High Speed 1 and St Pancras Station


Duration:11 & 3 years

Cost:£11bn (£14bn today)

Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Install a high speed rail link from the Channel Tunnel to St Pancras in London

High Speed 1 (HS1) - also known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link - is a 109km (68 miles) long high speed railway that runs between St Pancras International station in London and the Channel Tunnel.

HS1 was the first new railway to be built in England for over 100 years. Trains reach speeds of up to 300 km/h (185mph) on the line.

The project saw new bridges and tunnels constructed with a combined length nearly as long as the Channel Tunnel itself.

St Pancras station was renovated and rebranded St Pancras International as part of the work.

Although originally a private sector project, the UK government took over ownership of HS1 in 2009. A concession to operate the line is currently owned by an equity fund group.

HS1 won the Major Project Award at the British Construction Industry Awards in 2002.

Difference HS1 has made

HS1 cut journey times from London to Paris from 2 hours 56 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes – a total of 41 minutes.

A 2017 report produced by the company behind HS1 claimed that the new rail link had contributed £311m to the Kent economy since it opened in 2007.

The same report said that almost 6,000 tourist sector jobs had been created and supported by the project.

How the high speed railway was built

HS1 is one of the UK's biggest ever civil engineering projects - engineers worked for more than 100m hours over 11 years on the scheme.

Work included removing 530m ft3 of earth from 37 miles of tunnel between London and Kent as well as laying 310 miles of rail, 5m sleepers and 185 miles of communications cables.

The project team planted 1.2m trees and 19 miles of hedgerow as well as building 19 miles of road to get access to the railway.

Engineers dug 'twin bore' tunnels heading south from London St Pancras station. They had to dig under existing sewers, gas pipelines and 4 London Underground stations.

The project used tunnel boring machines (TBMs) worth £10m each for this part of the route.

Engineers installed special air vents in the tunnels to allow excess air pressure to escape – this allows the trains to go at high speed.

When St Pancras station originally opened in 1868 it was the single largest enclosed space in the world. The 2007 HS1 refit saw the train shed – the part of the station with the platforms – doubled in length to take the 18 carriage Eurostar trains. Each train is 400m long.


A project with national pride.

Christian Wolmar

Transport journalist, on the HS1 scheme.

Fascinating facts

At its top speed of 300km/h (185mph), a high speed train needs 2 miles to stop.

According to the Guardian newspaper for every tunnel built along HS1 'traditionally superstitious tunnellers' held a special ceremony. The paper said there were 6 of these in total along the route.

A total of 7 TBMs were used for the project. Each was given a woman's name – Annie and Michelle, for example. Some of the TBMs were named by a local school, others were named after someone's wife.

People who made it happen

  • Client for both St Pancras and High Speed 1: the UK government
  • St Pancras and High Speed 1 were built by a consortium that included engineering companies Arup, Bechtel and Halcrow

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