Eurostar sets new Paris-London record

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The Independent Online

Eurostar today set a new record for train travel between Paris and London when an inaugural service completed the journey in just over two hours.

The 18-coach train left Gare du Nord at 9.44am UK time and arrived at the newly refurbished St Pancras station in central London two hours three minutes and 39 seconds later.

The train was the first to travel on the new £5.8 billion dedicated high-speed route which runs for 68 miles from the Channel Tunnel near Folkestone in Kent to central London.

Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown said the train's arrival in London was a great achievement for his company and a massive step forward for rail travel.

The train travelled at speeds of more than 200mph in France and reached the maximum of 186mph on the British section.

The journey was more than 30 minutes faster than the current two hours 35 minutes time between Paris and London's Waterloo International which will close in November when services switch to St Pancras.

Some 400 specially invited guests were on board today's train, around half the maximum number of passengers, and they were served champagne and croissants in Paris before leaving the French capital.

A French jazz band played on the platform as the train left and another band was playing in London when the train arrived.

French driver Francis Queret drove the train through France while UK driver Neil Meare took over in England.

Eurostar was given special permission to travel at speeds of more than 200mph during today's journey, although there were temporary speed restrictions in Calais which slightly delayed the trip.

Passengers have faced a long wait for the high speed link from the Kent coast to London.

The high speed line on the French side was ready when the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.

But the British link, the first major rail route built on this side of the Channel for several decades, was beset with financial problems.

The total distance of the journey from Gare du Nord to St Pancras International is 306 miles.