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40 years on: the first plans for Eurostar

Long before anyone had even heard of Eurostar, the British Rail Board (BRB) published a series of indicative timetables for a possible Channel Tunnel rail service linking London with Paris. We reproduce below what we believe is the first iteration of that timetable, released 40 years ago in 1973. Britain had just joined the European Communities (precursor of the modern European Union) and timetable planners at BRB in London had Paris in their sights.

You can read more about this initiative in an issue of hidden europe’s Letter from Europe issued on Monday 25 March 2013.

The timetable below is interesting in many ways. It suggested Victoria as the London terminus for the Channel tunnel rail service. The proposed station — shown in the timetable below — at Saltwood (near Folkestone) was of course never built.

When first published in 1973, this draft timetable was presented in the standard BRB layout then favoured for mainline train timetables in Britain. The timetable was printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd, and its style would have been instantly recognisable to regular rail travellers. That distinctive typography and layout was very important — it gave a palpable sense that a Channel Tunnel rail service really was possible (and would exist quite soon). In the table below we have not reproduced that original layout and typography.

Type Exc. Paris Nord Saltwood London Victoria
TEE SuX 0800   1140
RB*   0825 1130 1235
TEE SuX 1100   1440
RB   1115 1420 1525
RB SuX 1430 1735 1840
TEE   1700   2040
RC   1715 2020 2125
TEE SSuX 1900   2240
ON   0015   0620
Type Notes
TEE Trans-Europe Express, 1st class only, full restaurant service at passengers' own seats
RC Restaurant car
RB Bistro: light refreshments and hot dishes
* Conveys through sleeping cars (1st and 2nd class) and couchettes (2nd class) to and from Ventimiglia via Cannes, Nice and Menton
SuX Does not run on Sundays
SX Does not run on Saturdays
SSuX Does not run on Saturdays and Sundays
ON Overnight service London-Paris and vv. Conveys only sleeping cars (1st and 2nd class) and couchettes (2nd class). Passengers may board the train from 2230 and sleeping car passengers may remain in their berths until 0800 on arrival.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
hidden europe
About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book was published in 2022 and reprinted in July 2023. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.

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