Last update 7 May 2021
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The modern British railway system has few truly international railway stations. Being an island country, most stations associated with international travel were simply part of the national network, from where passengers transfer between rail and other cross-border travel modes; a good example is Birmingham International, the station to serve the airport. With the advent of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, it is now possible to join a train in Britain and travel seamlessly to continental destinations (and vice versa, of course). This page is dedicated to such British international railway stations.
Simplified station operator names are shown in parentheses; finer details are shown on the linked station pages.
Ashford International Eurostar/Mitie
Ebbsfleet International Network Rail
Kensington Olympia Silverlink/London Overground
London St Pancras International Network Rail
London Waterloo International Eurostar
Stratford International Network Rail
Kensington Olympia was set up as an international station in case of an emergency rendering Waterloo unavailable. It is thought that it was only ever used in this way once in passenger service, on 13 March 1997. Training and testing exercises also used the station on other occasions. On 29 May 2002 a Eurostar service from France was erroneously routed towards London Victoria, though there are conflicting reports on whether it made it to the terminus or set back and subsequently took the correct route to London Waterloo International. Since Eurostar transferred its operation to London St Pancras on 14 November 2007, there is no need for any international facility at Kensington Olympia or London Waterloo International.
Stratford International station has never had an international service. The international service to both Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International was withdrawn from 30 March 2020 and 29 March 2020 respectively.
In the case of Ashford, St Pancras and Waterloo, operators are easily established, possibly because of close association with the equivalent domestic station and the history of existing much earlier than the high speed London-Channel Tunnel route (HS1).
Information held within the industry is confused regarding which company operates Ebbsfleet and Stratford.
In practice, the same Network Rail management team looks after London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Stratford international stations and staff based at one station can cover either of the other two as required. However, Network Rail's annual report and accounts for 2011 and 2018 (the only two checked) explicitly state that the company has the concession for St Pancras, with no mention made of other stations. Additionally, Network Rail's major stations page (where it defines the stations it operates) mentions London St Pancras but neither Ebbsfleet nor Stratford. However, the Network Rail High Speed page names all three.
Quite why the international rail regulator (the same body as the domestic regulator) and the railway's unified 'public face' got it wrong is unknown.