The launch of High Speed 1, the UK's first section of high speed railway and the opening of St Pancras International rail station, was performed by The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh earlier today.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness arrived by car at the restored Victorian station in central London, alighting at the Hotel Arch beneath the Gothic frontage of the Grand Midland Hotel, before being greeted by the Chairman of London & Continental Railways, Sir David Cooksey - the company behind the project. The Royal Party sat on specially built platforms underneath the Barlow train shed roof and delivered an address to an invited audience of over 1,000 guests including senior political figures from London, the UK and Europe.
Her Majesty said, "The remarkable re-birth of this great and gleaming station means that people across the whole of Britain, not just the south east, are suddenly quite a bit closer to Europe. 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 1 station at Stratford will take spectators a mere seven minutes. "It gives me great pleasure to officially launch High Speed 1, Britain's first high speed railway, and to re-open this magnificent station, St Pancras International."
Timothy West, actor and husband of Prunella Scales, compared the evening ceremony acting in the role of William Barlow, the designer of St Pancras. Appearances by Formula 1 driver David Coulthard and actress Kristin Scott Thomas amongst others were watched from a giant screen, suspended from the ground. Musical entertainment was provided by soprano Katherine Jenkins, pop singer Lemar and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. At the end of the opening a film was shown showing how High Speed 1 and the £10.5 billion in regeneration the line with spur on. The Queen met drivers from Eurostar and a Southeastern Hitachi (bullet) train, which will become the main train used on the route from 2009. Those involved in the construction of the project were also introduced to The Queen, before she was presented with a specially commissioned commemorative replica of the grand station clock.
The finale consisted of a film about the £10.5bn of regeneration that is said to form the legacy of High Speed 1 while The Queen met drivers from Eurostar and a Southeastern Hitachi ‘bullet’ train, which will provide services between St Pancras and Kent from 2009. Her Majesty was also introduced to those involved with the construction of the station before receiving a specially commissioned commemorative replica of the grand station clock, unveiling an official plaque and receiving a posy of flowers. Services will official start from St Pancras on 14 November 2007, when from the same date operation from Waterloo will cease. (GL)