Deutsche Bahn has postponed plans to operate through-trains to London, in a move that must be considered a set-back for international rail travel.
DB had been planning to operate high-speed ICE trains from Amsterdam and Frankfurt via Brussels and the Channel Tunnel into London St Pancras.
Indeed, after a delay of several years, DB finally secured permission last summer from the Tunnel authorities. Services were set to start after 2016 (see news, June 2013).
But now, according to Reuters, the plans have been put on ice owing to technical issues with DB’s new ICE trains plus the high cost for using Frances high-speed tracks.
Another issue, not mentioned by DB, was the fact that UK-bound passengers need UK Border Agency pre-clearance in mainland Europe. And, as Business Traveller has reported, it was unclear who would foot the bill or even if the space for the facilities could be found at Europe’s busy stations.
The news will come as a blow to travellers looking forward both to escaping busy airports and having an alternative to incumbent operator Eurostar.
Andreas Busemann, head of production at DB’s long-distance business, told Reuters: “We have not entirely given up on our goal of going to London. But for now we are concentrating on going to Brussels and Paris.
“Once that is done we will consider whether, how and when we will go to London.
“None of us [at DB] anticipated we would have such major problems with certification [technical approval for the new ICE trains]. In the meantime the business environment has changed.”
Eurostar plans through-trains to Amsterdam starting in December 2016, assuming its costly new trains, also built by Siemens, can complete certification.
But whether Eurostar will bother to run into Germany after 2016 is a moot point now that it issues through-tickets with DB.
Keep an eye out for Platform in the forthcoming March 2014 issue of Business Traveller for details of Eurostar’s new DB ticketing tie-up via Brussels.