The white elephant of Waterloo?

THE new Waterloo international station, which has cost pounds 145m, is likely to have an active life of only seven years after it opens this summer. A link connecting it to the high-speed route from the Channel Tunnel, which the Government hopes will be taking trains in 2002, looks unlikely to be built, writes Christian Wolmar.

The specification drawn up for companies interested in building the pounds 2.8bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) leaves optional the connection in Kent which goes from the CTRL at Gravesend to Longfield on the Swanley-Gillingham line. The Gravesend link itself would cost only pounds 5m as it runs along a disused railway, but the complicated junction with the CTRL would add another pounds 20m.

Although the Gravesend link is mentioned in documents being sent to prospective tenderers, it is an optional extra and the winning consortium will not be obliged to build it.

The CTRL will cut north across the Thames and go direct to St Pancras station. As the consortium that builds it will also become the owners of the passenger trains, it may feel that using Waterloo as a second London terminal is not worth the expense. Trains from St Pancras will take only two hours 30 minutes to reach Paris. Trains from Waterloo - if the connection with the CTRL is built - will take 15 minutes longer.

Therefore, after only seven years of use and a cost, with track improvements, of about pounds 200m, Waterloo international may become redundant. Some special trains are expected to start running from Waterloo later this summer, with a full service likely to begin early in 1995, but the journey time by this route will be three hours.