No, not the band – Her Majesty the Queen unveils plaque for 20th Anniversary of Channel Tunnel opening this morning, Thursday 5th June 2014. I am jumping up and down with excitement. I love plaques. And trains. And I don’t know the Queen but after today I might love her too.
The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, is here to commemorate the launch of international high speed rail services between the UK and mainland Europe, which we take for granted now, but before the tunnel, braving hours at sea was our only option. Now you can go from London to Paris just to have lunch before returning the same day happy as Larry. I know, I’ve done it. The Queen has probably done it too.
After all this, she’s off to France from 5th to 7th June with an invite from the President of France, Françoise Hollande in hand. As part of the State Visit, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will go to events in Paris and Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Here today to greet the Royals are Rob Holden, the Chairman of HS1, Jacques Gounon, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Groupe Eurotunnel and Clare Hollingsworth, the Chairwoman of Eurostar. William Hague, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Harlem Désir, France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs and Bernard Emié, French Ambassador to the UK, are here too.
Jacques Gounon said, “Today 65 million vehicles and 330 million people have already travelled through the Tunnel, bringing substantial economic benefits to the UK and Europe.”
Eurostar was formed in 1994 as a partnership between three railway companies: SNCF (French national railways), SNCB (Belgian national railways) and LCR (London and Continental Railways). The same year the current Eurostar train was first introduced into service carrying 750 passengers and operating at speeds of up to 300kph. The fleet of 28 trains has since carried over 145 million passengers between London and mainland Europe. Following their refurbishment these trains will continue to form a core part of the Eurostar fleet. The new Eurostar e320 train will carry more than 900 passengers at speeds of up to 320kph.
Clare Hollingsworth, Chairwoman of Eurostar, said, “The launch of Eurostar services between the UK and mainland Europe represented a historic milestone revolutionising rail travel on both sides of the Channel. Over the last twenty years we have carried over 145 million passengers as high speed rail increasingly becomes the preferred option for short haul journeys. With the advent of a new state-of-the art fleet of trains and a range of new routes, we are looking forward to extending our reach and cementing further the relationship between the UK and continental Europe.”
After today’s ceremony, the commemorative plaque will be displayed in the international services check-in area of St Pancras International station. Winner.