Eurostar, Eurotunnel and the Gare du Nord

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
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Eurostar and Eurotunnel - History

1986 - 20th January
Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand announced that the Eurotunnel bid had been selected. This bid was based on the 1972-1975 project with twin rail tunnels and a third service tunnel.

1986 - 12th February
Foreign Affairs Ministers of both countries signed the Franco-British Treaty in Canterbury.

1986 - 14th March
The Concession Agreement was awarded to the two concessionnaires «The Channel Tunnel Group Ltd / France-Manche SA» for a period of 55 years.

1986 - 13th August
Formation of the Eurotunnel Group. Signature of the construction contract between Eurotunnel and TransManche Link (TML)

1987 - 15th December
Boring of the service tunnel starts on the UK side.

1988 - 28th February Start of service tunnel boring on the French side.

1990 - 1st December
British and French teams achieved the first historic breakthrough under the Channel, in the service tunnel, 22.3 km from the UK and 15.6 km from France.

1991 - 22nd May
Breakthrough in the North rail tunnel.

1991 - 28th June
Breakthrough in the South rail tunnel.

1993 - 17th May
Completion of Waterloo International Terminal

1993 - 10th December
Handover from TML to Eurotunnel.

1993 - 20th June
First test train arrives in the UK through the Channel Tunnel

1994 - 6th May
Official opening by Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand.

1994 - 14th November
Public Eurostar services commence with two services each way to Paris and Brussels

1996 - 8th January
Start of services from Ashford International, Kent

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From the RailEurope website:

"Eurostar speeds you through the Channel Tunnel, one of Europe's biggest infrastructure projects to date. The $15 billion Channel Tunnel makes the old dream of a ground link between Great Britain and continental Europe a reality for the first time since the Ice Ages.

"The tunnel consists of 3 interconnected tubes: 1 rail track each way plus 1 service tunnel. Its length is 31 miles, of which 23 miles are underwater. Its average depth is 150 feet under the seabed. The channel crossing time for Eurostar is only 20 minutes.

"95 miles of tunnels were dug by nearly 13,000 engineers, technicians and workers. The volume of rubble removed from the tunnel is three times greater than that of the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt. And it has increased the size of Britain by 90 acres. Equivalent to 68 football fields, this area has been made into a park.

"Eurostar is operated as a seamless service, which is something of a challenge because three countries, each with their own language, are served. In many ways, a trip on Eurostar will feel more like an airplane trip than a conventional train trip. There are airport-like check-in procedures; the staff wears specially designed uniforms and speaks several languages, and on-board announcements are made in up to four languages: French, English, German and Dutch. The language of the country in which the train finds itself is used first.

"Like the cabin staff, the driver is also required to speak several languages. Drivers can use their native tongue to communicate on the train's radio link to the dispatcher. Eurostar's information system is trilingual, so that the computer displays in the cab can be set to the driver's preference."

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From the BBC website:

"At first the Channel Tunnel looked like it was going to be a financial disaster. A year after the official opening, the tunnel operator Eurotunnel announced a loss of £925m, one of the biggest in UK corporate history at the time.

"To add to its woes, freight traffic was suspended for six months in 1996 after a fire broke out on a lorry in the tunnel.

"A scheme in which banks agreed to swap billions of pounds worth of loans for shares saved the tunnel from going under and, in 1999, Eurotunnel was able to announce its first net profit - £64m. It still has huge debts - to the tune of £6.4bn in 2004 - and shareholders would not see their first dividend before 2006. But it has become an accepted and popular mode of transport, not least among illegal immigrants trying to get into Britain from Europe."

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From Trainspotter website:

"The Three Capitals trains are 400 metres long, weigh 800 tonnes and carry 750 passengers in 18 carriages (14 carriages for the 7 UK regional sets, not in use). In case of an incident in the Channel Tunnel the trains can be divided in two in order to evacuate the passengers in the unaffected carriages.

"In Britain the trains are classified as Class 373 units. They were constructed by GEC-Alsthom (now Alstom) at its La Rochelle (France), Belfort (France) and Washwood Heath (England) sites. They can run on third rail and various catenary voltages, achieving a maximum in-service speed of 300 km/h (186.4 mph)when collecting current from 25 kV overhead catenary. They are essentially modified TGV sets, and some Eurostar trains not needed for cross-Channel runs are used in domestic TGV service by SNCF. In July 2003 a Eurostar train set a new UK rail speed record of 334.7 km/h (208.0 mph) during safety testing on the first section of the CTRL. This section opened for commercial services in September 2003 and has shortened journey times by 20 minutes, helping increase passenger numbers by as much as 20%.

"The 27 Three Capitals Eurostar sets are being refurbished with a new interior, designed by Philippe Starck, from September 2004 on. The grey-yellow look (in Standard class) and the grey-red look (In First/Premium First) are being replaced with a more grey-brown look in Standard, and a grey-burnt orange in First class. The Premium First class was removed from sale in September 2005 as the company simplified its fare structure."

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The precursor to the Gare du Nord, the terminus of a railway to Belgium, was controlled by the Rothschild Group and opened in 1846. By about 1854 the station proved to be too small for the increasing traffic, especially at the time when a visit by Queen Victoria had to be re-routed to Gare de l'Est.

In 1857, the decision was made to build a station three times the original size. The new architectural team was led by German born Jacques Ignace Hittorff and construction began in 1861. The new station was operational by the beginning of 1864 but not completed until 1866. As its name indicates, one can access Belgium, Holland, Northern Germany and Scandinavian countries from this station as well as the UK via the the Channel ports and Channel Tunnel.

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The main elevation (not shown here) is in neo-Corinthian style and decorated with nine statues personifying the most important cities of France and Europe served by the Gare du Nord. Inside, the nineteenth century metal structures are of neoclassical design. Two rows of Corinthian cast iron columns support the main glass roof which covers a an area 72 metres wide and 38 metres high. Two symmetrical side wings complete the building.

The pictures to the right and below show the Gare du Nord in October 2004.

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