A new era in travel began today when Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar began faster-than-ever services to Europe from a new international terminal at London's St Pancras station.
The first service – a special, environmentally-friendly “green” train – left for Paris on time from the magnificently-restored St Pancras in London at 11.03am.
Using the newly-completed Channel Tunnel rail link, now known as High Speed 1, the first train was due to arrive in Paris at around 2.17pm French time.
Eurostar was hoping that the major strike crippling transport services in the French capital today was not going to affect the new services from St Pancras.
But those travelling on from Paris’s Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord station face major transport problems.
Earlier, Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown and 'Friends of the Earth' executive director Tony Juniper named the first Paris train Tread Lightly - after the Eurostar environmental campaign launched earlier this year.
Eurostar has set a target of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 25% per passenger journey by 2012.
Eurostar’s move to St Pancras follows 13 years of Paris and Brussels services from London’s Waterloo station.
The move to St Pancras and the opening of the new high-speed link means journey times between London and Paris will come down 20 minutes to two hours 15 minutes, while the London-Brussels journey become 25 minutes faster at one hour 51 minutes.
Mr Brown said today: “Today marks a new dawn for short-haul travel in Europe. Our move to St Pancras makes Eurostar even more accessible to travellers across Britain.
“We will carry passengers with greater speed, ease and reliability than ever before, and our travellers will have the extra reassurance of knowing that they are making far less environmental impact compared with flying.”