European rail - a reality for UK business travellers

European rail: a reality for UK business travellers

The ski train to the French Alps has long been Eurostar's only service beyond Paris and Brussels. But the cross-channel operator is expanding its network to make a clutch of business destinations available for corporate travellers.

Eurostar is now selling through tickets to six German cities - Aachen, Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich - in partnership with Deutsche Bahn. Travellers from London need merely to change platforms at Brussels Midi station to board a high-speed ICE Deutsche Bahn train to Germany.

Eurostar has also agreed a deal with NS, the Dutch state railways operator, to launch services from London to Amsterdam, via Antwerp and Rotterdam from 2016.

Eurostar is also understood to be considering launching services to Geneva, Frankfurt and Cologne.

How will this affect corporate travel?

THE Wexas INTELLIGENCE:

Eurostar has enjoyed a 20-year monopoly as a quality product connecting London with two prime business centres, Paris and Brussels.

It is difficult to comprehend that before Eurostar's launch in 1994 business travellers in the South East flew when they needed to get to the French or Belgian capital. Only leisure travellers would use the train and ferry.

The Eurostar factor had a profound effect on short-haul travel. Within a couple of years it had grabbed the biggest chunk of market share on these city pairs and air capacity on these routes consequently shrunk dramatically.

But a lot has happened in 20 years. Other train operators have watched Eurostar's growth with envy and have consequently introduced products to entice the business traveller such as lounges and at-seat power. On the Continent the high-speed network is being regularly expanded and has meant rail increasingly winning business traffic on previously high volume air city pairs such as Madrid-Barcelona.

Eurostar will shortly have competition as Deutsche Bahn, with whom it is in a marketing agreement for its expansion into Germany, is looking at launching rail services from Germany to London in the next two years, although no firm date has been set.

But the real loser may not be Eurostar but the airlines.

High-speed, comfortable rail services on journeys of less than four hours may lure a few road warriors away from the airports.

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