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Eurostar

Thursday, September 4, 2008
Train travel has always had an air of romance. Not the daily commuting train travel, but travelling between European cities in comfortable carriages, being served delicious meals and sipping champagne. It is still possible to enjoy that experience aboard the high-speed Eurostar from London to Paris, Lille in France and Brussels.

The service runs from St Pancras in London in an 18-carriage Class 373 train which travels up to 300km/h on a network of high-speed lines. It has cut 20 minutes off the travel time through the Chunnel. It now takes just two hours and 15 minutes to reach the centre of Paris.

There are three classes on Eurostar: standard, business and leisure. A three-course meal is served and before long you are deep in the tunnel between England and France.

Before the journey begins, it's worth knowing about the history of St Pancras, voted one of London's favourite landmarks and with a rich and colourful history.

When it was built in 1868, this was the largest enclosed space in the world. It played an important role during both world wars as a meeting place for troops being dispatched. Women and children also gathered here before being sent from London to safer places.

One of its most recognisable features is the red brick Grade 1 English Heritage-listed Gothic front facade, created as part of a competition in 1865, becoming the Midland Great Hotel. The hotel closed in 1935 and the building became railway offices, known as the St Pancras Chambers.

During the Blitz in World War II, the station was hit, but despite devastation, London Midland and Scottish Railway engineers soon had the platforms working again.

The greatest threat to the station was in 1966 with plans to amalgamate it with Kings Cross. Public opinion, sharpened by the demolition of Euston Station in 1962, was still alert and with the assistance of Sir John Betjeman, the station and hotel became a Grade 1 English Heritage-listed building.

The chambers were used as British Rail offices until 1985 before falling vacant in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s emergency safeguarding works were undertaken to stop roof leakages and general decay.

St Pancras has just undergone an £800 million restoration. The new complex includes food and shopping precincts and the St Pancras Champagne Bar. More than 90m long, it is stocked with bottles valued from £42 to a drop of Dom Perignon worth £6500.

The station is full of life again. Tourists love the journey, film and television makers think it's perfect for location shots and business people much prefer boarding Eurostar than battling their way to Heathrow for the short flight to Paris or Brussels.

Location

Aboard Eurostar between London and Paris.

Cost

Eurostar London high-speed train service from St Pancras to Paris costs around $250 per person return standard class. It takes a little over two hours. London to Brussels is around $125 standard class and takes two hours. Wine and champagne is included and the service operates year round.

Emirates has flights to London.

Fares from:

  • Perth $2101
  • Melbourne $2930
  • Brisbane $2941
  • Sydney $2948
  • Adelaide $3571

Perth: valid for sale September 4-8, 2008, and for travel until April 30, 2009.

Other cities: valid for sale and travel until April 30, 2009.

Conditions apply.

Prices correct September 4, 2008.

For further information

Eurostar
www.Eurostar.com

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