I’ve made no secret of my dislike for Euston station; I believe it is the worst kind of 1960s eyesore, a bland box of concrete that bears no comparison to its Italianate and Gothic Revial neighbours, and can’t even at best be described as an example of Brutalism. As a gateway to London it does not serve up the necessary inspiration that St Pancras does, and I was therefore delighted when it became apparent that it would be replaced by something new, light and airy as part of the HS2 project. Imagine my disappointment then to learn today that the plans have been scaled back – there will now be no total rebuild of Euston, with instead what amounts to another station built for the platforms that will connect to the high speed line, which will then be connected to the existing station (much as was done with the building of Waterloo International). Of course, the complete rebuilding of the station from the ground up would have caused immense disruption for an awfully long time to what is, after all, one of the capital’s major transport hubs. Doing this will no doubt save money on the project, and it will still include a new ticket hall for the tube station, as well as a direct underground pedestrian link to Euston Square. But it still disappoints me that the full work won’t now go ahead, ditching the opportunity to create something nice in its place.
We’ve had a significant day today in the history of High Speed 2, as the High Court delivered verdicts in the numerous judicial reviews brought by various groups and bodies that have banded together in opposition to the project, for various reasons. I don’t propose to go into any significant detail about the different things that Mr Justice Ouseley ruled on, as you can look at the summaries as they’ve been published on the DfT website. The significant point to be made is that, of the ten different areas the judge had to rule on, he found in favour of the government in nine of them. Only in the ruling regarding the fairness of the consultation process over compensation payments did he rule against the government. Naturally, both sides are claiming “a great victory”, although I do find it a little hard to understand how the anti HS2 brigades can justify their relative good humour over this, as none of what the judge has said today will stop the construction. Hell, it won’t, as it stands, even delay the construction, given that, as far as compensation for property that has to be removed because it stands along the route goes, we’re still in the discussion phase as to how it will work, and the government has plenty of time to re-run the consultation, following the advice the judge has given in his ruling about what was wrong with it last time. Ofcourse it’s important that the government gets this right, but given that we’re still five years from shovels on the ground, I feel fairly sure that they will come up with a package that is acceptable to those that are affected. For those who are fundamentally opposed of course, the fact that they have lost in the action they themselves have brought is not the end of the war, merely a setback. In an interview with BBC News, Richard Houghton, speaking for the HS2 Action Alliance (a group that seems to have an inordinate number of different websites, so many in fact that I can’t decide which to link to – I’ll leave you to decide that dear reader), warns us all “not to believe the spin coming out of the DfT”, because of course his group doesn’t spin at all; according to his colleague Hilary Wharf, a director of HS2AA, the judgement is:
…a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are blighted by HS2.
Not spinning the one victory they got out of today for all they’re worth there then. Richard Westcott, the BBC’s transport correspondent, made the suggestion that all the antis can do is to undertake The Birds strategy – keep pecking and pecking until the government gets fed up or decides that HS2 isn’t worth the hassle. The problem with this strategy is that HS2 is now embedded as major policy for both the Conservatives and Labour, meaning that dropping it will be politically very damaging. And once it gets to the stage of being shovel ready, then it can’t be dropped, because that would be suicidal. There will be appeals, certainly. Indeed, the 51m group of local authorities have been given leave to appeal on two counts. But the government will press ahead with HS2. And it will be built.
While I may come down hard on the Daily Express for the often total bollocks it has a tendency to print sometimes, particularly from some of its columnists, I will say that, on some matters, Frederick Forsyth does write things that strike a chord with me, especially when he comments either on foreign affairs, intelligence matters or the armed forces, all of which in his two careers as a journalist and a thriller writer he has had experience of and researched extensively. However, when he writes about things he seems to know little of, it is fair that he tends to fall into the same trap of all the other columnists that try commenting on important national matters with their opinion and little else to fall back on. Obviously, the main headline from his column on the 8th February was enough to first attract my attention, and then, upon reading the piece, my ire.
On the fast track to a total disaster
Mr Forsyth has been vocal in his opposition to High Speed 2, putting forward many arguments as to why it should not be built, mainly regurgitating the same old stories that the “No2HS2″ grouping tend to put forward as the significant reasons not to go ahead with it. This particular piece came out the week that the government announced its planned route for Phase 2, the “Y” branches to Leeds and Manchester. The last line of the opening paragraph is an indication of where Mr Forsyth’s interests lie:
Often there are pieces about Mr Forsyth’s country living, so it isn’t a stretch to think that he may well live along the route of Phase 1, which is why he is as aggressive in his writing as he is. According to the piece from the newspaper, the government are mounting a “wild propaganda campaign that no one seems to be questioning”, except him of course. The problem is, his questioning appears to be taking entirely the wrong course – he questions the government’s claim that HS2 will create 100,000 jobs, suggesting that at most it will create 2,000. But here he is looking at the workforce that will be involved in actually building the line itself. True, but there will then be the jobs created in the supplying of materials to build the line, and supplying the equipment that will build the line. There will be significantly more than the 2,000 he suggests in actually building HS2. Then he somewhat sarcastically mentions the government’s enterprise zones – these are areas the government has designated for greater investment through improved planning rules and infrastructure. Forsyth points out that the trains intended for HS2 won’t stop at any of them and “certainly won’t carry freight”. True and true, but freight will be carried on the existing network, and one of the major points for building the line is to provide capacity. By taking a large number of fast, intercity trains off the West Coast Main Line, then there will be more space for both the slower, interurban and commuter trains that carry the workers into the centres of London, Birmingham and Manchester, and there will be more space for the slow, heavy freight trains, a significant number of which use the WCML for some part of their journey. He then points out that on his train journey into Marylebone (35 minutes) all the “hard-nosed businessmen” are tapping away on their laptops/tablets/mobile devices, which evidently means that businessmen don’t need to travel anymore. So why do they still insist on doing that? Mr Forsyth points to the experience the Dutch have had with HSL Zuid, suggesting that everyone prefers using the existing rail network, which runs parallel for part of the route with trains “at half the price”. I’ve had a look at the Nederlandse Spoorwegen website and done a search for a return journey from Amsterdam to Rotterdam; using a regular NS Intercity service costs €28.00, while using the Fyra service costs €32.60. The additional cost is due to the supplement for using the high speed line, similar to the one Southeastern puts on its high speed services. Mr Forsyth also makes a comment that East Coast can “only fill a third of its seats” and is “losing fortunes”, things he suggests are “hard nosed facts”, before stating that he has simply “read this” somewhere, not stating where.
Mr Forsyth should come out and say that he doesn’t want High Speed 2 running through his garden, and that that is his primary objection, rather than try to clothe it in attempted arguments that make no sense whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that High Speed 2, as with all infrastructure projects, will not in itself be profitable. The idea is to improve the capacity of the railway network to enable it to move more people and more goods to get to the places that they need to be. More people than ever are using the railways, and more goods are being transported on them; the railways are bucking the trend of the financial situation we find ourselves in. Tinkering around the edges with longer trains and longer platforms on the existing network won’t solves the fundamental problem that it is full to bursting (although Mr Forsyth’s comment about East Coast suggests he’d like to junk that too). Perhaps Mr Forsyth might like to do a little reading before the next time he decides to write about this issue – I’d suggest that he looks at the testimonies of the people that live in and around High Speed 1. That too was going to be a disaster; a metal scar carving through the Garden of England, which would cause windows to smash and cows to fall over every time a train passed. Except none of that has happened. HS1 was built with its environment in mind. While not invisible, it blends in where it runs at grade, while its structures (perhaps most notably the Medway Viaduct) are the modern equivilents of Brunel’s engineering solutions on the Great Western. I have no doubt that the structures on HS2 will be even better, the 21st century equivilents of Box Tunnel. Mr Forsyth should be honest with us and admit that he is a NIMBY, and that his objections are based not on “facts” but on his own prejudices. And, if he was a journalist worth his salt, he would do some reading and have some discussions with the other side before committing pen to paper next time. Over to you Nigel Harris…
While it may be true that, with the current incumbent of the White House as a relatively vocal advocate, the advancement of passenger rail in the United States is growing, there is no doubt still a long way to go. A major example of this is the continuing disconnection of the city of Las Vegas - a city of half a million people (with close to 2 million living in the urban area), in which the only rail service is the 4 mile long Las Vegas Monorail that connects a number of major hotels along The Strip. While there is a plan to extend this to serve McCarran International Airport, this means that it will still primarily be for customers coming into the city to get to one of the hotels. Of course, this is not such a bad thing, as this is one of the major elements of the city’s economy. But, it still means that it relies on air travel to get people to the city in the first place, no matter where they originate from.
Las Vegas is around 270 miles from Los Angeles, which in flying time is probably about an hour, while driving takes anything up to four hours. In terms of distance within the United States as a whole, this is not huge, but it is still a massive inconvenience to have to drive all that way and for that long (even if the American roads system is supposed to be one of the great adventures one can have without fear of being shot), while we are all aware of the disadvantages of short haul flying. Which is why not one, but two groups have come up with plans for passenger rail services to Sin City, which would be the first since Amtrak withdrew the Desert Wind in 1997. DesertXpress (since renamed as XpressWest) originated as a privately funded plan to link the city with Southern California using a new build high speed line – initially intended to terminate at Victorville, later proposals were for the terminus to be extended to Palmdale to interchange directly with the California High Speed Rail network, making DesertXpress almost an appendix to the publically funded high speed network in the Golden State. This proposal has been expanded further (causing the the rebranding) to take in a number of other states in the west of the country. The core element though remains the route to Las Vegas, which would be around 90 minutes from Victorville (and probably a little under two hours from Palmdale). Palmdale would, once the CHSR is constructed, be less than an hour from Union Station in Los Angeles, making a journey time of approaching an hour less than driving (even with an interchange). Of course, that is for the future, with XpressWest not expected to start running trains until 2016, and CHSR not expected until the late 2020s. Which is where Las Vegas Railway Express has been able to step in – planning a service it calls X-Train, this will run on conventional track through an agreement with Union Pacific. Starting from Fullerton, where it will interchange with Metrolink, it will terminate at the Plaza Hotel, which is the former location of Las Vegas Union Pacific Station. It is estimated that the new service, intended to launch in January 2014, will take around 5 hours end to end, a result of the poor state of trackage and the way the network is owned and administered. The intention though is to provide a much better level of service than is experienced either on Amtrak trains or airlines, which presumably is intended to make up for the timetable. Of course, it would be better if the length of time taken for the journey was less, but if people decide to take the train to Las Vegas, and find that they like it enough that they don’t notice the time, then it’s possible, just possible that when XpressWest gets going, it will start with a bang.
You may be aware that I travel around the country a lot. As a consequence, I am on trains a significant amount, and don’t always have a book with me. So, I have a tendency to head for the closest WH Smith and purchase the latest issue of one of the railway periodicals. Between Christmas and New Year I was in Nottingham for a week – on my journey up I procured the latest issue of Rail Express, and was reading through it when I came upon an article about Thameslink that, off the top of my head, was reassurance that the rolling stock procurement contract would finally go through early in 2013. However, this article referred to “Class 700″, which intrigued me somewhat. Bear in mind that, in spite of the stuff I write about, my knowledge is still limited, but I was always under the impression that, in the TOPS classification system used to classify rolling stock on the British network, EMUs were given numbers between 300 and 599 – those that run off 25kV AC from overhead wires run from 300 to 399, while those that use direct current between 650 and 850V from a third rail have numbers from 400 to 499 (for the Southern Region), and 500 to 599 for elsewhere. Which is what confused me, as clearly the number 700 doesn’t come between 300 and 599. Something that confused me further was the fact that, even though the rolling stock procurement for Crossrail is only at the ITT stage, Crossrail has registered its planned rolling stock as Class 345. Naturally then, given I am an inquisitive sort of chap, I made mention of this on Twitter, while using my super duper new smartphone to conduct various web searches trying to find out more. Yesterday I got a reply from a chap called “Sparky” who works in the rail industry and who told me that yes, Class 700 does seem to be the official classification, which is used in internal discussions for the Desiro City units planned for Thameslink. So, I then did a little more digging and found Railway Group Standard GM/RT2453 “Registration, Identification and Data to be Displayed on Rail Vehicles”, published in September 2011, which sets out the information that has to be shown on all rail vehicles, and updates GM/RT2210 (June 1995) by expanding the number ranges for registering multiple unit sets. In this it seems AC multiple units will not only be in the 300 series (though there remain a significant amount of vacant numbers), but also in the 700 series, thus explaining the Thameslink scenario. However, on reading this, I took note of something else – the 800 series is reserved for “high speed multiple units”, which the document classes as operating at speeds above 190km/h (approx 118 mph). Presumably, under this then, Virgin’s Pendolinos and Super Voyagers, East Midlands Trains’ Meridians and Southeastern’s Javelins would all have been given 800 numbers had they entered service now rather than when they did. But, something else that came to mind was the classification of brand new high speed trains, by which of course I mean trains intended to operate on the UK’s high speed lines. While these lines will of course not be part of the National Rail network, and some rolling stock will not be interoperable, their movements would still need to be tracked around the high speed network. I have asked the DfT under Freedom of Information whether the new rolling stock intended for High Speed 1 would be required to have TOPS numbers, which they say is a matter for Network Rail (who are not bound by FOI, and do not seem to have a mechanism for the general public to make enquires such as this). As a consequence, it is still not clear whether Eurostar’s new trains, or indeed Deutsche Bahn’s Velaro D units, would be given TOPS numbers at all. The DB trains are classified as Class 407 in Germany, and, as there hasn’t been a Class 407 in Great Britain, it could for simplicity fit there (even though it isn’t a Southern Region, DC powered third rail type); however, the Eurostar trains have been called “e320″, but can’t become “Class 320″, as there already is one. It can be quite maddening when you have these questions rattling around in your head, and yet there is no obvious way to get an answer. Having said that, these are not as if they have the answer “42″ and, consequently, there is no problem if they aren’t answered right this second, as there will be an answer and it will come out. I guess one just has to be patient.
Glancing through the new issue of Modern Railways I happened across the story regarding the first of Eurostar’s new Velaro based e320 being rolled out from the Siemens plant at Krefeld. This is nothing more than has been reported quite widely recently, with the small addition of a comment that they are planned to be introduced from the December 2014 timetable change, giving two years for the necessary testing, checks and certifications to be done on the type ready for use. There was another little sentence in this little story (best described as a caption next to a picture of the first e320 under construction);
…DB has said the earliest it could introduce services from London to Amsterdam and Frankfurt is now December 2015
As I thought this was worth passing on, I sent that basic information onto the Twittersphere, as I am wont to do. But, as often seems to be the case, what is for me just passing on information is for other people an invitation to get into debate. I suppose it’s my own fault for replying to the reply that one tweeter sent to me regarding his view that the DB plan is a pipe dream that will never come off. It wasn’t so much that though that irked me, but his comment that Modern Railways was somehow guilty of “naive journalism” in simply passing on what DB had said. To be perfectly honest, we all knew that anyway, as the story that the planned Frankfurt/Amsterdam-London service had been pushed back as a result of delays to the delivery of the Class 407 units that it will use came out in December last year. Accusing what is one of the respected periodicals in the industry of “naive journalism” stuck in my craw, especially when he then decided that the opinions he was tweeting at me were “facts”. Hmm – or alternatively. Opinion formers use facts to form their opinions – I know this, because I do. The facts are that yes, Eurostar will have their Velaro units delivered before DB. Everything else in the (frankly unwanted) conversation is just opinion. Recognise it.
Oh, and my opinion is that, once DB get settled into their three trains per day to and from London (which will actually be six when taking the split to run one set to Amsterdam and one to Frankfurt into account), they will then look to increase the frequency. Just my opinion though.
There is a body of opinion that believes the removal of Justine Greening from the DfT to the backwater of the Department for International Development is a means by the Prime Minister and the Conservative members of the government to smooth the road ahead of a u-turn on a particular policy, namely the construction fo a third runway at Heathrow. Justine Greening was a vocal opponent of this proposal, representing as she does the constituency of Putney, which lies under the flightpath. Her successor, the somewhat unknown (up to now) Patrick McLoughlin, does not appear to have such strong opinions on the issue. One might claim that this means he will be open to the body of evidence that should be accumulated. Conspiracy theorists may say it simply means he’ll be more amenable to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (who it seems is in favour of a third runway) changing the policy. Now, I have read in parts of the conservative press by various commentators that a third runway is the panacea, the silver bullet that will do away with all of our troubles, and that to oppose and suggest anything else it is “economic illiteracy”. Hence the ever present vocal opposition to High Speed 2 (although how many of these commentators live somewhere along the proposed route of HS2 I wonder?). Now, I claim to be no expert, but is it not the case that building a third runway is not the end of the matter? By increasing Heathrow’s capacity to accept more aeroplanes, you increase the number of people coming through, and that would likely mean you would need greater capacity once the aeroplane has come to a stop, and what this would mean is the construction of Terminal 6. The problem is that Heathrow is an old site, constrained on many sides by residential areas that make expansion difficult in the extreme, which is why Boris Johnson favours a brand new, purpose built airport in the Thames Estuary along similar lines to Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong.
The government’s plan is to have an independent commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, investigate airport capacity and what can be done to expand and improve it. This is where the question of high speed rail should be taken into account, and where serious studies should be made looking at domestic and short haul flying in the UK. The argument about airport capacity is always made in terms of international travel – that Heathrow needs to retain its place as a world leading air hub to compete with both European rivals like Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol or Frankfurt, as well as those in Asia and the US. So why then is capacity at Heathrow (and other airports around London) taken up with domestic flights, and flights to destinations in Western Europe that are reachable by train? While in Edinburgh, I was asked whether, once the tram route to the airport is complete and running, whether I’d fly up from London, and my answer was a categoric “no”, for the simple reason that the United Kingdom is a country that is small enough, and well connected enough, to be able to get to most places by train in a reasonable amount of time. We already have 125mph running on most of the main routes. The electrification of the Great Western Main Line will potentially allow this to be increased to 140mph. And then there’s HS2 (which is not, as Frederick Forsyth continues to claim, simply a way to get from London to Birmingham 15 minutes faster), which will allow passengers to get to the major economic hubs in the north as fast by train as it would take to fly. Not to mention the extra capacity going begging on High Speed 1 to get to the likes of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The first thing for this independent review to do is see just have much of Heathrow’s existing traffic (and Gatwick’s come to that) is short or very short haul and say “where can we move this?”. Because in addition to the rail network, and the forthcoming improvements to it, there are also other locations where small, short haul flying could be transferred; Southend Airport has had a major passenger upgrade, and is directly connected to the rail network, while both Oxford and Lydd are looking to expand. Only once this evidence is gathered and studied should the question of third runways or Boris Islands be looked at.
The media have made much of the announcement of £9bn of investment in the railways that the government made yesterday, which will see a significant amount of new work undertaken to enhance the infrastructure. Of course, given that it is politicians making the announcement, we should always insert a sizeable pinch of salt and look a little more closely at what has actually been promised. Of this £9bn, just over £5bn is to projects that are already under way – essentially what is being said is “we’re not going to cancel them now that they’re under way”. So really this announcement is for a little over £4bn of genuinely new investment. But that doesn’t sound as good as £9bn.
Of course, any new investment is welcome, so let us not get too snippy at the political playing of the media that government spin doctors are wont to do, especially when Tweedledum and Tweedledee need to put on a show of coalition unity following a smattering of recent disharmony. So what precisely are we looking at? Well, electrification forms the foundation of it all, with the flagship plan being the decision (finally) to wire up the Midland Main Line as far as Sheffield, a proposal that has been knocking about for years. We will also see the planned electrification to Cardiff extended to Swansea, again, something that was suggested when the electrification of the GWML was first announced three years ago. Further, a number of additional shorter routes will also see the wires going up, including the route between Southampton and Basingstoke, and the Reading to Basingstoke line, which is the primary freight corridor between the south coast and the West Coast Main Line - this plan will see wires invading the third rail empire of the Southern Region for the first time, and is apparently a toe in the water to the wider conversion of the third rail infrastructure to OHLE.
However, one element that isn’t simply electrification (with the added infrastructure improvements), but is instead brand new build stuff, is the proposal to provide a western link to Heathrow, which would allow passengers from Wales and the South West to access the airport directly by train, rather than having to go into Paddington and come out again. This caught my interest because of the longer term implications that could come from it, in relation to High Speed 2. Back when the first commitments to HS2 were being made by the DfT under Lord Adonis, there was the continual suggestion that it be connected to Heathrow in some fashion, either as a stub branch, or as part of the main route to and from London. It was noted in many areas that putting it on the main route would be a ridiculous notion, as it would add far too much time and inconvenience for the benefit of a minority of passengers. Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and instead the Heathrow connection will be a stub branch. But, at the same time I espoused the idea, which I’m fairly sure I noted in from the Greengauge 21 proposal, that, rather than Heathrow being a destination in itself, it could serve as a through route in a similar way to Schiphol. Greengauge 21′s plan would have seen a new build high speed line built as part of the HS2 project, with Heathrow at one point of a triangular junction, which would then connect to the GWML down to the South West. Rather than doing this though, why not simply upgrade the GWML and provide it with a connection through Heathrow to HS2, in effect turning the GWML into something akin to a “mini-Shinkansen”. Given that it is going to be electrified anyway, and given that HS2 will require so called “classic compatible” trains that will run on both the new high speed and existing railways, in effect, for a fraction of the cost of actually building it from scratch, you could almost have “High Speed 3″, giving Bristol and Cardiff their pre-existing fast services into London, but also giving fast rail connections to the other economic centres further north, without the need to change not just trains, but stations, in London.
As the sound of Gary Neville’s “goalgasm” fades, and Chelsea look forward to their date with destiny following their heroics in the Nou Camp, the thoughts of thousands of Blues fans have no doubt turned to the prospect of getting to Munich - how to get there, and how much it will cost. It was with interest therefore that I noted a story in yesterday’s Evening Standard. Doubtless there will be some who will have the idea of clubbing together with a load of mates and hiring a minibus. Well, that’s fine, but it’ll take a shitload of time. The obvious answer is to fly, as Munich is a big city, and has relatively good connections to the UK, with both British Airways and Lufthansa, as well as Easyjet, flying directly to Munich Airport. However, never let it be said that airlines don’t take advantage of an opportunity to fleece a load of people that have somewhere they desperately want/need to be at a very specific time. British Airways have announced prices for flights around the time of the Champions League final of around £700, while apparently Easyjet are offering £800. Even Ryanair, whose hub for Munich isn’t Munich Airport, but Memmingen Airport (which is 110km from the centre of Munich) are offering flights for £470 – the weekend before they’re offering the same flights for £32. People will doubtless pay, but there is an alternative. Fly somewhere else, and then get on the ICE, which, at least as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is a shedload cheaper than the £700 BA will take from you. Of course, it will take longer (the train from Hamburg-Altona to Munich takes around 6 hours), but as I’ve often said, you pay for time, and if you’re unconcerned about the time you actually get there, as I would assume most people will make their way the day before and home the days after the game, then it could well be a winner.
Speaking of high speed trains, there was something else I noticed in yesterday’s paper, this time (as is often the case) on the letters page. Or, more specifically, the “text your ranting in and we’ll print it” section. As it’s short, I’ll quote verbatim:
Once again, Joe Public (or in this case John Benjamin) misses the point. Birmingham was not, is not and never will be the ultimate destination of HS2. It’s intention is to allow faster travel to London from various points in the north. But, perhaps even more importantly, it is intended to increase capacity so that more interurban (as opposed to intercity) trains can run. This will start off allowing more capacity on the southern section of the WCML by removing express trains. This idea will be extended further northwards when Phase 2 is built. The idea is being able to put more trains onto the existing network, as well as letting express trains get to their destinations faster. Surely this is something that the government should be putting right at the top of its publicity. It isn’t that hard a concept to get one’s head around after all.
The “Lille Loophole” has made the news again. Well, I say again, but it looks like in reality it’s just the right-wing tabloid press that is bringing it up, if the headlines from this week are anything to go by:
It would seem, according to the stories published herein, that the French and Belgian governments have completely refused to do anything about the “interesting little problem” of passengers being able to board trains in Brussels with tickets for Lille, who then simply stay on the train until it reaches London. According to these stories, Britain has formally asked both SNCF and SNCB/NMBS to cease selling tickets for travel on Eurostar services between Brussels-Midi and Lille Europe, to which the Belgians have issued a categorical refusal:
Why the Belgian Prime Minister should be so adamant about that, I’m not entirely certain. However, that is neither here nor there. The question, which is valid, is what does the government propose doing about it? I suggested that, while the French and Belgian governments might oppose passport checks due to their both being in the Schengen Area, surely they could have no objection to Eurostar, which after all is now a private company in its own right, and not a brand run by SNCF and SNCB/NMBS any more, having vigourous on train ticket checks, and equally vigourous ticket checks at the barriers at London St Pancras. However, there was something that was in one of the articles that caught my eye and made me think:
If the French and Belgian governments continue to refuse to close the loophole the UK Border Agency should place border staff on every train to identify those seeking to enter the UK illegally.
Keith Vaz, Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman
While the Belgians might protest against this idea between Brussels and Lille, what precisely is to stop this being the case between Lille and London? After all, in most cases trains do not stop between leaving Lille and exiting the tunnel (a handful stop at Calais-Fréthun), so there is no reason, if it is decided people shouldn’t be delayed once they get to London, that they shouldn’t have their passports checked on the train and, if they don’t have passports with them, because they’re “Lille Loopholers”, then they can be brought aside and deported on the next train. Problem solved.