Deutsche Bahn is believed to be considering the possibility of running trains to London ahead of the Olympic Games in 2012.
Speculation arose as one of the German train operator’s flagship ICE high-speed trains ran into the Channel Tunnel yesterday for the first time ahead of safety tests this weekend.
Pictured: A Deutsche Bahn ICE3 train enters the Channel Tunnel
If the tests are successful, explained Jacques Gounon, executive chairman of Groupe Eurotunnel, services could begin promptly.
“If the test is successful and if the ICE answers in a reasonably short period of time, I think it’s still possible that the Deutsche Bahn trains can run for the Olympics,” he said.
Deutsche Bahn is seeking to break the monopoly of French built trains which presently operate in the Channel Tunnel.
The ICE3 train, made by Siemens of Germany, is similar to the new e320 trains ordered by Eurostar amid controversy last week.
Both the Eurostar e320 and Deutsche Bahn ICE trains use distributed power, where motors are positioned throughout the train, under the floors.
To date all services operated in the Channel Tunnel have had all of their motors and electrical equipment concentrated in power cars at either end of the train.
Last week train manufacturer Alstom suggested a change to distributed power would have safety implications.
In an attempt to allay fears, Deutsche Bahn ran an ICE train through the tunnel at the reduced speed of 18 miles per hour yesterday.
Carrying drivers and technical staff from the German company and tunnel operator Eurotunnel, it went part of the way through the tunnel before turning back and re-entering France after ten minutes.
The train will return to the tunnel for safety drills on Saturday and then travel all the way to London next week. It will, however, be towed by another engine on this journey.
Eurotunnel’s chief executive Jacques Gounon has previously said he was “convinced the ICE-3 will pass the safety tests”, with Deutsche Bahn hoping to establish a service between the financial centres of London and Frankfurt.