EUROSTAR chief executive Mike Cooper has told Railnews that he is delighted with the launch of through trains from Amsterdam to London, and is hoping that the next stage of Eurostar’s development will see its route network extended into Germany.
A key factor is the proposed merger of Eurostar and Thalys, which already runs high speed trains between Paris or Lille to Brussels, continuing from there to Amsterdam or Germany, where Thalys serves a number of cities including Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen and Dortmund.
A merger would combine these routes with the Eurostar network, which not only includes London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris, but also extends to the south of France, particularly to ski resorts.
Eurostar ran a preview service for invited guests from Amsterdam to London on 4 February. It was the first time that a train for London had carried passengers from the Dutch capital, and public services will begin on 30 April, with Rotterdam also served from 18 May.
The development has been welcomed by Dutch ministers and the domestic train operator, state-owned Nederlandse Spoorwegen, while UK transport secretary Grant Shapps spoke at St Pancras International after the preview train from Amsterdam had arrived.
He said: ‘I believe this sends a very clear message indeed, that although Britain has left the European Union, we are emphatically not leaving Europe. And nothing says that better than investing in modern transport links. Our connections to other nations demonstrates our commitment to operate with opportunities beyond our shores, bringing our UK business closer to other markets.’
As far as a Thalys merger and the possibilities of expansion are concerned, Eurostar CEO Mike Cooper said: ‘We have only scratched the surface with the Netherlands. If I look at our priorities over the next 12 to 24 months it is absolutely to develop that. We are considering this merger with Thalys, and one of the benefits is that it would give us access to the German market. Thalys has been through the learning curve of taking trains across borders into Germany, and that learning curve will be an important strategic asset for us should the deal go ahead.’