Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fast Track

The euphoria surrounding the arrival of the first Eurostar into Paddington that had managed to break the 80 m.p.h. barrier on the English side of the Channel was understandable. When it's the first new line to be laid in down in 100 years, a bit of a celebration is called for.
It was a pity that “the longest champagne bar in Europe” wasn't ready in time but, given the current performance of the track-laying troops in Britain, they were probably relieved to find that the train stayed on the rails all the way.
I and my regular fellow travellers will welcome this new line when it opens for business in November. At present, having been whisked from Brussels or Paris in record time, only to find our breathless pace slowed by the 9.45 all stations commuter train from Penge being in the way, causes an unnecessary rise in blood pressure amongst the travelling executives, who have put away their laptops at Dover, anticipating their arrival in London. They then find they have time to complete another business plan before the thing shuffles into Waterloo.
In fairness, the TGV does tend to have the same problem around Paris occasionally when it has to share the track with its plebeian brothers and sisters, but it's never for very far.
It seems to have taken a long time to build – Brunel would have done it in half the time, I'm sure, even if he might have put the rails too far apart and not to the wheelbase of m'lud's carriage.
But, better late than never, and perhaps the best thing is that the wonderful construction that is the old St. Pancras station has been preserved.
Mind you, it's going to mean that the old cry “St. George for England, St. Pancras for Scotland” will need some revision.
And Britons can console themselves that, whilst they may have come late to the high speed train party, the original TGV was designed by an ex-patriate Brit.


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