Winners and losers when Eurostar moves to St Pancras

16 Nov 2006 by business traveller

Eurostar has announced it will move its cross-Channel rail services from London Waterloo to St Pancras on November 14 next year. The move will take place overnight with a full timetable continuing at Waterloo until November 13.

But not everyone will be happy. Those losing out are the many travellers living West or Southwest of the capital. Right now they have frequent and fast trains direct to Waterloo adjacent to Eurostar's international terminal. But when the terminus is switched they will find reaching St Pancras a chore particularly as there's no direct tube line linking the two stations.

The original plan was for Eurostar to operate services from both London termini. But financial considerations mean it's had to make do with a single London terminus.

The good news is that Eurostar will have six platforms at St Pancras (one more than at Waterloo) and immediate access to the high-speed Channel Tunnel line will enable it to cut journey times by an average of between 23 and 25 minutes. Journey times between London and Paris will fall to 2 hours 15 minutes with Brussels now accessible in 1 hour 51 minutes and Lille in 1 hour 20 minutes.

Services are expected to be even more reliable than today (Eurostar's current punctuality is over 90 per cent) because of the simpler track (present trains departing Waterloo take a convoluted route through South London using old-fashioned 'third rail' electric power). And Eurostar pledges that its lead-in fares will remain at £59 return.

Says Richard Brown, Eurostar's chief executive, "The move will be the most significant event in Eurostar's history since we started running passenger services 12 years ago. It will mark the start of a new era in travel between the UK and mainland Europe making high-speed rail even faster, a more reliable and less environmentally damaging alternative to flying."

Eurostar admits that the move to St Pancras will prove inconvenient for some. But on the other hand it knows that moving to St Pancras gives it access to a more voluminous market.

So passengers on the winning end are the many millions of passengers living alongside the main lines which radiate from St Pancras itself, adjacent Kings Cross or nearby Euston.

It means that Bedford to Paris (a journey more easily accomplished by taking Easyjet from Luton) becomes a natural journey with Eurostar via St Pancras. Likewise passengers from the Midlands or East Anglia may find it easier and cheaper to use Eurostar rather than fly from a regional airport.
But travellers in places like Guildford, Reading, Basingstoke, Winchester and areas along the South Coast might revert to flying. For them, Heathrow, Southampton and Bournemouth will become more convenient departure points.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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