Posted 7th November 2007

The Queen opens restored St. Pancras International

The Queen has opened the magnificently restored St Pancras International and launched the completed high speed line to the Channel Tunnel in a night of pure theatre.

The huge trainshed which has been painstakingly revitalised into a 'cathedral'of light at a cost of £800million, became the setting for a 90-minute extravaganza of songs, music, acting and speeches.

The opening ceremony on Tuesday 6 November was the culmination of 10 years of construction work costing £5.8 billion to complete what is now known as HS1 - the 68-mile high speed rail link from St Pancras International to the Channel Tunnel.

The Queen, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, arrived at the Hotel Arch of the Grand Midland Hotel and was greeted by Sir David Cooksey, chairman of London and Continental Railways.

She walked along a line of senior political figures who included Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leader of the Opposition David Cameron, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and senior people from London and Continental Railways.

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra set the musical scene with William Walton's 'Crown Imperial'. More than 1500 guests watched the event from specially tiered seating set up at the side and above the new platforms.

The spectacular opening night was hosted by actor Timothy West, playing the part of William Henry Barlow, the engineering genius who designed the 139-year-old station for the Midland Railway.

The actor, in full Victorian costume, took the guests through a visual and vocal tour of the great terminal, with images projected onto huge screens hanging in the 240ft wide train shed, opened in 1868.

One of the most dramatic features of the night was the entrance into the station of two Eurostar trains and the new Class 395 'Javelin' train for Kent.
The drivers, Eurostar men Tony Boston and Bill Platt and Southeastern's driver/instructor Ian Brien, were later presented to the Queen.

During a short speech the Queen talked of the "remarkable re-birth of this great and gleaming station".

She then spoke of the new links people from throughout Britain would have with the rest of Europe.

"This means that people across the whole of Britain, not just the south east, are suddenly quite a bit closer to Europe.

"From now on Sheffield is closer to Paris, Nottingham closer to Brussels.

"And as we look forward to the London Olympics in 2012, it is good to know that a journey from here to the new High Speed One station at Stratford will take spectators a mere seven minutes. All these things will bring real differences to people's lives."

Her Majesty also gave her 'warmest congratulations' to everyone involved in the project.

"This is a wonderful illustration of what can be achieved through working in partnership, and it says a good deal about how we can take a 21st Century approach whilst at the same time having due consideration of our heritage."

Rob Holden, chief executive of London and Continental Railways, said: "This event is a celebration of the HS1 project and everyone who has contributed towards its successful conclusion."

He also praised the professionalism and willingness to work together of the major contractors who he said were determined to succeed.

Later during the event singer Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh operatic diva, and singer Lemar, together sang the Beatles hit Ticket to Ride. The New London Children's Choir also performed.

Films showing celebrities talking about the new Eurostar services were also shown, and in one actor Terence Stamp told how he was evacuated from St Pancras during the Second World War.

He said "This is a station like no other's a place as much about staying as leaving."