London may soon be connected by high-speed train to more European cities
Two of Europe's biggest railway operators, Eurostar — which operates through the Channel Tunnel — and French-Belgian operator Thalys are planning to merge and create an expansive high-speed rail network. The merger would make way for new direct routes to Europe from London's St Pancras Station, and make it convenient to take the train instead of flying.
The project, named "Green-Speed", would allow for the train provider to launch new routes from the UK to at least eight new cities for the first time, including Germany. The aim is to improve connections between Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Britain is already connected to various European destinations through its Eurostar hub at London St. Pancras. Passengers can travel direct to cities and towns such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Calais, Lille, Lyon, Paris and Rotterdam. In the winter season, there are also direct services from London to the Alps.
Perhaps the most interesting additions to the route network would be cities in Germany — the first time it would be possible to travel by rail direct from the UK to cities such as Cologne. The journey would take around five and a half hours and could also reach Aachen, Essen, Dortmund and Dusseldorf. Other new cities would potentially include Antwerp and Liège in Belgium as well as Bordeaux, France, a journey that would take around four and a half hours.
For passengers whose only option is currently to fly from London to cities such as Cologne and Bordeaux, these new, fast connections could potentially save time and money by cutting out travel to and from airports as well as waiting around for boarding and baggage collection. TPG UK put the plane-or-train debate to the test from London to Paris — Eurostar from St Pancras or British Airways from Heathrow (LHR).
The Green-Speed project is backed by both the National Railway Company of Belgium and the French state-owned railway company SNCF. Both companies have a stake in Eurostar and Thalys.
The news comes after KLM, the Netherlands' flag carrier, announced plans to swap one of its daily flights from Amsterdam (AMS) to Brussels (BRU) with a high-speed rail connection.