The second and final section of the line, travelling across the River Thames and into London St Pancras, opened on 14 November 2007. Built at a cost of £5.2bn, the new link has cut pre-2003 Eurostar journey times by 40 minutes. It is now possible to travel from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord in 2 hours 15 minutes and to Brussels South in 1 hour 51 minutes.
A high speed commuter service on High Speed 1 is scheduled to start in December 2009 between Ashford International in Kent and London St Pancras and the Journey is expected to take about 37 minutes.
The new fleet of 29 Hitachi Class 395 Bullet trains will be able reach speeds of 140 mph, slashing the current journey times from Kent into Central London.
The first few trains have already arrived for testing, the remainder will be delivered in 2009.
Two new stations at Ebbsfleet and Stratford have been built and a multi million pound investment program in new depot facilities at Ramsgate and Ashford to facilitate the maintenance of the Hitachi built trains is under way.
On 14 November 2006, London and Continental Railways adopted the brand name High Speed 1 for the completed railway. Official legislation, documentation and line-side signage has continued to refer to "CTRL".
The original plan for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link involved a tunnel reaching London from the south-east, and an underground terminus in the vicinity of Kings Cross station. However a late change in the plans, principally driven by the then deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine's desire for urban regeneration in East London, led to a change of route, with the new line approaching London from the east. This opened the possibility of reusing the underused St Pancras station as the terminus, with access via the North London Line that crosses the throat of the station.
The idea of using the North London line proved illusory, and it was rejected in 1994 by the then transport secretary, John MacGregor, as difficult to construct and environmentally damaging. However the idea of using St Pancras station as the core of the new terminus was retained, albeit now linked by 20 km (12 miles) of specially built tunnels to Dagenham via Stratford.
London and Continental Railways (LCR) was selected by the UK government in 1996 to undertake construction of the line, as well as the reconstruction of St Pancras station as its terminus, and to take over the British share of the Eurostar operation, Eurostar (UK). The original LCR consortium members were National Express Group, Virgin Group, S. G. Warburg & Co, Bechtel and London Electric. Whilst the project was under development by British Rail it was managed by Union Railways, which became a wholly owned subsidiary of LCR.
Originally, the whole route was to be constructed as a single project. However, in 1998 it ran into serious financial difficulties and with its future looking uncertain the project was split into two separate phases, to be managed by Union Railways (South) and Union Railways (North). A recovery programme was agreed whereby LCR sold government-backed bonds worth £1.6bn to pay for the construction of section 1, with the future of section 2 still looking in doubt. The original intention had been for the new railway, once completed, to be run by Union Railways as a separate line to the rest of the British railway network. However as part of the 1998 rescue plan it was agreed that, following completion, section 1 would be purchased by Railtrack, along with an option to purchase section 2. In return, Railtrack was committed to operate the whole route as well as St Pancras railway station which, unlike all other former British Rail stations, was transferred to LCR/Union Railways in 1996.
In 2001, Railtrack announced that, due to its own financial problems, it would not undertake to purchase section 2 once it was completed. This triggered a second restructuring. The 2002 plan agreed that the two sections would have different infrastructure owners (Railtrack for section 1, LCR for section 2) but with common management by Railtrack. Following yet further financial problems at Railtrack its interest in the CTRL was sold back to LCR who then sold the operating rights for the completed line to Network Rail, Railtrack's successor. Under this arrangement LCR will become the sole owner of both sections of the CTRL and the St Pancras property, as per the original 1996 plan.
As a consequence of the project's restructuring the LCR consortium is, as of 2006, construction firms Arup, Bechtel, Halcrow and Systra (who form Rail Link Engineering (RLE)), transport operators National Express Group and SNCF (who operate the Eurostar (UK) share of the Eurostar service with the National Railway Company of Belgium and British Airways), electricity company EDF and UBS Investment Bank. On completion of section 1 by RLE, the line was handed over to Union Railways (South), who then handed it over to London & Continental Stations and Property (LCSP) who are the long term owners of the line. Once section 2 of the line had been completed it was handed over to Union Railways (North) who handed it over to LCSP. Management, operation and maintenance of the entire line, including St Pancras, is undertaken by Network Rail.
In February 2006 there were strong rumours that a 'third party' (believed to be a consortium headed by banker Sir Adrian Montague) had expressed an interest in buying out the present partners in the project. LCR shareholders subsequently rejected the proposal, and the Government, who effectively could overule shareholders' decisions as a result of LCR's reclassification as a state-owned body, decided that discussions with shareholders would not take place imminently, effectively backing shareholders' views on the proposed takeover.
The legal framework for the new railway line lies in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 providing construction powers that ran for the following 10 years. Amendments were made in 2001 for the new station at Stratford International and through connections to the West-Coast Main Line.
Section 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, opened on 28 September 2003, is a 74 km (46 mile) section of high-speed track from the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction in north Kent. The section's completion cut the London–Paris journey time by around 21 minutes, to 2h 35mn. The line includes the Medway Viaduct, a 1.2 km (¾ mile) bridge over the River Medway and the North Downs Tunnel, a 3.2 km (2 mile) long, 12 m (40 ft) diameter tunnel. In safety testing on the section prior to opening, a new UK rail speed record of 334.7 km/h (208.0 mph) was set. Much of the new high-speed line runs alongside the M2 and M20 motorways through Kent. After completion, Eurostar trains continued to use suburban lines to enter London, arriving at Waterloo International.
Section 2 of the project opened on 14 November 2007 and is a 39.4 km (24 mile) stretch of track from the newly built Ebbsfleet station in Kent to London St Pancras. Completion of the section cut journey times by a further 20 minutes (London–Paris in 2h 15m; London–Brussels in 1h 51m). The route starts with a 2.5 km (1.5 mile) tunnel which dives under the Thames near Dartford, then runs alongside the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway as far as Dagenham, where it enters a 19 km (12 mile) tunnel before emerging over the East Coast Main Line near St Pancras. The tunnel is interrupted by the new Stratford International railway station where a 1 km stretch runs close to the surface, dividing the tunnel into London East and London West sections. Stratford International will serve the main site for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The new depot at Temple Mills, to the north of Stratford, replaces the North Pole depot in the west of London. In testing, the first Eurostar train ran into St Pancras on 6 March 2007. Since the November 2007 opening of the section, all Eurostar trains run to St Pancras, and the Waterloo Terminal closed.
The construction works were complex and a large number of contractors have been involved in delivering them.
After local protests, early plans were modified to put much more of the track into tunnel up until a point approximately from St. Pancras. For example, the Link now passes underneath in a tunnel, rather than alongside, the North London Line on approach into St. Pancras. Previously, an elevated section had been expected. The CTRL Section 2 construction works have been causing considerable disruption around the Kings Cross area of London, but are bringing in their wake much redevelopment. The huge redevelopment area includes the run-down areas of post-industrial and ex-railway land close to King's Cross and St Pancras, a conservation area with many listed buildings.
In 2002 the CTRL project was awarded the "Major Project Award" at the British Construction Industry Awards.
As far as can be ascertained there were four deaths of employees working on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link over the nine year and one month period of construction. The first death occurred on Friday 28 March 2003 near Westernhanger, Folkestone where a worker came into contact with the energised power supply. The second death occurred in May 2003 when a scaffolder fell seven metres at Thurrock, Essex. This death resulted in three companies being found guilty of breaching health and safety legislation [presumably s.2 Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974], omitting to provide barriers, which resulted in Deverson Direct Ltd of Stickfast Lane, Bobbing, Sittingbourne, Kent being ordered to pay £50,000 in fines and £5,851 costs; J Murphy and Sons Ltd of Highgate Road, London being ordered to pay £25,000 and costs of £2,925.50 and Hochtief Akteingesellschaft of Windmill Hill Business Park, Whitehill Way, Swindon being ordered to pay £25,000 and costs of £2,925.50. The final two deaths relate to a fire onboard a train carrying wires, one mile inside a tunnel under the Thames between Swanscombe, Kent, and Thurrock, Essex on Tuesday 16 August 2005. The train shunter died at the scene and the train driver later passed away in hospital on 20 August 2005. This represents a low number of worker deaths during the construction of a major railway line in Britain, reflecting the emphasis placed by the construction consortium on worker health and safety.