Inside Eurostar’s first train service from the staff uniforms to the journey time

Eurostar has become a firm favourite with Brits planning holidays to the likes of France and Belgium.

The high-speed rail service operates routes from the UK to heaps of destinations including Paris, Disneyland Paris, Brussels, Lille and, most recently, Amsterdam.

However, when it first launched in 1994, it was the London-Paris route which had everyone’s attention.

Eurostar made its big debut in May that year, when the Queen and Prince Philip opened the Waterloo International Station before boarding the company’s inaugural train to Calais for the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh aboard Eurostar on the inauguration of the Eurotunnel
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh aboard Eurostar on the inauguration of the Eurotunnel

Eurostar’s first passenger service took place a few months later on the 14th November 1994 and it proved quite a hit with holidaymakers and train enthusiasts who gathered to watch the train’s departure.

The e300 train, named because it reached speeds of up to 300kph or approx 186mph, took off from London Waterloo to Paris.

Members of Eurostar crew pose in front of the train in 1994

Once it left London, the train travelled through Kent and went underground at Folkestone, emerging 20 minutes later near Calais where it accelerated to its 186mph speed.

It completed the journey in 2 hours and 58 minutes, arriving in Paris three minutes ahead of schedule.

Eurostar staff in uniform in 1994
Eurostar staff in uniform in 1994

There were 700 passengers on board, the youngest being a six-month-old who made the trip with his mother.

Members of staff wore a uniform consisting of banana-yellow blazers designed by Pierre Balmain, along with yellow and blue clip-on bow ties.

Eurostar staff in uniform arriving for the launch in 1994
Eurostar staff in uniform arriving for the launch in 1994

Meanwhile, train drivers Robert Priston and Lionel Stevenson were in charge of the first journey, which Robert described at the time as the “ultimate train driver’s job”.

The pair actually undertook over 600 hours of French language training for the role, which also included two residential stays before the services commenced.

It turned out to be quite a memorable arrival into Paris for the pair – when they stepped off the train, they were mobbed by fans who asked them to sign commemorative travel guides given out by Eurostar officials.

Eurostar’s drivers Bob Priston and Lionel Stephenson in 1994

Since its first journey, the company has gone on to transport over 200 million passengers, including some famous faces such as Kylie Minogue and Take That. Prince Charles and Prince Harry also boarded a service in 1998 to attend a World Cup football match in Paris.

There have also been a few milestone changes in the company’s operations.

Most notably, in 2007 Eurostar services began departing from London St Pancras International instead of Waterloo, and have continued to do so ever since.

The new departure also means a shorter journey time – the route from London to Paris now takes approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, the company has introduced new e320 trains which can reach speeds of up to 320kph (approx 198mph).

You can find out more about the timetables and services on the Eurostar website.


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