Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Paris to London: 2hrs 3mins – by Train

with 17 comments

Inaugural train at St Pancras

I did not see any coverage of this event in our media. It happened on September 4th when Eurostar, the high-speed train operator that links the UK with the Continent, ran its inaugural train over Britain’s new 300km/hr (186mph) high-speed line, arriving into the wonderfully restored St Pancras International, Eurostar’s new London terminal.

I learned about this from Railway Herald, which published the picture without attribution which makes me think that it was probably furnished by Eurostar as part of the press kit. Regular service along the 109km (68 mile) high speed line to the channel starts November 14.

The new high speed line cuts twenty minutes from the current timetable for trains between London and Paris or Brussels. Train travel to these destinations produces one tenth the CO2 of flying.

The distance from London to Paris is 213 miles (343 km) from Vancouver to Seattle 150 miles. Think you can do that in two hours (city centre to city centre) even if you flew?

What is our government doing? Widening highways.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2007 at 1:28 pm

17 Responses

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  1. At the very least, there should be high-speed rail between Windsor and Montreal via Ottawa. It’s about 900km.


    September 8, 2007 at 3:00 pm

  2. Having traveled extensively by rail in Europe, including Eurostar’s London to Paris service, I have always wondered why such a magnificent mode of transportation has fallen to the wayside in Vancouver, especially considering our congestion. Investment in a light rail system, not unlike England’s seems perfect in many ways, but there simply is no convincing people out of their cars. I come from a family with a long rail history, my grandfather drove the Royal Mail Train in India prior to independence, and have always had a unique love affair with trains that was gifted me by my father. It’s an issue we discuss quite often, and of late primarily to do with the 2010 games and how rail could have been exploited better as an alternative for transporting people between the city and Whistler.

    Matthew Good

    September 8, 2007 at 7:58 pm

  3. High Speed 1 and St Pancras open on November 14th not the 4th as mentioned in your article.



    Nic Teeman

    September 9, 2007 at 6:19 am

  4. Nic

    Thanks for pointing that out. The correct info was in the Eurostar link but fumble fingers here managed to get it copied wrongly.

    I have now changed the original post


    There was a study done for Quebec/Ontario/Transport Canada that included yrs truly back in the early 1990s. It was just a study and no action was taken, but we did find that it would have been a lot quicker than taking a plane to Mirabel (which of course has since closed). And realistically a service extending to Detroit and Chicago would have made even better sense


    The story of how rail for 2010 was killed by the BC government is a disgrace. They insisted that a tunnel would have to be included under the Burrard inlet – just to make sure that rail was not properly considered since the tunnel made it ludicrously expensive. For the sake of two weeks in one winter the widening of the highway will destroy sensitive habitats and increase greenhouse gas and local air contaminant emissions – as well as encouraging sprawl in Squamish

    Stephen Rees

    September 9, 2007 at 7:42 pm

  5. In your study, how high would the price of crude oil have to rise before rail became cost competitive? It’s faster to fly from Boston to La Guardia, but a lot of people take Amtrak.


    September 9, 2007 at 8:49 pm

  6. We will hopsfully be sampling this soon when we next go to the UK: not only does it save masses od CO2 but it also is quicker and doesn’t land us in Manchester just before midnight. Now the UK government has finally built it, this is a great link in the growing high-speed network, which gives us a fast train from Stuttgart.

    … except that as soon we go north of london its back to slower trains. We are still wondering where those ‘North of London’ Eurostars we paid for have gone?

    Andy in Germany

    September 10, 2007 at 2:33 am

  7. Sugnsu – rail is already competitive for many intercity pairs in Europe. Of course there has been a lot of government investment in track and trains – but much less than on motorways. In France, as the TGV network was completed internal airlines withdrew from the market. Space at regional airports has now been taken up by low cost airlines such as RyanAir. The price of oil is less significant than the amounts of subsidy sloshing around in transportation – for instance, air transportation pays no tax on fuel.

    Andy – the Eurostars that were on lease to GNER have gone back to Eurostar. “Slower trains” still means up to 125 mph, which we see very little of this side of the pond!

    Stephen Rees

    September 10, 2007 at 9:25 am

  8. Fair comment about the speed, and sorry about the typo… I know the NoL sets were leased to GNER for a bit, but what are they doing now? Last I heard there was talk of them being used to take affluent Londoners to go skiing in the south of France- which does not represent good value for money for the taxpayers of Manchester!

    I can’t help feeling that the NoL sets went back to Eurostar because it would be too difficult for them to explain why, if there was no need for Eurostar north of London, people had to get of one at St. Pancras, cross over to Kings Cross and get on an identical train to go further north…

    Nonetheless, I appreciate that there is something of a fairly high speed network in the UK. I guess seven years in Germany has spoiled me too much…

    Andy in Germany

    September 10, 2007 at 10:43 pm

  9. Presumably once the high speed line is in use, Eurostar will be using all their trains for increased services to Paris and Brussels. The specials to the Alps ran some years ago. From what I have seen, the ski seasons in these resorts have been much curtailed by lack of snow in recent years. We have certainly seen an increase in the number of Brits coming to Whistler to ski, although the recent increase in the value of our dollar may make that a less attractive alternative.

    From what I understand the German approach to ICE has been much more carefully thought out, concentrating neubausstrecke on critical parts of heavily used routes, rather than complete new lines.

    Stephen Rees

    September 11, 2007 at 8:55 am

  10. That I did not know, nor does it surprise me in the least, Stephen.

    Matthew Good

    September 12, 2007 at 6:43 pm

  11. Slightly off this topic Stephen (or maybe a lot)…


    September 13, 2007 at 12:43 am

  12. Well off topic for this thread anyway. I have started a new one instead

    Stephen Rees

    September 13, 2007 at 6:49 am

  13. Hi

    Many people here in the UK are now using the eurostar service rather than flying. Just over 2 hours is pretty impressive for Paris to London and you avoid the hassle of check in at the airports. Eurostar also have a good angle as more people consider the environment issues.


    September 13, 2007 at 9:43 am

  14. According to the March 2007 edition of Modern Railways the seven Regional Eurostar sets have been hired out to French Railways (SNCF) . They will be based at Le Landy TGV deport near Paris Nord and used for services between Paris and Lille and other stations in Northern France.

    Stephen Rees

    September 20, 2007 at 7:45 pm

  15. One site says the distance between London and Paris is 306 miles significantly more than 213 miles mentioned here. Who is right?

    Sam Jennings

    February 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm

  16. I travelled from London to Paris in October, 2008 and it took 2 hours 25 minnutes.

    Sam Jennings

    February 3, 2009 at 1:39 pm

  17. Sorry – 213 miles from London to Paris is straight line centre to centre. Rail distance is actually 308 miles St Pancras to Paris Nord

    The 2 hrs 3 min time was that achieved on one occassion by a special non stop train as a publicity stunt. But the train was not specially adapted – unlike the recent TGV world speed record train.

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

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