Eurostar is marking 25 years since it began carrying passengers from London across the Channel.
The 31.5-mile undersea Channel Tunnel, which connects the UK to mainland Europe, opened in 1994.
On 14 November that year, the first international trains left London’s Waterloo International station for Paris, Brussels and Lille.
To mark its 25th birthday, Eurostar launched its first “plastics-free” train and pledged to plant a tree for every service it runs from 1 January.
Here are some of the defining moments of Eurostar’s 25 year history and the famous guests that have stepped aboard.
It took eight years and 13,000 workers to build the Channel Tunnel, which was completed by 1993. It opened a year later.
Waterloo International station was the Eurostar’s initial home, with the first trains leaving for Paris, Brussels and Lille on 14 November 1994.
An extension designed by Nicholas Grimshaw gave the station five new platforms.
At its launch, Eurostar ran two daily trains each way between London and Paris and two between London and Brussels.
Eurostar says it initially took three hours to get to Paris. Now it takes just two hours and 16 minutes.
Eurostar’s network has grown to 13 destinations.
It operates services around every hour to and from Paris from early morning until mid-evening.
Services to Brussels run approximately every two hours, while trains to Amsterdam run three times a day.
There are also direct trains from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille during the summer, and from London to the French Alps during the winter ski season.
Since 1994, Eurostar has carried more than 200 million passengers between London and the Continent, including the Queen, Take That, and Kylie Minogue.
The Queen and Prince Philip attended the inauguration of the Eurostar at Waterloo International station, the original home of the service, in May 1994.
The Queen was one of Eurostar’s first passengers, travelling on its London to Paris service with Prince Philip in May 1994, six months before it opened to the public.
The French President, François Mitterrand, welcomed the Queen to the inauguration of the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, near Calais, on 6 May, 1994.
In June 1998, Prince Charles and his son, Prince Harry, travelled on the Eurostar to Paris for the World Cup football match between England and Colombia.
In 2001, Kylie Minogue starred in a television advert for Eurostar which saw her take the service to Paris and enjoy a day’s shopping.
London St Pancras International station became the new home for Eurostar services in November 2007.
The first trains left the Eurostar platform of St Pancras on 14 November that year.
At the time, the company said the move would benefit Kent commuters by freeing up domestic train lines into Waterloo station.
In the same year, the company had carried its 100th million passenger.
The Royal Family are not the only high-profile Eurostar guests.
Members of the band Take That took the service from St Pancras to Paris for the launch of their new album ‘The Circus’ in December 2008.
The cast of the film The Da Vinci Code, including Tom Hank, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, and Audrey Tautou rode the Eurostar from Waterloo station to the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.
While Eurostar has seen its fair share of celebrities and VIPs, it has also played host to newlyweds and their wedding parties.
In 2009, Tom and Suzanne Croft boarded a Eurostar train with their family and friends at St Pancras to travel to Brussels, where they held their wedding reception.
In 2014, Eurostar marked its 20th anniversary by unveiling the new e320 train – so called because it was capable of speeds of up to 320mph.
With room for 900 passengers, the new trains were equipped with a free wireless network throughout, power sockets for standard class seats and USB ports for business class customers.
The same year, it converted one of its carriages into a Provencal lavender field to celebrate the opening of ticket sales for a new year-round service to Lyon and the south of France.
The first commercial services to Rotterdam and Amsterdam set off last year.
Eurostar has its own robot, called Pepper. She can speak English and French and can help passengers with their travels.
Today, Eurostar’s commitment to planting trees could see 20,000 more planted every year in woodlands across its markets of the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Its 10:24 GMT train departing from London to Paris banned single-use plastics and stocked only wooden cutlery, cans of drinking water, glass wine bottles and paper-based coffee cups.
Eurostar chief executive Mike Cooper said it was a one-off but insisted it is “looking forward, based on what we stand for”.
‘From fanfare to familiarity’
Sharron Livingstone, founder of The Travel Magazine, said the public’s attitudes to the service have gone from initial excitement to “familiarity”.
She says: “The tunnel opened to lots of fanfare in 1994. It was a historic event that connected Britain to its Gallic neighbours.
“These days, travellers just view it as an extension of our rail system with two stations added on the way to Folkestone. Ashford International opened in January 1996 and Ebbsfleet International in November 2007.”
She cites the route to Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1996, as “so effortless and efficient that Eurostar is simply taken for granted.”
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