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Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Eurostar opens high-speed track in UK

AFP , LONDON

Eurostar was expected to set a new Paris-London rail record yesterday, with the opening of a new high-speed track on the British side of the Channel Tunnel that shaves 20 minutes off the normal time.

The new line and the new London terminal at St. Pancras cost ?5.8 billion (US$11.7 billion) and the faster service will formally open to the public on Nov. 14.

CLUB MEMBERSHIP

The project finally brings Britain membership of the European high-speed rail club where its absence has been the subject of some gentle -- and not so gentle -- ridicule from France in the past.

Opening the fast TGV track from Paris to Lille back in 1993 -- the year before the Channel Tunnel opened, then French president Francois Mitterrand chided Britain for its technological backwardness.

"Next year we will set off at high speed across the northern plains, then push into the Channel tunnel, and afterwards we will be able to dream at a very slow speed in Britain to admire the landscapes," Mitterrand said.

The 300kph train is expected to cut journey times from Paris to London by 20 minutes to two hours and 15 minutes.

NEW TERMINAL

The new St. Pancras terminal will replacing the one at Waterloo.

"Today marks Britain's entry into the European high-speed rail club," said Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar.

"We can now run trains at high speed all the way from the Channel Tunnel to London, making journeys between cities quicker, more convenient -- and far greener than flying," Brown said.

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