Fast track to the con­ti­nent

The Eurostar cross-Chan­nel ser­vice may have re­moved much of the trip’s glam­our but it has also re­moved much pain, writes Mark Irv­ing

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - ALL ABOARD -

IT’S one of the most pop­u­lar train trips on the planet.

A marvel of mod­ern en­gi­neer­ing, it con­nects two of the world’s great cities via the world’s long­est un­der­sea tun­nel.

It’s called the Eurostar and in the past two decades more than 140 mil­lion pas­sen­gers have jumped aboard this high-speed rail­way ser­vice link­ing Lon­don and Con­ti­nen­tal Europe in a jour­ney that is shorter than many movies.

It’s changed the way Bri­tons see them­selves and the rest of Europe ( Eurostar car­ried 10 mil­lion pas­sen­gers last year) and yet they said it would never be done.

In­deed, it took well over a century of diplo­matic to-ing and fro-ing be­fore Bri­tain and France could agree to set­tle their dif­fer­ences and sink a tun­nel un­der the English Chan­nel.

Work started in 1988 and the re­sult is a tun­nel (or “Chunnel” as it is pop­u­larly called) that’s more than 50km long and which de­scends as deep as 75m be­neath the seabed.

It opened in 1994, and Novem­ber this year marks its 20th birth­day.

Con­tain­ing not one but three rail lines, the Eurostar ser­vice al­lows trav­ellers from Bri­tain fast ac­cess not only with Paris but other French cities such as Lille as well as ski re­sorts in the win­ter and sum­mer re­sorts in the south of France plus Brussels, the cap­i­tal of Bel­gium. It’s what train en­thu­si­asts have long wanted but it’s not al­ways been smooth train­ing.

Break­downs, a de­rail­ment and a cou­ple of fires com­bined with poor punctuality did the ser­vice no favours in its early years and it strug­gled against low-cost air­lines.

To­day, the un­re­li­a­bil­ity fac­tor seems to be a dis­tant bad mem­ory and the range of fares avail­able is cer­tainly com­pet­i­tive. The low­est fare I could find late last year was a pro­mo­tion of £54 re­turn – about $100.

For a trip from Paris to Lon­don one Sun­day last month I re­served a stan­dard pre­mier seat – the mid­dle of the three stan­dards on the ser­vice. I was ad­vised to check in at least half an hour be­fore the de­par­ture time, and there were no queues as I sped through ticket and bor­der con­trols.

Maybe that was be­cause the train ap­peared to be only half full. I set­tled into my com­fort­able sin­gle win­dow seat, and it left on the dot of 3.13pm.

The ride was smooth, even as the train ac­cel­er­ated to­wards its

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.