Eurostar customers and crew at St Pancras International have celebrated the 18th anniversary of the start of high-speed passenger services, which since 1994 have revolutionised travel between the UK and mainland Europe.
The secretary of state for transport, Patrick McLoughlin, joined Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic on the Eurostar platforms, to mark the occasion with the cutting of a special birthday cake, the first of many to be shared with customers throughout the day.
As well as being Eurostar’s birthday, November 14th also marks both the 5th anniversary of the move from Waterloo International to its new home at St Pancras International and the opening of HS1, the UK’s first high-speed rail line, in 2007.
Commenting on the landmark moment in Eurostar’s history McLoughlin said: “This important milestone marks the coming of age of Eurostar and it is testament to its success that we now think nothing of hopping on a train in London and getting off in Paris or Brussels.
“The last five years have also given the UK its first real taste of high speed rail.
From the splendour of the redesigned St Pancras to the mouth of the channel tunnel itself, HS1 shows what a difference such projects can make.
“That is why I am determined to press ahead with HS2 – a network that will build on the success of HS1 to deliver jobs, growth and much-needed extra rail capacity.”
When the first Eurostar trains left London in 1994, they carried a total of 38,000 in the first month of operation.
Now, 18 years later, passenger numbers in 2012 average more than 830,000 a month.
Over the course of those 18 years Eurostar has carried more than 130 million travellers more than doubling the total number of passengers travelling (by air or rail) between London and Paris, Lille and Brussels.
Petrovic added: “What once seemed like the stuff of science fiction is now part of our everyday lives.
“This is a very special day in our history and we’re proud to have changed the way people think about travelling between the UK and the Continent.