Eurostar

Eurostar is a train service that connects London with Lille, Paris and Brussels. Trains cross the English Channel through the Channel tunnel. The French and Belgian parts of the line are high-speed rail, and since September 2003, so is part of the route in England, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The trains themselves were constructed by Alstom and can run on third rail and various catenary voltages, achieving a maximum in-service speed of 300 km/h when collecting current from the overhead catenary. They are essentially modified TGVs. In July 2003 a Eurostar train set a new UK rail speed record of 334.7 km/h during safety testing on the first section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

London to Paris takes 2 hours 35 minutes. London to Brussels 2 hours and 20 minutes.

The company that runs Eurostar is a joint venture between Belgian, French and British railway companies. British Pounds and Euros may be used to buy refreshments on the trains. The border between France and the UK is in the middle of the tunnel. On re-entering the UK, British Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) staff may be seen on the train.

The Eurostar leaves London from Waterloo International station on the south bank of the River Thames. Some stop at the expanding town of Ashford in east Kent. A station in west Kent and another in east London are still under construction. These will see service when St Pancras station has been adapted to receive Eurostar trains. From that time London will have three international train stations (Waterloo, St Pancras and Stratford) and journey times from Belgium and France will fall significantly. The provision of overhead catenary will enable other electric locomotives to use the new tracks which may lead to longer distance services, for freight or passenger use, becoming available.

It was originally intended to run direct services to Paris and Brussels from places in the United Kingdom other than London. That never happened and some of the trains intended for those services are now operated by the GNER (Great North Eastern Railway) entirely within the UK, on the East Coast Mainline from London's Kings Cross station to cities in Scotland. Sleeper trains constructed for the international service were also never put into service, and the trains were sold to VIA Rail in Canada.

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Eurostar is also a name applied to some high speed trains in Italy. These have no connection with the trains running through the Channel Tunnel -- to distinguish the two services, the Italian trains are sometimes referred to as Eurostar Italia.


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