High-speed Euro-link comes closer

A NEW high-speed rail link is set to bring East Anglia closer to the Continent as 20 minutes is sliced off journey times - but a direct link to Eurostar services is still at least two or three years away.

A NEW high-speed rail link is set to bring East Anglia closer to the Continent as 20 minutes is sliced off journey times - but a direct link to Eurostar services is still at least two or three years away.

High speed passenger train operator Eurostar made Ipswich its first destination yesterday on a whistle-stop tour of 50 sites across the country to promote the opening of the last stretch of its high-speed line in London on November 14.

High Speed 1 will start from a newly-restored St Pancras International, with passengers able to board either there or at Ebbsfleet International further down the route, a newly-created station near the Dartford Crossing on the M25, business and tourism leaders were told.

The route replaces the current service running from Waterloo Station but, while St Pancras is more convenient for East Anglian commuters, some local leaders expressed disappointment that no date has been set for the opening of Stratford International station, alongside the Norwich to Liverpool Street line.


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While Stratford International station is ready, the infrastructure around Europe's largest building site in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics is far from complete.

A spokesman from London & Continental Railways, which won the contract to build High Speed 1, confirmed yesterday with other developments happening around the site, including the Docklands Light Railway link due for completion in 2010, domestic services for High Speed 1 due in 2009, and the first zone of the Stratford City development due by 2010, the infrastructure was not yet in place.

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“I think what we can say is it won't start from Stratford until 2009/10 at the earliest,” said LCR spokesman Ben Ruse.

But in the end, there would be a service that was “far, far better-integrated” into the immediate area, and one that would provide a “fairly seamless experience” for those travelling from East Anglia, he added.

In the meantime, East Anglia's Continental train travellers still face either a shorter journey than at present on the Tube or by taxi to reach St Pancras, or a car journey, either to Ebbsfleet or Ashford International station in Kent. However, Eurostar was unable to say what the parking fees at Ebbsfleet would be.

Eurostar offers Business Premier, Leisure Select and Standard Class fares, and says its check-in times of 10 minutes for business passengers and 30 minutes for others compares very favourably with air travel.

It is currently working with rail operators including One, which has up to 14 services capable of connecting in to High Speed 1's Paris service, and up to eight to Brussels, to see whether it will be possible to offer tickets from their stations direct to the Continent. It estimates typical journey times from Ipswich to Paris would be four hours 20 minutes, and four hours from Ipswich to Brussels, including London interchange and check-in times.

Eurostar plans to offer 17 trains a day to Paris, with travels times on the fastest journeys down to two hours and 15 minutes, and 10 trains to Brussels, with journey times as low as one hour 51 minutes, and one hour 20 minutes to Lille.

Scott Dolling, destination marketing manager at Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said he was “really pleased to see the new high speed link coming through and the possibility for us to position this part of the country for overseas visitors”.

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