Eurostar high-speed rail services linking the UK and Germany will be introduced following the merger of Eurostar International and Belgian rail operator Thalys Group.
Now approved by the European Commission, the combination of the two brands will see cities in central north-west Germany, including Cologne, Düsseldorf and Dortmund, added to the Eurostar network – although there is no indication of when these services will begin to operate.
Dubbed “Green Speed” as the project name, the global company known as Eurostar Group will see better train connections and a range of digital tools designed to improve information and communication for passengers.
Currently, Eurostar operates direct services between London St Pancras and Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as well as seasonal services to the southern French cities of Marseille and Bordeaux. With the addition of Germany, the merger brings the famous high-speed rail brand’s network to five countries.
Germany’s upcoming addition builds on Eurostar’s march across Europe and follows its expansion with direct services between London and Amsterdam, introduced in 2020.
Passengers traveling between London and Cologne by rail currently have to change trains in Brussels from Eurostar to a German ICE service, making a journey of just over four hours – a journey that is expected to become much faster on the extended network of the Eurostar group.
Eurostar and Thalys will also merge their respective Club Eurostar and My Thalys World loyalty programs ina unique passenger loyalty program” to reward frequent users, according to a press release published by the two operators.
Depending on their status, members of complimentary programs enjoy benefits such as use of Eurostar Business Premier lounges and partner facilities, seat upgrades and access to discounted exchange windows on everything the network.
Between them, Eurostar and Thalys operate 112 trains per day transporting more than 18.5 million passengers per year, with Eurostar plans to carry 30 million passengers a year within a decade.
Much of this growth will likely come from Paris following a recent French government decision banning short-haul flights when a train or bus journey of less than 2.5 hours was available.
An impacted route could be Paris-Brussels, the 264 kilometer journey taking around 90 minutes by train or an hour by plane. While flying is slightly quicker at an hour, couple flight time with pre-departure formalities and city-to-airport travel time at both ends, making the train a significantly more efficient option.
For those with more time, overnight train travel in Europe is making a comeback thanks to innovative new hotel-style sleeper train concepts, as well as the restoration and revitalization of classic rolling stock. Along with the environmental benefits of train travel over flying, the elegance and romance of riding the rails is likely to entice travelers to revisit Europe by train.