2007-12-22 | date = 2006-04-21] and it is unlikely that Eurostar trains will call at the station before February 2009. [The Newham Mag, Issue 144, 3 May 2008, page 20 (]

Regional Eurostar

Although the original plan for Regional Eurostar services to destinations north of London were abandoned, the significantly improved journey times available following the opening of High Speed 1 ---- which has connections to both the East Coast Main Line and North London Line (for the West Coast Main Line) at St Pancras ---- and increased maximum speeds on the West Coast Main Line, may make potential Regional Eurostar services more viable. This would be even more likely if proposals are adopted for a new high speed line from London to the north of Britain. [cite web |url= |title=Eurostar welcomes greengauge 21’s call for high speed 2 | |accessdate=2007-12-31]

Key pieces of infrastructure still belong to LCR via their subsidiary "London & Continental Stations and Property" such as the Manchester International Depot, and Eurostar (UK) still own several track access rights and the rights to paths on both the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines.]] While no announcement has been made of plans to start Regional Eurostar services, it remains a possibility for the future. In the meantime, the nearest alternative to a Regional Eurostar service is same-station connection with East Midlands Trains trains at St Pancras.

LGV Picardie

LGV Picardie is a proposed high-speed line running between Paris and Calais, via Amiens. By cutting off the corner of the LGV Nord at Lille, it would enable Eurostar trains to save 20 minutes on the journey between Paris and Calais, bringing the London to Paris journey time under 2 hours.

New Destinations and Competition

The reduced journey times offered by the opening of High Speed 1, and the opening of the LGV Est and HSL Zuid bring other continental destinations within a range from London within which rail is competitive against air travel. At present Eurostar is concentrating on developing its connections with other services, particularly at Lille and Brussels, but direct services to other destinations would be possible. However, the routes that any potential services are likely to take would go off the infrastructure that Eurostar's rolling stock has been built to utilise - Germany operates trains at 15kV AC, while the Netherlands uses 1.5kV DC. To operate on these lines would require new rolling stock designed to operate at these different voltages, in addition to those already operated under.

In addition to the infrastructure difficulties, any potential Eurostar services beyond Paris and Brussels would also require the installation of stringent security measures, due to the UK not having signed up to the Schengen Agreement, which allows unrestricted movement across borders of member countries.

Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, described the difficulties to overcome in an [ interview with "Rail Professional"] :

The difficulties that Eurostar faces in expanding its services would also be faced by potential competitors to Eurostar:
*Due to the UK not having signed the Schengen Agreement, London bound trains must therefore use platforms that are physically isolated, a constraint which other international operators such as Thalys do not face. In addition, British authorities are required to make security and passport checks prior to boarding the train, which would deter domestic passengers.
*The Class 373 trains were designed as two half sets, which when coupled would form a complete train. This enables them to be split easily in the event of an emergency while in the Channel Tunnel, with the unaffected set able to be driven out. It is likely that any new operator would need rolling stock that provides this facility.

In November 2007, various British newspapers reported that Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national train company, had applied to use the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1 rail line into St Pancras International. [cite news | url = | title = Germans plan Eurostar rival | date = 2007-11-01 | accessdate = 2007-12-22 ] This was swiftly denied by Deutsche Bahn; also the bi-national Channel Tunnel Safety Authority confirmed that they had not received such application.

In 2010, the EU will initiate a liberalisation of the European rail network allowing greater competition. Air France-KLM have indicated that they will take advantage of the change in the law and apply to run rail services from London-Paris and Paris-Amsterdam in competition with Eurostar. [cite news | url = | title = Airlines plot Eurostar rival services | date = 2008-09-10 | accessdate = 2008-09-11 ]


Eurostar services are under unified management, the Eurostar Group. In each country, a member company undertakes Eurostar operation:
*Belgium — NMBS/SNCB
*France — SNCF
*United Kingdom — Eurostar (U.K.) Ltd. or (EUKL)
**EUKL managed (under contract) by InterCapital and Regional Rail (ICRR), a consortium of:
***National Express Group (40%),
***SNCF (35%)
***NMBS/SNCB (15%)
***British Airways (10%).

Eurostar is a member of Railteam, a marketing alliance formed in July 2007 of seven European high-speed rail operators, including Thalys.cite web |url=|title= A high-speed revolution|accessdate= 2007-07-17|date= 2007-07-05|publisher= "The Economist"] The alliance plans to allow tickets bookable from one side of Europe to the other on one website.

ee also

*High-speed rail in the United Kingdom
*High-speed rail in Europe

Notes and references

External links

* [ Eurostar Website]
* [ Eurostar - For Tomorrow]
* [ HS1 Microsite]
* [ St Pancras International Train Station]

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