Change Alley

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Eurostar Kicks Off

with 9 comments

Is Your Journey Really Necessary?Today’s the day! The inaugural service from Eurostar’s new home at the refurbished St Pancras station departs for Paris at 11:01 a.m.

The ‘Green Eurostar’ will be packed with people who have made a “positive environmental impact”, VIPs, journalists, Friends of the Earth staff, and the lucky winners of a competition for two of the twenty tickets FoE were given by Eurostar. The train, officially renamed this morning as ‘Tread Lightly’, will return from Paris at around 8 p.m. arriving in London at 9.40 p.m. A chance for some lunch and a little Christmas shopping in Paris, and a journey in the Friends of the Earth carriage on the first high speed Eurostar journey from London!

Our transport correspondent Matt will be on the train today and circulating at the Pompidou Centre party this evening, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good and asking probing questions on our behalf. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Matt will be reporting back for us on the environmental issues surrounding Eurostar’s new service.

All well and good, but is this sending out the right message? Certainly, if you have to travel from London to Paris it’s greener to take the train rather than fly, but surely it’s even better not to go at all. I can understand that Eurostar would have a party of big-wigs on board, it’s a big occasion for them, journalists must go because the world needs to know … stuff, but what are FoE up to? A gratuitous day out that generates unnecessary CO2. Does a return trip to Paris for twenty people for no good reason really give the right signals about reducing our transport emissions?

Bon voyage!


Written by Pete Smith

November 14, 2007 at 8:54 am

9 Responses

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  1. I know what you mean Pete. I hope Matt has a great time and all but it does seem to be a self-contradictory message.

    I think we need to radically change our lifestyles if we are to get the co2’s reduced in time and if that means suspending shopping trips to Paris until a totally clean energy has been created then so be it.

    Looking forward to Matt’s review though. I hope he brings back plenty of wine.


    November 14, 2007 at 1:58 pm

  2. Ah yes, I did come clinking my way back from Paris. 🙂

    The train yesterday was a scheduled train service. Certainly not laid on especially for 20 people from FoE. Six hundred people were on board, including enthusiastic train travellers, the WI, people from local residents groups to St Pancras (who have had to put up with years of noise from construction work) etc.

    At a few minutes after ‘my’ ( 🙂 ) train left from St Pancras, a train for Brussels departed and one from each city arrived at St. Pancras.

    I’ll do a separate post regarding the day soon as possible.



    November 15, 2007 at 8:20 am

  3. Depends what you mean by “scheduled”. The standard timetable has a service to Paris at 11:05, ‘yours’ left at 11:01. I would really like to know how many passengers actually paid for their ticket and how many of those had a genuine reason to go to Paris. The impression given is that the train was full of Eurostar’s guests, of whom 20 were from FoE. At least Roger Higman had the good grace to admit he was travelling as a tourist.
    Yes, I know these journeys are supposed to be carbon neutral, and it’s good that Eurostar is a bit more forthcoming about how the offset processes work
    but my inner Puritan still thinks it’s inappropriate for an environmental NGO with a strong agenda for reducing transport emissions to be so eager to grab a free day out.

    I’ve got nothing against Paris, by the way, although it would be significantly improved if it weren’t full of French and tourists. Nor is my ‘bah humbug” attitude anything to do with sour grapes because I didn’t get an invite 🙂

    Pete Smith

    November 15, 2007 at 9:37 am

  4. This quote of Tony Juniper (FoE) from the Guardian’s Eurostar travelling journalist (;

    “You can have high levels of comfort, convenience and a low-carbon footprint,” said Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, the organisation which has “partnered” Eurostar. There are still those who would argue we should simply travel less. But this was no longer the only message. “I don’t think the Friends of the Earth message is we should sit in the dark, be cold or not travel, the message is we should have high quality lives in a low-carbon way,” added Juniper.


    November 15, 2007 at 11:20 am

  5. So that’s the way of it. I’m obviously out of step with the modern world. I must give my hair shirt to Oxfam.

    Tony Juniper’s out of the door soon, so it could be that he’s demob happy and feels free to say what he likes. In reality, I suspect that this is really the FoE party line. Please note that I have never said “we should sit in the dark, be cold or not travel”. That’s the kind of silly ‘reductio ad absurdum’ that polarises arguments rather than reconciling them. I still maintain that we should think very carefully about why we travel, and about the consequences. Having “high quality lives in a low-carbon way” doesn’t have to involve international, or even inter-regional, travel.

    Pete Smith

    November 15, 2007 at 12:07 pm

  6. But Pete, we all know folk who enjoy rail travel over the summer period for a spot of well deserved holiday relaxation don’t we. 😉


    November 15, 2007 at 12:54 pm

  7. Very good, I was wondering when that would come out of the woodwork 🙂
    So what’s your point Matt? I repeat, I have never said “we should sit in the dark, be cold or not travel”. And I also repeat, we should think very carefully about why we travel, and about the consequences. Our European jaunt (with Great Rail Journeys, a cheque’ll do nicely guys, thanks) was primarily for the benefit of my wife, left to my own devices I would quite happily stay at home. I just tagged along to carry the bags, buy the drinks and keep the memsahib from getting lost, robbed or crushed by a tram. I managed to persuade her that a rail trip round Europe to 4 cities we’d never seen before was better than a flight to some tacky resort in the sun.
    All in all, a compromise, yes, but one that was better done than left undone. I refuse to feel embarrassed about it.

    Pete Smith

    November 15, 2007 at 1:06 pm

  8. On the contrary Pete. Be proud that you made the effort to use trains rather than planes. A much more enjoyable mode of travel after all.


    November 15, 2007 at 1:23 pm

  9. Even after 30 years of using them for a daily commute, I love trains, but not as much as I dislike flying. On our first foreign holiday back in the 70s we travelled from London on the boat train to Calais, then down through France to Nice on the sleeper. The whole thing took forever, but the trains had so much character, much more than Eurostar which I’ve found a rather soul-less service once the novelty wore off.

    Pete Smith

    November 15, 2007 at 4:22 pm

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