Page last updated: 6 September 2020

Eurostar was initially an unincorporated joint operation of through international passenger services by the three national railways involved: British Rail’s European Passenger Services (EPS), SNCF and SNCB/NMBS. British Rail’s element was operated as European Passenger Services Ltd and (together with the route infrastructure that came to be known as HS1 and St.Pancras station) that company passed to the private sector ownership of London & Continental Railways (LCR) from 1 April 1996. The subsidiary company - European Passenger Services Ltd - became Eurostar (UK) Ltd from 1 October 1996. Each of the three participants was responsible for the running of Eurostar services on their own territory. In September 1999, Eurostar Group, a unified management (but not ownership) structure, was established to drive commercial direction and strategy of the business, with the three railways each represented on its Board (in the proportions: France 62%, UK 33%, Belgium 5%).

HM Government re-acquired LCR (and, hence, Eurostar (UK), as well as HS1 [note D] and St.Pancras station) on 6 June 2009 as a precursor to separating the train operations from the infrastructure and station, and with the intention of transferring the three elements separately to the private sector again.

From 1 January 2010 Eurostar (UK) Ltd was renamed Eurostar International Ltd. From 1 September 2010 - following receipt of EU approval - the unincorporated arrangements were superseded when the whole Eurostar operation of the three partners was vested in the incorporated company, Eurostar International Ltd, which now became jointly owned by SNCF (55%), LCR (itself owned by the UK Department for Transport (DfT)) (40%) and SNCB/NMBS (5%). On 19 June 2014 the UK DfT announced that its 40% holding had been transferred from LCR to HM Treasury, so the holdings became: SNCF (55%), UK Treasury (40%) and SNCB/NMBS (5%). On 4 March 2015 the UK Treasury announced that - subject to certain conditions - an agreement had been reached that its interest in Eurostar would be acquired by a consortium of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure, the sale to be completed in the second quarter of 2015. It was subsequently announced that operational control of the Eurostar business would rest with SNCF. LCR remains in existence, wholly owned by the UK DfT, principally to manage properties.

  • first Eurostar train hauled through Channel tunnel: 20 June 1993
  • first Eurostar train works into London Waterloo International on a staff training special: 22 December 1993
  • official ceremonial inaugural special carrying V.I.P. passengers works from North Pole depot: 14 February 1994

    The elements of service commenced (and re-commenced following the fire of 18 November 1996) from the dates shown.

    All-year daytime services: initially London, GB - Lille, FR - Bruxelles, BE and Paris, FR:

  • unadvertised demonstration service with invited passengers, not weekends: London Waterloo International, GB - Lille Europe, FR - Bruxelles Midi / Brussel Zuid , BE and Paris Nord, FR: 17 August 1994
  • Discovery service: regular, but limited, daily public service: 14 November 1994
  • Calais Fréthun, FR calls added: 23 January 1995 [note H]
  • full daily public service: 28 May 1995
  • Ashford International, GB calls added: 8 January 1996 [note H]
  • services to Marne la Vallée Chessy, FR (Disneyland) : 29 June 1996 [note H]
  • services ceased in consequence of fire in Channel tunnel: 18 November 1996
  • services resumed: 4 December 1996
  • Bruxelles/Brussel services diverted via LGV [note A] Nord (Lille Fretin, FR - Halle, BE): 14 December 1997 [note B]
  • London services diverted via new line [note D] (Folkestone, GB - Fawkham Junction): 28 September 2003
  • Bruxelles/Brussel services diverted via new flyover between Bruxelles Midi/Brussel Zuid and Forest/Forst: 10 December 2006
  • unadvertised inaugural speed trials with invited passengers from Paris to London St.Pancras International: 4 September 2007; from Bruxelles/Brussel to London St.Pancras International: 20 September 2007
  • unadvertised test services with volunteer passengers between London St.Pancras International and Ebbsfleet International: 30, 31 October, 1, 7, 8 November 2007
  • London services last used London Waterloo International, and the link lines between Nine Elms Junction and Linford Street Junction and between Fawkham Junction and Southfleet Junction went out of regular use by any scheduled passenger services [note C]: Tuesday 13 November 2007
  • London services diverted to London St.Pancras International via new line [note D] (Southfleet Junction, GB - London St.Pancras International): Wednesday 14 November 2007
  • Ebsfleet International, GB station opened and calls added: 19 November 2007 [note H]
  • Stratford International, GB station opened for domestic calls only (this station is unlikely ever to open for international calls): 30 November 2009
  • services to Lyon-Part Dieu, Avignon TGV and Marseille St. Charles, FR: 1 May 2015 [note F]
  • services to Rotterdam, NL, and Amsterdam (as extensions of existing Bruxelles/Brussel services): 4 April 2018 [note G]

    Seasonal services to other destinations:

  • seasonal (December to April) services to Bourg St.Maurice, FR: weekends from 13 December 1997 [note H]
  • seasonal (July and August) services to Avignon Centre, FR: Saturdays from 20 July 2002 until August 2014 (thereafter replaced by all-year Lyon-Avignon-Marseille service - see above)
  • seasonal (May and June) services to Lyon-Part Dieu, Avignon TGV and Aix-en-Provence TGV, FR: Saturdays from 4 May to 29 June 2013 as a "trial run" for the all-year service from 1 May 2015 (although Aix-en-Provence TGV was not retained); on UK-bound journey, passengers were required to alight at Lille for British immigration purposes

    Regional daytime services to/from the UK provinces and European Overnight Services never started and the rolling stock has been deployed elsewhere (the former in Europe, the latter in Canada)

    Eurostar Link: connecting services to London Waterloo International provided by indigenous British train operating company (CrossCountry) under charter to Eurostar (intended as a precursor to the ultimately aborted through regional daytime services) [note E]:

  • Manchester Piccadilly - London Waterloo International: 29 May 1995 - 4 January 1997
  • Edinburgh - London Waterloo International: 3 July 1995 - 4 January 1997

    A : Ligne à Grande Vitesse (= high speed line)

    B : a section of LGV Nord between Fretin (near Lille) and Antoing, which had opened to services other than Eurostar 2 June 1996, was used by some daily Eurostar services between 4 December 1996 and 31 May 1997 (for pathing reasons, with Belgian pilotmen) but the normal route remained that via Tournai until 13 December 1997

    C : both lines initially retained in maintainance:
      Fawkham Junction - Southfleet Junction traversed by regular "wire cleaning" movements (by Southeastern after December 2009) in case of need as a diversionary route; last diversionary use was by Southeastern 3 January 2011; last passenger use was railtour 15 November 2014; wire cleaning ceased; line disconnected at Fawkham Junction 23 April 2016 and thereafter used for a period as dead-ended sidings (from Southfleet junction) for storage of redundant Eurostar Alstom units with change-over to Velaro units;
     Nine Elms Junction - Linford Street Junction retained as part of national network (albeit not in regular use);
     the international terminal and platforms at Waterloo went out of use, although use of platforms for internal UK services subsequently resumed: initially platform 20 only (for emergency use from 23 October 2013, in regular scheduled service from 19 May 2014) while other platforms saw subsequent use, initially during remodelling of Waterloo layout in 2017;
     the last Eurostar into North Pole depot was 2109 from Waterloo on Monday 12 November 2007, the last to leave was 1650 to Waterloo on Tuesday 13 November 2007; the Channel Tunnel (Security) Order, 1994, ceased to apply there and depot deemed non-operational at 0600, 14 November 2007, having been superseded by the Temple Mills facility.

    D : known as Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) during development and construction phases: Phase 1 between the Channel tunnel and Fawkham Junction (Kent) via the future Southfleet Junction, phase 2 between Southfleet Junction (Kent) and London St.Pancras International; upon opening of completed line known as High Speed 1 (HS1) line from 27 May 2008. The infrastructure of HS1 is owned by HM Government but in November 2010, LCR sold the HS1 company, with its 30 year concession for operating the line and stations, to a consortium comprising Borealis Infrastructure and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

    E : other services direct to London Waterloo - from South Wales and the West of England - were sponsored by the respective train operating companies, not by Eurostar

    F : between one (winter) and five (high summer) round trips per week; on UK-bound journey, passengers required to alight at Lille for British immigration purposes

    G : initially only out-bound from the UK. An "inaugural" Amsterdam-bound journey on 20 February 2018 was merely a press/publicity run. Amsterdam-bound services were suspended from 19 March 2020 until resumed on 9 July 2020 on account of the Coronavirus pandemic. An "inaugural" London-bound journey from Amsterdam on 4 February 2020 was merely a press/publicity run, with through working in both directions - with Rotterdam stops - starting from 26 October 2020 (postponed due to Coronavirus restrictions). Prior to this, on UK-bound journey, passengers from the Netherlands were required to travel by Thalys service to change at Bruxelles Midi for British immigration purposes and to connect with Eurostar.

    H : calls at Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Calais Fréthun, Lille Europe, and services to Amsterdam, Marne la Vallée Chessy (Disneyland) and Bourg St Maurice by Eurostar trains were suspended from 19 March 2020 on account of the Coronavirus pandemic. In other words, from that date only very limited services operated London <—> Paris and London <—> Bruxelles / Brussel, both without intermediate passenger stops. Services London to Amsterdam resumed from 9 July and London <—> Marne la Vallée Chessy (Disneyland) from 2 August 2020. Resumption dates for the various intermediate stations mentioned have yet to be announced (but not expected before the end of 2021).

    Use of routes by internal passenger services
    The continental sections of LGV [note A] were also used for internal and Franco-Belgian services operated by SNCF, SNCB or Thalys from at least the same dates as Eurostar services.

    The UK High Speed Line 1 (HS1) has been used by regular internal UK passenger services, operated by Southeastern train operating company, from 2009:
  • Limited "preview" service between London St.Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International from 29 June 2009 (having also run the previous week as a trial "ghost" service); extended to Ramsgate and Dover from 7 September 2009 and (on Saturdays only) to Faversham via the new Ebbsfleet International - Springhead Road Junction link from 21 November 2009; calls at Stratford International from 30 November 2009
  • Full daily services to destinations in Kent via the Ebbsfleet International - Springhead Road Junction link and the junctions at Ashford International from 13 December 2009.

    Use of HS1 route by freight services
    HS1 was not used for revenue (as opposed to engineering or maintenance) freight service on a regular basis until 11 November 2011, when a train from Wroclaw (Poland) arrived at Barking. This followed a series of trials from 27 May 2011; other regular flows have since started to use the line.

    Richard Maund

    An earlier version of this chronology also appeared in Railway & Canal Historical Society Railway Chronology Group Co-ordinating Newsletter no. 51, July 2007.

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