No sooner had we concluded that Eurostar might postpone through running to mainland Europe (online news) came news that the firm would in fact launch a new route to Amsterdam.
Eurostar says that the earliest date the route would start would be December 2016 and then the schedule calls for just two trains per day.
Services would be operated by the latest 900-seater Siemens e320 trainsets which would take roughly four hours for the trip. No timings are yet available.
Eurostar says that after leaving London St Pancras the trains would call en route at Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport before arriving at Amsterdam’s Centraal station.
The Schiphol stop is interesting. Why? Because it means that UK-originating Eurostar passengers intending to fly from the Dutch airport will avoid paying APD. That is, of course assuming that this unpopular tax is still applicable in three years’ time.
The London-Amsterdam route is currently used by three million travellers a year with the vast majority taking the plane. Eurostar’s service is sure to capture leisure travellers but what about those of you who are travelling on business ?
One disadvantage of taking the train from the UK is our one hour time difference. It means that an executive boarding a 0700 hour Eurostar in London would not reach Amsterdam until noon which may prove too late. On the other hand, the one hour saving on the way back works in the traveller’s favour.
Assuming there are no technical glitches with the e320s (these won’t enter service before 2015) there are problems ahead with UKBA procedures for UK-bound passengers.
Under existing rules the UKBA insists that a secure area for passport checking and baggage screening is provided. It is unclear whether or not there is sufficient space (in the new stations) to provide the relevant screened off areas.
If not then the Amsterdam-London train would have to stop in Brussels or Lille where passengers would disembark for UKBA formalities. This could add more than one hour to the journey when you consider the time it would take to screen a maximum of 900 passengers.