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waterloo sunset

November 21, 2007

'All Set At St Pancras' ran one newspaper headline while I was in London last week. Er... not quite. When I passed through the new Eurostar terminal on Thursday, the second day of operations, it was still very much 'a work in progress'. And after all the feverish hype it was a huge disappointment.

There were no trolleys to be had anywhere near the taxi drop-off point, no shops (not even a newsagent), no WIFI, no business lounge and no sign of the much lauded 'longest champagne bar in Europe.' An enquiry at the information desk - where fellow travellers milled around looking similarly underwhelmed/mildly disgruntled - revealed that it was in the main station and therefore inaccessible from the departure lounge. Not much cop then if you're actually travelling on the Eurostar.

You couldn't even get a cup of coffee since the queue at the one Cafe Nero was as long as the Champs-Elysées. Instead, we all sat shivering in sub-Artic conditions, thanks to the icy wind blowing through the terminal. It had all the charm of a dentist's waiting room.

Meanwhile, the Eurostar staff sat muffled up against the cold and seemed less than thrilled with their new home. 'All the stops were pulled out for the launch to VIPs and journalists,' said one. 'But now it is cold, we have only two staff toilets and the computer systems keep crashing. We preferred Waterloo.'

Nor is the fact that the train descends into a long (25 minute) tunnel not far out of of St Pancras - so deep that it makes your ears pop - likely to endear it to claustrophobics. Some of the glitches will no doubt be ironed out. But I predict that a great many of us - particularly those for whom saving 20 minutes on a journey is not of life-changing signficance - will mourn Waterloo for a long time to come.

comments (6)

1. Posted by Markyj on November 21, 2007 1:40 PM

Sounds absolutely horrid and soulless. I live in Kennington - just one stop from Waterloo, so the half hour saving on the train times has just been added to my tube journey, which is now to Kings Cross. Why do they always destroy the things they do well and which are popular?

Bring back Waterloo! Let's start a campaign.

2. Posted by jeannie on November 21, 2007 4:08 PM

Ah ha - welcome to the UK! Really, what DID you expect - a warm and inviting arrival....? Remember why you left in the first place? I'd check your bank account if I were you - the rail company has probably flogged your details to the government...who'll be auctioning them off to the some dodgy geezers as I type!

3. Posted by tippitybit on November 21, 2007 5:26 PM

wow - that's certainly rained on Eurostar's parade. I got the impression that it was fabulous...

4. Posted by bella on November 21, 2007 10:35 PM

Oh dear, what a shame. I don't like the sound of that tunnel at all...

5. Posted by sarahbeebee on November 23, 2007 11:34 AM

spot on. Also Kings Cross/St Pancras is a bad vibe kind of place [one fire, one bomb attack]. Mad to move from Waterloo...

6. Posted by Miss Choo on November 30, 2007 6:16 PM

Having just travelled through the new St Pancras terminal to Brussels on a day's shopping trip, I have to say I agree re St Pancras. Very badly designed and laid out - it's impossible to get in an out of the one newsagents in the terminal, if you have luggage for example. It has no advantages over Waterloo at all. I will gladly sign the 'Bring Back Waterloo' petition suggested by another reader.

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