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You cannot have missed the hype surrounding Eurostar’s imminent move from its existing London terminal at Waterloo to St Pancras. For those anxious to get from Paris or Brussels to London in a rush, the Eurostar train is certainly the way to go, offering city-centre-to-city-centre journey times with which the plane simply cannot compete. Fares start at €38.50 one way.
Eurostar old hands have often moaned at the painfully slow approach into the old Waterloo terminal—an approach that will soon become a thing of the past. But we always rather liked it. The train creaked round curves and crawled over Victorian viaducts that afforded delicious perspectives on south London life. There were glimpses of Caribbean street life in Brixton, the brooding hulk of an old power station at Battersea, and the washing hung out to dry on the balconies of apartment blocks at Nine Elms.
When the new route comes into public service on 14 November 2007, trains will dive under the Thames in a new tunnel well to the east of London and briefly remerge above the ground in Essex before taking a subterranean route under east London to reach St Pancras, 20 minutes quicker than the old line into Waterloo. It remains to be seen whether the south Essex marshes at 180 miles per hour have quite the same fascinating appeal as Brixton and Battersea at 30 miles per hour.