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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 14:09 GMT
St Pancras - the new link to the Channel Tunnel
Find out how one of the UK's most ambitious rail construction projects connecting Kent to central London has affected the capital.

Aerial image of Kings Cross area and route of High Speed 1 Cross-section of rail link through London

Eurostar train
London-Paris 2 hrs 15 mins
London-Brussels 1hr 51 mins
London-Lille 1hr 20 mins
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now rebranded High Speed 1, connects Paris, Lille and Brussels to London's extended and refurbished St Pancras station.

High Speed 1 is 109km (68 miles) long. It was built in two parts by London & Continental Railways, chosen by the UK government in 1996 to construct and run the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL).

Section 1, from Folkestone to Fawkham Junction in Kent, was finished in 2003 allowing trains on the British side of the Channel to run as fast as those on the French side, at a maximum of 300km/h (186mph). But speeds in tunnels will be limited to 270km/h (168mph) for safety reasons.

Section 2 links Section 1 to St Pancras via a series of new tracks, bridges and tunnels constructed in one of the UK's most ambitious civil engineering projects to date.

1987 Channel Tunnel Act gets Royal Assent. Waterloo named international terminal
1991 Eastern route chosen for regeneration benefits
1994 Decision to make St Pancras London terminus. Waterloo International and Channel Tunnel open.
1996 London and Continental Railways wins Channel Tunnel Rail Link contract
1997 Eurostar revenues fall well short of projection - potential investors pull out of CTRL
1998 Government agrees to back 3.75bn of privately raised debt. Work starts on Section 1
2001 Work on Section 2 begins
2003 Section 1 of High Speed 1 (formerly CTRL) opens from the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction in Kent
2006 Stratford International completed
November 2007 Waterloo Eurostar terminus closes. St Pancras and Ebbsfleet International open
2009 Projected start of High Speed 1 domestic services. Expected opening of Stratford International

St Pancras was chosen as an international terminus in part because it is a few minutes' walk from King's Cross station which has connections to Edinburgh, Newcastle and the east coast as well as six London Underground lines.

Thameslink, a major commuter line between Bedford and Brighton, has a station opposite King's Cross. This will close on 8 December 2007 and a new underground station will open at St Pancras to accommodate longer trains.

Thameslink trains continue to arrive at St Pancras on existing track from the north but new tunnels have been built alongside the HS1 approach as part of the ongoing 3.5bn Thameslink Programme to upgrade and enlarge the whole line.

The new rail link to the Channel Tunnel was as much about regeneration as speeding up journey times, a proviso made by the government in return for grants and financial backing.

In addition to a modern extension designed to accommodate the 400 metre-long (1,300ft) Eurostar trains, the existing building at St Pancras, will be refurbished. The Barlow train shed with its single span roof, a marvellous feat of Victorian engineering, is being restored.

Its distinctive gothic frontage, now housing St Pancras Chambers and once the Midland Grand Hotel, will re-open as a hotel in 2009.

The area between St Pancras and King's Cross is also being redeveloped. New stations have been built at Ebbsfleet in Kent and Stratford in East London, as well as a massive regeneration project known as Stratford City.

CTRL/High Speed 1 - 5.2bn
St Pancras remodelling - 600m
Ebbsfleet International - 100m
Stratford International - 210m
Stratford City - 4bn
King's Cross redevelopment - 37.5m
It's all good news for London and Kent but the project seems to have left two "white elephants" in its wake.

Stratford International was finished in 2006 but will not actually open to the public until 2009, when High Speed 1 Southeastern domestic services are due to start.

The new station is surrounded by the construction of the Olympic Park and Stratford City. The latter could take 15 years to complete.

There is also a question mark over the future of the current Eurostar terminus, Waterloo International, which closed on 13 November. The Department of Transport says it will provide domestic services from the award-winning terminals. But it's far from certain how long it will take to convert the platforms and how much that will cost.

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