RAIL CHRONOLOGY : EUROSTAR SERVICES
Page last updated: 10 February 2018
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
(together with the route infrastructure that came to be known as HS1 and St.Pancras station)
passed to the private sector ownership of London & Continental Railways (LCR) from 1 April 1996; their train operating
subsidiary became Eurostar (UK) Ltd in 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 31 December 2009 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 From 1 September 2010 - following receipt of EU approval - the unincorporated arrangements were superseded when the whole Eurostar operation of the three partners was vested in the incorporated company, Eurostar International Ltd, which now became jointly owned by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
full daily public service: 28 May 1995
Ashford International, GB calls added: 8 January 1996
services to Marne la Vallée Chessy, FR (Disneyland) : 29 June 1996
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
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
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.
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 : two trips daily; on UK-bound journey, until late 2019/early 2020 passengers from the Netherlands required to travel by Thalys service, change at Bruxelles Midi for British immigration purposes and connect with Eurostar
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.
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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