London could soon be linked to Europe’s capitals in record time as high speed rail plans finally come off the drawing boards.
Journeys from the capital to Madrid could be down to eight hours with the Paris to Spain train link expected to be completed in two years.
It could be cut to five and a half if Gare du Nord is bypassed, like summer services to Avignon.
There could also be a link to the Netherlands after the completion of the Amsterdam – Brussels route.
Competition for Eurostar?
Eurostar could also find more competition on its services out of St Pancras as German operator; Deutsche Bann is in ‘advanced talks’ with Eurotunnel to run trains to Cologne and Frankfurt.
Owners of the channel tunnel are planning to change safety rules that specify trains have to be able to split in two and have engines at both ends – only Eurostar currently have these trains.
Earlier this week the firm revealed record sales of £675.5m. After years of billion pound losses, it now controls 75% of London to Paris traffic.
Under EU law all cross-border rail services must be opened up to competition this month, the Department for Transport is legaly obliged to consider bids for a new High Speed One.
Long-term replacement of short-haul
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis expects rail to eventually replace short-haul aviation and airlines are planning to get in on the rail market by snapping up franchises.
Rail operators are banking on passenger’s weariness at increased airport security and their environmental credentials to wean customers off the airlines.
A flight from London to Madrid can take two and a half hours but add check in, security clearance and departure and the journeys in and out of city centres, it can be much more.