Channel train opens with a breakdown

THE INAUGURATION of the London-to-Paris train service was marred yesterday by an electrical fault that caused the journey from Waterloo international station to start an hour late.

But in a trip that demonstrated how the service could revolutionise travel between Britain and its near neighbours, a spare train ran through to the French capital in a record-breaking journey of just under 2 hours 49 minutes, 11 minutes ahead of the three-hour schedule.

The fault on the first Eurostar train, which was supposed to be taking 400 journalists on the first public outing of the service, was caused by a faulty circuit- breaker on the mechanism that switches power between the different systems used in France and Britain.

The service to Paris and Brussels is due to start operating on 14 November with two trains a day to each capital, building up to 15 trains a day by the end of next year.

Return fares range from pounds 95 for passengers booking two weeks in advance to pounds 195 for first-class travel.

Yesterday's technical mishap is a bad public-relations blow to a service that is likely to provide a strong challenge to the airlines on short-haul routes across the Channel. Fortunately, the inaugural train from Paris to London ran flawlessly.

Once it started, the journey was incredibly smooth broken only by cursing between the railway buffs and other journalists. The chaps from the railway magazines were livid as they heard the other journalists dictating their knocking copy about 'red-faced railwaymen' into their portable telephones.

Peter Fox, the publisher of Today's Railways, muttered into his notebook 'Why are they always complaining? This is a fantastic train. They ought to have a good word to say.'

He was right about the train. Even the Kent countryside was passed at 100mph and the tunnel was but a 20-minute blip. Once the train reached France the acceleration to 186mph was palpable, like being in a jet on the runway.

The technical problem is the latest in a series of faults that have delayed the introduction of the service.

The complexity of the power system is at the heart of all the problems. The Eurostar trains are the most complicated built as they have to be able to draw power from three different types of system: the third rail in England and two different types of overhead supply in the tunnel and in France.

The root of the difficulties is the Treasury's refusal to allow British Rail to install overhead electrification on the lines that Eurostar trains share with Kent commuter trains, and the dithering over the high-speed rail link, which will now not be ready until 2002 at the earliest.

The fact that the Eurostar trains will have to share the track with Kent commuter trains until the new line is built is the biggest problem facing the new service, as it is likely to make it difficult to achieve the reliability necessary to attract regular travellers.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower