A forth­com­ing new route to Am­s­ter­dam her­alds an ex­cit­ing era for Eurostar

The launch of di­rect Eurostar ser­vices from Lon­don to the Nether­lands is draw­ing closer, pro­vid­ing a use­ful al­ter­na­tive for trav­ellers, says Alex McWhirter

Business Traveller - - NEWS -

Back in 1994, Eurostar was es­tab­lished as a high­speed train op­er­a­tor be­tween Lon­don, Bel­gium and France via the Chan­nel Tun­nel. That’s the way it has stayed ever since – but now the rail firm, which is ma­jor­ity owned by France’s SNCF, is poised to exit its com­fort zone and launch reg­u­lar ser­vices to the Nether­lands.

It is true that you can al­ready book tick­ets from Lon­don to Hol­land on eurostar.com, but th­ese are not di­rect ser­vices. A change at Brus­sels Midi is needed and there is al­ways the risk of miss­ing con­nec­tions, as some read­ers will tes­tify.

The change of tack has come with the ar­rival of new 900-seat Siemens e320 train­sets, which have the tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­ity to op­er­ate into Hol­land. Eurostar’s orig­i­nal 750-seat Al­stom e300 trains can­not do this un­less they un­dergo mod­i­fi­ca­tion, which was deemed to be un­eco­nom­i­cal given their age.

Mind you, cyn­ics would ar­gue that Eurostar would have stayed in its com­fort zone had it not been for Ger­many’s Deutsche Bahn (DB). In 2010, there was much ex­cite­ment when DB an­nounced it wanted to op­er­ate ICE through­trains (Ger­many’s high-speed ver­sion of France’s TGV) into Lon­don St Pan­cras from Hol­land, Bel­gium and Ger­many. Th­ese plans never came to fruition – af­ter years of bat­tling with the Chan­nel Tun­nel au­thor­i­ties to have its ICEs cer­ti­fied, DB dropped its plans. But DB’s chal­lenge did prompt in­cum­bent Eurostar to up its game. Be­liev­ing it would soon face com­pe­ti­tion, it or­dered a fleet of swish Siemens train­sets and set ex­pan­sion plans in mo­tion.

Am­s­ter­dam and Rot­ter­dam will be the first two Dutch cities to be served by Eurostar. Plans to call at Schiphol air­port have been post­poned. Ni­cholas Petro­vic, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Eurostar, said: “With de­mand for high-speed rail over plane on the in­crease, we are now gear­ing up to ex­pand our reach to Am­s­ter­dam and Rot­ter­dam. The launch of our new di­rect ser­vice on this high-vol­ume route [three mil­lion trav­ellers fly be­tween Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam ev­ery year] rep­re­sents a ma­jor growth op­por­tu­nity for our busi­ness.”

Mar­jon Kaper, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of NS In­ter­na­tional, Dutch rail­way’s in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing divi­sion, adds: “The preparations for the di­rect

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