The Daily Telegraph

Dutch train start-up joins the race to rival Eurostar

- By Luke Barr

A DUTCH train start-up is preparing to enter the race to launch a rival service to Eurostar using the Channel Tunnel.

Heuro is in talks to raise around €1bn (£880m) and hopes to introduce its rail service within the next five years.

It is vying to compete with the Eurostar and Spanish company Evolyn, which has also revealed plans for a new Channel Tunnel service. Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson is also striving to break Eurostar’s monopoly.

All are aiming to capitalise on the liberalisa­tion of the train network in Europe, which has made it easier for challenger­s to bid for new services. Heuro is led by Maarten van den Biggelaar, an entreprene­ur who made millions from media ventures.

Mr van den Biggelaar said Heuro has held talks with rail manufactur­ers to secure enough trains by 2027-28 to run 15 journeys per day between Amsterdam and London, including stops in Brussels and Paris – considerab­ly more than the four journeys that Eurostar currently runs between London and Amsterdam on an average weekday.

Mr Van den Biggelaar said: “Last year, we saw the market opening up a little bit in France, Italy and Spain. We then investigat­ed if there were excess possibilit­ies and found that to be the case.”

The high-speed rail network in Europe became open access following new EU rules in 2016. This has led to new operators striving to break into the market. Campaigner­s have long argued that greater competitio­n is needed to cut fares. The Brussels-based lobby group Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants said: “Start-ups such as Heuro are the future of passenger rail.

“We look forward to an alternativ­e to the current situation where – with only one operator – the market is chronicall­y underserve­d.”

Mr van den Biggelaar said Heuro has raised 10pc of its desired funding target and is now looking for investment in two further investment rounds. He said the company’s headquarte­rs could be in Amsterdam, London or Paris.

Mr van den Biggelaar founded Dutch business magazine Quote in the late 1980s. The title, which publishes an annual list of the 500 wealthiest people in the Netherland­s, was sold to French group Hachette, the publisher of Paris Match, for a reported €22m in 2006.

Mr van den Biggelaar has since gone on to make a range of investment­s.

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