Eurostar has announced plans to launch a new fleet of trains, and to expand into new destinations. The high-speed rail operator will buy 10 new trains, built by German manufacturer Siemens, with interiors designed by the Italian company Pininfarina.
Owned and operated by France’s state-owned train operator SNCF, Belgium’s rail company SNCB and LCR (London and Continental Railways), Eurostar is the first affiliate of SNCF to order non-French high-speed trains.
Eurostar’s existing trains are based on the French TGV trains, built by Alstom, and can travel up to 300kph (186mph). The new train will be able to travel up to 320 kph (200mph), hence the ‘e320’ moniker, and will be able to carry 900 passengers, up from 750 on the existing trains.
Eurostar hopes to use the trains to travel further afield, with Amsterdam rumoured to be the first choice for a new destination – the journey would take around four hours with the new fleet.
The news comes as German high speed rail operator Deutsche Bahn is in the early stages of planning to launch services from London – if it comes to fruition, it will be the first time Eurostar has had any competition.
Unlike the current fleet, the e320 will be interoperable on European rail systems, such as Germany and the Netherlands, so will be able to travel further afield than the existing trains which can only operate in France and Belgium.
Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, said: “Over the last 16 years Eurostar has revolutionised travel between the London, Paris and Brussels but our sights are now set on expanding our business across Europe.”
The higher maximum speed of the e320 means the journey time between Paris and London should eventually be reduced to just over two hours (the current journey time takes from 2h 15m).
The new fleet will also have onboard wifi and interactive entertainment, including video-on-demand, music and news feeds.
Eurostar says it will invest £700 million in its fleet, including a major refurbishment of its existing 27 trains between 2012 and 2014, and the new Siemens stock appearing from 2014.
Italian design company Pininfarina will design the interiors of both the new and refurbished stock, and will also design the external livery of both the e320 and the upgraded existing fleet.
Petrovic said the investment marks Eurostar’s ambitions for growth. “The combination of our new state-of-the-art trains and our refurbished fleet will assure our position as the leading rail operator between the UK and the continent,” he said.
For more information visit eurostar.com. To see images of today’s launch event in Hyde Park, click on the embedded link below.
Report by Sara Turner