Wednesday, October 31, 2007

London to Paris Faster

Tom Worthington at Waterloo InternationalIn 2000 Eurostar gave me a free trip from London to Paris first class, with a quick visit to the UNESCO's Observatory on the Information Society. I posted a report "live" from the train at more than 200 kph using my GSM phone and laptop. Since then I have made a trip from London to Brussels on the same train.

I was reminded of this hearing a Eurostar publicist on the radio in Australia to talk up the opening of St Pancras International station in London. The refurbished St Pancras, opposite the New British Library, replaces Waterloo International as the terminus for the Eurostar high speed train in the UK. Also for the first time this really will be a high speed train in the UK, as the track to the coast has been upgraded, cutting about 20 minutes from the journey as of 14 November. This required track work and upgrading the electric power supply to allow the Eurostar to run faster. Just to keep it in perspective, even the slow UK trains are a lot quicker than Sydney to Brisbane even though the XPT used in NSW is a version of the UK's high speed train (it is slower due to poor Australian track).

The Eurostar plans originally included the trains at high speed beyond London across the UK (called the
Regional Eurostar and Nightstar) but that was never implemented. The rail cars purchased for the UK leg were refurbished and some used in Canada, the UK and France. For the 2012 London Olympics, some of these trains will form the "Olympic Javelin", to shuttle people from St. Pancras to the Olympic site near Stratford International station.

St Pancras was in need of an upgrade. On my visit in 2000 it looked run down, next to the relatively new (but ugly) British Library. Now all we need is somewhere to hire an electric car near the station: electric cars such as the G-Wiz (as the Indian Reva electric car is known in the UK) are not subject to the London congestion tax and have free parking.

ps: If visiting St Pancras, then take time for a walk along the towpath by Regent's Canal from
Thornhill Bridge Community Gardens in Caledonian Road, to the London Canal Museum in New Wharf Road.

Further Information


SouthAfrica said...

Eurostar is a great way of travelling, but it's also one of the most expensive ways of getting from London to Paris. National Express coach is usually the cheapest (but the longest), flying second cheapest (even with British Airways), and travelling with Eurostar is more expensive than economy class but cheaper than business class flights.

Tom Worthington said...

Yzerfontein commented November 01, 2007 3:45 PM:

Eurostar is a great way of travelling, but it's also one of the most expensive ways of getting from London to Paris. ... flying second cheapest ...

Yes, but if you take into account the trouble and cost of getting from the airport to the city at each end, Eurostar becomes a bit more competitive. The trains stop in the city, whereas you have to get from the airport.

For my lunch trip to Paris, I took the underground to Waterloo, got on the Eurostar, changed to the Metro at Gare du Nord and popped out of the ground near UNESCO.

The Heathrow Express train service from Heathrow Airport to Paddington costs about 14.50 UK Pounds for a trip (I assume the Paris end is cheaper).

The bus to the airport is scenic, but takes a long time, the Underground is not much fun.

I once got off a flight from Australia at Heathrow, delirious from about 23 hours in a 747, and asked a cab to take me to Windsor. This resulted in a large fare. ;-)