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
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