As budgets are put under more pressure, papers have inevitably shed specialist staff, so that there is invariably no knowledge of transport matters in-house beyond someone who occasionally gets out of the office to road test cars. This means that press releases tend to get churned over when it comes to anything else. But, as the latest news from train operator Eurostar shows, they can’t even get that right.
Eurostar train sets at St Pancras International
Eurostar has bought some new trains. These are being built by Siemens in Germany. Ten were ordered; the company has since increased its order to 17. The new trains have a top speed of 320km/h, or 198mph. They can seat 900 passengers, and will have Wi-Fi throughout (please note, Virgin Trains, in Standard Class as well as in First). The estimated date of first service is late next year.
Some papers have effectively admitted they are churning over the press release: for instance, the Telegraph has put “Agency” on the by-line. And the Tel has stuck to what that press release says. But just saying the new trains are, well, new was too much for some in the Fourth Estate. Someone, somewhere, decided they would slash London to Paris journey times.
The Independent was cautious: “it is reportedly estimated to cut journey times from London to Paris by 15 minutes”. Not so the Mail: “London to Paris in just two hours: Eurostar unveils new state-of-the-art 200mph train that will slash journey time by 15 minutes”. The Standard concurred: “Eurostar launches new 200mph trains which will slash London-Paris journey times”.
But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea – it was bollocks. There is no location between London and Paris – or between London and Brussels, for that matter – that permits a higher line speed than 300km/h, which the current TGV-derived Eurostar sets can already achieve. Any time savings would be down to better acceleration – and would be minimal.
What the press also fails to mention as it tells of direct services from London to, well, all over Europe is that the UK Government’s security paranoia, which excludes us from joining the Schengen zone, means the same baggage and passport checks not just at St Pancras International, but also most likely during an enforced en-route stop at Lille. But, of course, that isn’t in the press release.
It has been left to the deeply subversive Guardian to give readers the more factual stuff: “The trains are slightly higher and wider than the original”. The original Eurostar sets had to fit within the Network Rail structure gauge. The new ones don’t, and so are more spacious. But they still aren’t going to slash journey times between London and Paris, or London and Brussels.
Our free and fearless press – it can’t even copy a press release correctly.