Fyra promises huge cut in journey times between Brussels and Amsterdam

The time it takes to travel by regular train between Brussels and central Amsterdam will soon be cut by almost one hour. 

Fyra, the high-speed train linking Brussels with Amsterdam, had been delayed while technical and funding issues are sorted out between the Belgian and Dutch governments.

The good news is that these problems have been resolved and Fyra is set to get under way on Sunday December 9.

Fyra promises a Brussels-Amsterdam transit of just two hours one minute, which is some 55 minutes faster than today’s normal timings.

One-way fares start at €25 for standard and €39 for first class.

Right now, travellers wanting a fast rail trip between these two cities can take Thalys (a version of France’s TGV).  But the Thalys service, although fast, is costlier than the Fyra fares quoted above. For example, a typical one-way Thalys ticket for travel on Monday December 10 would cost €79 in standard and €109 in first class.

Fyra will link Brussels Midi to Amsterdam Central with en route stops in Antwerp, Rotterdam Central and Schiphol Airport. 

It means that Amsterdam Schiphol (which boasts a more comprehensive range of global air links than does Brussels) becomes a more viable option for Belgian passengers as Fyra will cut the journey time (from Brussels Midi) to one hour 46 minutes.

With the arrival of Fyra, the normal stopping trains on this route will be withdrawn. In a way that is a drawback because Fyra requires that passengers reserve a seat whereas with today’s existing trains you can simply ‘turn up and go’ as no booking is necessary.

Eurostar passengers will be able to opt for the Fyra service when travelling between London and Amsterdam (via Brussels) on a through ticket. Because Fyra fares are less than Thalys one would hope that Eurostar will pass on the saving.

Currently the Eurostar website makes no mention of the new Fyra services for travel on and after December 9. A spokesperson says that “Eurostar is busy updating its booking processes to incorporate Fyra. When Fyra starts we will withdraw our ‘Any Dutch Station’ offer [a special fare for travel on existing, slower trains].”

Full details of Fyra timings and fares are now posted on its website.

For more information visit fyra.com, eurostar.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

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  • How does Fyra cut the journey times? Thalys already does brussels – amsterdam in under two hours so the headline “huge cut in journey times” is wrong. Fyra seems an alternative with different prices but no quicker. Doesn’t it run on the same track as Thalys anyway.

  • Richard, you are absolutely right. BT has things a bit mixed up.

    The stopping train BRU-AMS v.v. will disappear, but will be replaced in April 2013 by a train that will follow part of the old stopping train route. This is to accommodate travellers to the cities that are no longer served.

    Fyra will travel the same route as Thalys, but at a significant lower price.

    Main problem remains the seat reservation requirement.

  • As a resident of both Belgium (Antwerp) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam), I take the Thalys constantly. The service is excellent and extremely comfortable. The introduction of the Fyra is reducing travel times versus the current non-Thalys services operated by International Dutch and Belgian state rail. Thalys is a private Belgian operator of TGV style fast trains, and was originally created for the Paris-Brussels run which is now at 1 hour 20 minutes. When the Thalys started services to the Netherlands the trips took as long as normal trains as the Thalys could not operate at high speed due to the track. New Hi-Speed track has since been laid and Thalys operates at high speed throughout the journey making Rotterdam a less than 30 minute trip from Antwerp, and Amsterdam just over 1 hour 20 from Antwerp.

    The main uproar many of us who are in the toursim business have (I have B&B’s in both countries) is that the fare on the Fyra will be more than double that of the existing national rail fares which will likely put off the Dutch tourists coming to Antwerp. Thalys has always been a high fare high quality product with a fare to match, but for the day trippers or weekend overnighters from the Netherlands, many enjoyed a very low and attractive fare on the national trains which will now require them to pay double or more and have to reserve a seat.

  • Hello RichardB: Fair point about the headline. Maybe it should have been extended but on our website we always attempt to keep headlines brief.

    But the copy is entirely accurate. In the first paragraph I did refer to “regular train” timings. In the fourth paragraph I referred to “normal timings.”

    You are correct in that the proper Fyra trains (ie the Ansaldo-built rolling stock) are designed for the high-speed line which is also used by Thalys.

    Hello Edski777: As I explained above, nothing was mixed up. Thank you for letting us know that a new stopping train service from April 2013 will offer travellers a third and, presumably, lower cost option. I wonder when the schedules and prices will be available?

    Hello dutchyankee: Yes, as you say Thalys does offer a good service but at a price. By the way, Thalys is jointly owned by the railway administrations of France, Belgium and Germany. It is not solely a Belgian enterprise.

    Not sure how much your existing rail fares are but I presume you are referring to special rates afforded to families, students, senior travellers and so on. Fyra fares start at Euros 25 one-way for Brussels-Amsterdam. Is that price really double the existing fares?

    For a high-speed journey of that length (Brussels-Amsterdam is around 200 kms) Euros 25 is something of a bargain compared with what we must pay for similar rail travel in the UK.”

    Alex McWhirter

  • I currently have a great disdain for NS and their pricing scheme.

    Last week I was travelling from Schiphol to Dordrecht: booking the ticket using one of the machines at the station, I was advised that the second class ticket was it price (around EUR13.80 one way) and using the screens, I knew the next train was the Brussels service, all nice and easy. No problems, tickets checked, on we go.

    Following day, I was returning to Schiphol from Dordrecht. Used the ticket office at the station (where I had to pay in cash, as for some reason they wouldn’t accept Credit Cards, even the one used the previous day), and obtained from the NS representatives tickets back to Schiphol – advising of a needed change to the Frya service at Rotterdam Central. No mention of a supplement, additional ticket or any such thing. So having then been hit with a EUR10 penalty fare between Rotterdam & Schiphol because of the lack of aforementioned ticket, I can only suspect that NS are gaining extra money failing to alert tourists/visitors to the Frya surcharge over standard tickets.

    Alex – maybe you can ask NS why their staff are unable to do so, and let your readers know of this surcharge?

  • Hello JordanD: According to ns.nl it is only the ticket offices at Schiphol and Amsterdam Central that accept credit cards in addition to a debit card bearing the Maestro and V Pay logo. All other locations accept only the latter debit card. By the way, tickets purchased from a ticket office rather than a machine are surcharged by Euros 0.50.

    The confusion you experienced with Fyra is because the original high-speed service (using the purpose-built trains from Ansaldo) was supposed to have started five years ago.

    As I wrote in the news item, it was delayed owing to technical problems and funding disputes between the Belgian and Dutch governments. These were resolved a few days ago, clearing Fyra to start on December 9.

    In the meantime the Fyra train you travelled on last week was one of the substitute services which were introduced while the problems (with the new Fyra trains) were sorted out. The substitute trains operate with older, conventional rolling stock and run at slower speeds.

    The reason you had to pay a Euros 10 surcharge was because a different range of fares apply for travel on the substitute Fyra. Prices for the proper Fyra services starting on December 9 are displayed on fyra.com.

    Alex McWhirter

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