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Eurostar network set to expand dramatically to incorporate destinations in GERMANY

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Eurostar network set to expand dramatically to incorporate destinations in GERMANY due to merger with European high-speed rail firm Thalys

  • The merger was recently approved by the European Commission
  • It has resulted in a single giant rail company that can serve five European countries
  • It’s hoped the merger will encourage more rail use and lower CO2 emissions

Eurostar passengers in London may soon find a way to travel on to Germany, due to the train company merging with French-Belgian high-speed operator Thalys.

The merger, recently approved by the European Commission, has resulted in a single giant rail company that can serve five countries – the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Eurostar’s network currently runs through France to cities including Paris, Lille and Marseille, through Belgium to Brussels, and across the Netherlands to Amsterdam.

Eurostar passengers in London may soon find a way to travel on to Germany, due to the train company merging with French-Belgian high-speed operator Thalys

The network of the brand new company – Eurostar Group, which is majority-owned by French operator SNCF – includes the German cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Dortmund.

The primary profit that Eurostar passengers will see is a more seamless journey between countries and cities on the Thalys and Eurostar networks, with ‘improved schedules for quick connections, supported by revolutionary digital tools at every stage of the journey’.

There will even be a ‘joint loyalty programme across the unified network’, meaning passengers can ‘profit from more upgrades, discounts and complimentary journeys with early access to partner offers in addition to lounges and other personalised advantages’.

This map shows the expanded Eurostar network after the merger

This map shows the expanded Eurostar network after the merger

A Thalys high-speed train at Amsterdam Central Station

A Thalys high-speed train at Amsterdam Central Station

Whether Eurostar rolling stock will sooner or later arrive in German cities stays to be seen. In theory it’s possible, but seamless return Eurostar journeys would not be possible unless border-control processing centres were installed at their high-speed network railway stations.

Until that happens, Eurostar passengers heading back to the UK from Germany on either Eurostar or Thalys rolling stock would want to disembark in Brussels to undergo passport control after which reboard the train or board a connecting service.

In addition to easier journeys around Europe, it’s hoped the merger could have an environmental profit, too, ‘accelerating the switch from air and road travel to high-speed rail travel, increasing the capability of passengers per 12 months on the combined Eurostar and Thalys networks from 18.5million passengers annually to just about 30million by 2030’.

This could significantly reduce the quantity of CO2 generated by continental travel – an individual’s carbon footprint from one flight will be similar to making 13 Eurostar journeys.

This map shows the pre-merger Eurostar network. Graphic courtesy of Creative Commons

This map shows the pre-merger Eurostar network. Graphic courtesy of Creative Commons 

Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of SNCF, said: ‘The challenge of climate change and the demand for eco-responsible travel calls for an ambitious response. Bringing together the strengths of Eurostar and Thalys [is] a strong response to this challenge. High speed is a chance for Europe, Europe a chance for prime speed.’

Sophie Dutordoir, Chairman of Thalys, said: ‘Now greater than ever, the train is the safest, most sustainable, fastest and most effective solution for travelling inside Europe.’

The merger – a project entitled Green Speed – had been initiated in 2019, but was postponed consequently of the Covid pandemic.

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