It had been thought Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) would be operating international trains from London later this year or, at the latest, by 2013.
But the new services, which would have competed with incumbent Tunnel operator Eurostar, will not now see the light of day until 2015.
The idea was that Deutsche Bahn (DB) would run between London St Pancras and Brussels where the train would be split. One half would continue on to Cologne and Frankfurt with the other bound for Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
So what’s the problem? As Business Traveller has previously explained, European countries have differing power supplies, signalling systems and technical standards. Even the Channel Tunnel itself can be used only by a specific train type. (When DB’s ICE train set visited London St Pancras in 2010 it did not operate under its own power. It was diesel-hauled, at reduced speed, from Calais through the Tunnel).
It means that if a train wishes to operate internationally it must be able to adapt to the different systems. DB was planning to use its normal high-speed ICE trains through the Tunnel. They would be equipped with special technical equipment.
But a spokesman for DB in London explained that train manufacturer Siemens has faced difficulties in obtaining some of the technical kit. It means the new trains cannot meet the original 2013 launch date.
Meanwhile a Eurostar spokeswoman was confident its planned services with new Velaro trains, which would run beyond Brussels and Paris (details of the new destinations have not been revealed but are expected to include cities in Holland, Germany and Switzerland), will begin on schedule in 2014.
The Velaro train sets, also being manufactured by Siemens, are specifically designed for Tunnel and international routes. It seems the German manufacturer has not encountered the same technical issues with these particular trains.
Report by Alex McWhirter