If you take the Eurostar between Paris and London, you will find there is a tremendous difference in the appearance and experience in the departure space of St Pancras in London versus the Gare du Nord in Paris. While it is obvious that London now has a brand new train station [after a renovation of significant proportions at St Pancras], the conditions of Gare du Nord remain profoundly in the 20th century. The difference? London CHOSE to invest in its new station when Waterloo was already a more agreeable experience (than Gare du Nord).
At Gare du Nord, you can be forced to wait in a long line before even “registering” your ticket. If you happen to want access to the Eurostar ticket office during the peak hours, you have to fight through crowds (the line to the registration area blocks the access). Then, once you go through the first ticket control, you must struggle through three more lines: exit the French territory (passport stamped), followed by entry into the English territory (another passport stamp) and finishing with the security control. That means, overall, you have four lines to zigzag through, with Latin-flared lines and habits in rather confined spaces.
At St Pancras, the experience is altogether different. First, you have a wide berth to “register” through a large number of different automated barriers. After, you do security control, you show your passport to the French immigration. And, each time, it has been an absolute breeze. Wide open spaces with no fuss, no lines, no barging. The one regret is that there is no shopping once you have passed inside. (Means I wasn’t able to stock up on Pimm’s at the Station — even the outside shopping mall area has no Pimm’s).
How is it that the two experiences at either end of the train have to be so radically different in terms of organization? Whereas when you travel by train, for the grand majority, you start and end in the same country with a similar look&feel to the stations, for the Eurostar, the nation’s are competing. Every single person that does the round trip will surely make the [same] comparisons? If St Pancras can do it, then Gare du Nord could as well (naturally, British Rail could perhaps upgrade its overall infrastructure, too). And, of course, I haven’t even started in on the arrival experience and the difference in taxis… You surely know where I would go with that commentary.