Liverpudlians might have a reputation for moaning that the world hates them, but they can’t hold a candle to Londoners when it comes to complaining about travel. Complaints about commuting, a road block on the M1, or the possibility of a rail strike over Christmas are far more likely to dominate conversations than is the current state of the property market.
Little wonder therefore that the announcement that the Eurostar terminus at Waterloo is to close in 2007 when the St Pancras link opens has caused breast-beating on a par with the reaction to the news that an 11-mile stretch of the M25 has been closed. For non-Londoners it must be an impenetrable puzzle. What is all the fuss about, they must wonder? The two termini are less than five miles apart; the Waterloo terminus costs millions of pounds a year to maintain, and its closure will enable South-West trains to use more platforms.
What is missed by non-Londoners is that Waterloo and St Pancras may be only a few miles apart, but they are on different sides of the river. A sizeable population of the capital therefore feel that once again they are being discriminated against when it comes to catching that day-return to Paris.
This feeling of persecution that permeates the population south of the Thames goes back to at least the sixteenth century, when Shakespeare had to head across the river to Southwark to put on his plays, mainly because those north of the Thames were too thick to understand them.