The realisation of a Pan-European high-speed rail network has taken a major step forward after the launch of a new co-ordinated timetable that sees journey times between key hubs across Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, Holland and Italy slashed.
The opening of a new high-speed link between Germany and Belgium means the two countries, along with the UK, Holland and France, will share common timetables in the New Year. This also means that journey times between several new key European cities will now rival short-haul flights.
The long-delayed Antwerp-Amsterdam high-speed line in Belgium and Holland has trimmed 51 minutes off the Paris-Amsterdam time to three hours 18 minutes. The opening of another line between Belgium and Germany completes the high-speed route between Brussels and Aachen, and cuts 29 minutes off the Paris to Cologne journey time, bringing it down to three hours 14 minutes.
Italy is also forging ahead with the roll-out of high-speed rail. Next year’s timetable brings into service three new stretches of high-speed rail, connecting Turin in the North with Naples in the South.
Completion of the Rome to Naples line will cut 11 minutes from journeys, while a new line between Florence and Bologna will cut journeys between the cities by 20 minutes to 37 minutes and a section between Turin and Milan will reduce times on that route by up to one hour.
In the UK journey times between Ashford and London have been cut by more than half to 37 minutes by using the London-Paris Channel tunnel line.
Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, said the new services would open up significant markets for high-speed rail and usher in a new era for rail.
He said: “It’s an exciting time for rail passengers in Europe.”
Brown added that rail tended to win “hands down” against air when rail’s city centre to city centre journey times fell to about three hours. With increasing airport security, there were signs that airport times were nearing four hours.