The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On Eurostar To North Netherlands And North West Germany

I have now taken Eurostar to Hamburg twice, with a change at Amsterdam Centraal.

The first time, I took two German Inter City trains, with a change at Osnabruck. I wrote about it in From Amsterdam To Hamburg The Hard Way.

On my latest trip, I took the following route.

  • An overnight stay in Amsterdam
  • Train from Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen with changes at Almere Centrum and Zwolle
  • An overnight stay in Groningen
  • Rail Replacement Bus from Groningen to Leer
  • Train from Leer to Bremen
  • Train from Bremen to Bremerhaven
  • Train from Bremerhaven to Hamburg

Note.

  1. There are no direct trains between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen. Most involve a quick interchange at Almere or Utrecht.
  2. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen is electrified.
  3. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen takes two hours six minutes on the fastest train.
  4. When the bridge over the Ems is rebuilt, there should be an hourly train between Groningen and Leer, rather than a two-hourly bus.
  5. Leer to Bremen is electrified and takes under an hour and a half.
  6. I took a roundabout route from Bremen and Hamburg, as I wanted to check that the hydrogen-powered trains were running.
  7. There are direct trains between Bremen and Hamburg.

Could The Slower Route Be Improved?

My thoughts are as follows.

Between Amsterdam Centraal And Groningen

Consider the following.

  • The Dutch probably planned the timetable before Eurostar served Amsterdam.
  • Eurostar is going to three trains per day between London and Amsterdam
  • There are new Dutch InterCity trains on order for other routes.
  • A direct service between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen could probably be under two hours, with perhaps two stops.
  • On my trip, the trains trundled along at 50-60 mph, which isn’t very fast.

For these reasons, I would rate it highly lightly that the Dutch will think about a direct service.

Between Groningen And Leer

Without doubt, the problem on this section is the bridge over the Ems.

I estimate the following.

  • The mainly single-track railway without electrification between Groningen and Ihrhove near Leer is about seventy kilometres.
  • After the bridge is rebuilt, one of Arriva’s Stadler GTWs could do the journey in perhaps 30-35 minutes.
  • A bi-mode Stadler Flirt, like one of Greater Anglia’s  Class 755 trains, which have a top speed of 100 mph and bags of grunt could probably break the half-hour.

Some web sites put the opening of the new bridge in 2024. I’m reasonably certain, that by that date, an electric train with these power systems would be able to handle the route.

  • Dutch electrification
  • German electrification
  • Batteries

Bombardier and Stadler are certainly aiming to have battery-powered trains in service by the bridge opening date.

Between Leer and Bremen/Hamburg

This electrified double-track section has the following timings.

  • Leer and Bremen – 1:24
  • Leer and Hamburg 2:23

There doesn’t appear to be any major improvements needed.

Times On The Two Routes Compared

How do the fastest times on the two routes compare?

Via Osnabruck

This is the only route available and the fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – 4:16
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – 5:14

It appears that most services go to both Bremen and Hamburg.

Every time, I’ve changed at Osnabruck, the second train has been late.

Via Groningen

I would estimate the best fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

I am very surprised that the route via Groningen could appear to be over an hour faster.

Trains For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

At present, this service would not be possible, because of the bridge over the Ems.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • Dutch electrification at 1.5 KVDC between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen.
  • No electrification from Groningen between Groningen and Ihrhove, which is seventy kilometres.
  • German electrification at 15 KVAC between Ihrhove and Bremen/Hamburg

There are several trains that can handle both electrification systems at the two ends of the route, it’s just the seventy kilometres in the middle.

In my view there are several ways to bridge the gap.

Electrification

The Dutch or the Germans can probably electrify the line on time and on budget better than we could.

But which electrification system would be used?

Diesel

Using a dual-mode bi-mode train, that could also run on diesel would be a possibility and I’m sure that Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler could supply a more or less off-the-the-shelf train, that could run at up to 200 kph where possible and handle the section without electrification on diesel.

But using diesel in an area developing a green economy based on wind power and hydrogen, is probably not a good marketing idea.

Hydrogen

If diesel can handle the route, I’m certain that hydrogen could be used on the section without electrification.

Battery

The section without electrification is only seventy kilometres and in a few years time will be totally in range of a battery train, that charged the batteries on the end sections. Power changeover could be arranged in Leer and Groningen stations if this was thought to be more reliable.

Note that in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I write that Hitachi are claiming a battery range of sixty miles or a hundred kilometres with a Class 385 train with batteries in a few years time. Hitachi won’t be the only train manufacturer with the technology to build a suitable product.

I have to conclude that Groningen and Leer is a classic application for battery power.

Intermediate Stops For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

Obviously, the Dutch and the Germans, should know their market and would know where the trains should stop.

Having experienced the route in the last few days, the following stops could be possible.

  • Almere Centrum
  • Zwolle
  • Groningen
  • Leer
  • Oldenburg

But with modern trains, that have a minimum dwell time at stations, there may be more stops than some might think.

Which Company Would Run The Service?

I don’t know anything about the complications of running international trains, even when they are totally in the Schengen  Zone.

In the UK, Amsterdam to Hamburg is the sort of service that would be proposed by a well-funded Open Access Operator.

The company, who would benefit most from this service is Eurostar.

So could we see Eurostar operating or sponsoring Open Access feeder services in Europe, using say 200 kph trains?

Conclusion

It would appear that the following journey times are possible.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

For this to be possible the following is needed.

  • The bridge over the Ems is rebuilt.
  • Battery power works as its developers hope it will.

How many other routes in the world, would benefit from a similar philosophy?

 

March 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Do You Do With An Unwanted Eurostar Train?

In Edition 865 of Rail Magazine, there is a short article which is entitled Eurostar ‘373s’ Leased To Thalys.

This is the first paragraph.

Class 373s that were due to be scrapped have instead been leased to Thalys for a year.

Class 373 trains and Thalys rolling stock are very similar, as both were built by GEC-Alsthom around the same time.

So just as ScotRail borrowed a few Class 365 trains to make up for a shortage, Thalys are borrowing a pair of Class 373 trains.

I wonder if passengers between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, that they are getting a train, that was destined for the scrapyard?

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All About Going Dutch For Eurostar!

In today’s Times, there is an article called Eurostar Sets Pace As Channel Tunnel Booms.

The article says.

Passengers on the Eurostar trains topped 3 million in the quarter, in increase of 12 per cent.

Apparently, there has been a big increase on the Amsterdam route, with more to come.

  • A third daily service will start next summer.
  • Direct return journeys could be possible next year.
  • Five London-Amsterdam return journeys could follow.

That all looks good and I’m sure it would be better if the terrible connecting trains to North Germany, that I wrote about in From Amsterdam To Hamburg The Hard Way,  were to be improved.

October 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Engine Change At Bad Bentheim

I’m on a train frim Amsterdam to Osnabruck. The train, which goes all the way to Berlin, is not very fast, but they’ve now stopped for ten minutes, whilst the Dutch engine is changed for a German one! Can’t both railway companies use the dame Euro-blighter and just have a change of drivers, as we do on Anglo-Scottish services.

Surely, these are the problems that the EU should solve. Or do German and Dutch rail unions make the RMT look like pussy-cats?

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

From Amsterdam To Hamburg The Hard Way

You might think that Amsterdam, which is a city of nearly two-and-a-half million people would have a good rail connection to the North German cities of Bremen and Hamburg, which have population of two-and-a-half and five million people, respectively.

But you would be wrong!

  • Amsterdam to Bremen is 354 km. and takes 3 hr. 26 min to drive, but the train takes 4 hr. 16 mins with a change at Osnabruck.
  • Amsterdam to Hamburg is 464 km. and takes 4 hr. 35 min to drive, but the train takes 5 hr. 14 mins with a change at Osnabruck.

The train to Osnabruck is the same for both destinations and runs every two hours.

I arrived in Amsterdam at 12:32 and the next train left at 13:00, which I didn’t try to catch as I had to queue up for a ticket

So I caught the 15:00, as I had planned, which should get me into Hamburg at 20:14, hopefully in time for supper.

I would need the supper, when I arrived, as I could find nothing gluten-free worth eating in Amsterdam Centraal station. But I did have some EatNakd bars.

The train to Osnabruck, wasn’t one of Germany’s finest and the only customer service was the checking of tickets. I didn’t check, but I got the impression, that the onboard restaurant car had gone AWOL.

There wouldn’t have been anything I could eat, if there had been a restaurant car anyway!

Incidentally, I don’t travel First Class in Germany anymore, as all you get is a better seat, with not even any free coffee.

And you have to pay about five euros for a seat reservation!

The train to Osnabruck wasn’t the fastest either, doing about 80 mph most of the way, which compares badly to the 100 mph typically attained by trains on secondary main lines in the UK like London to Norwich.

There was also an Engine Change At Bad Bentheim.

I’ve had serious delay in Osnabruck before, as I wrote in From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train.

For a time it looked like it would be episode two, but the Hamburg train only turned up about ten minutes late.

By running at 125 mph part of the way to Hamburg, the train had picked up a few minutes.

So I had a lovely supper as a reward.

Conclusion

I’ve had worse train journeys. But not many!

At 105.61 euros it wasn’t cheap either!

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Eurostar To And From Amsterdam

On Tuesday I took Eurostar to Amsterdam.

The trip took three hours and forty-one minutes with stops at Brussels and Rotterdam.

The Brussels stop allows passengers to leave and join, but Rotterdam only allows passengers to leave.

As the number of passengers grow between London and Amsterdam, could there come a time, when some or all Amsterdam services don’t need to stop at Brussels.

If so, how much time would this save?

Current stops by Eurostar take the following times.

  • Ashford – 9 mins.
  • Calais – 3 mins
  • Ebbsfleet – 6 mins.
  • Lille – 14 minutes

These times have been calculated by looking at similar services that have different stopping patterns.

Note that, Calais and Ebbsfleet are faster as they are stops on the direct route.

So I suspect that if an Amsterdam service could go through Brussels without stopping, something between 9-12 minutes could be saved.

This could bring the journey time between London and Amsterdam closer to three and a half hours.

What would that time do for sales of tickets?

Eurostar Hold A Lot Of Cards

Eurostar are in a very good position on this route.

  • They could run a flagship express service twice a day for those in a hurry.
  • This could be backed up by slightly slower services calling at places from or to where passengers want to go. These would include Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Antwerp.
  • Immigration and security clearance is probably under thirty minutes at the start of the journey and perhaps ten at the end.
  • Immigration and security times will be reduced, as procedures get better.
  • St. Pancras, Rotterdam Centraal and Amsterdam Centraal are all very well-connected stations.
  • Extra services can be added as demand dictates.
  • Eurostar is more diabled-friendly and those in smaller scooters can drive in!
  • They could extend some Brussels services to Amsterdam.
  • I estimate that just under 4,000,000 people live within the North and South Circular Roads and have easy access by public transport to St. Pancras.

They can also create a very intelligent booking computer system, that optimises their services. Budget airlines have been doing this for years.

What About The Airlines?

Note the numbers of passengers who fly.

According to Skyscanner, there are upwards of two hundred flights a day between London and Amsterdam. An Airbus A320 holds 150 passengers, so if there are only a hundred per flight, that is 20,000 passengers per day.

Looking at the 6th of June, Eurostar are running nine trains between London and Brussels. As each new Class 374 train can hold 900 passengers, that is around 8,000 seats per day.

So the airlines have much more capacity than Eurostar and they can add and remove it, easier than Eurostar can?

The Comfort Factor

I haven’t travelled in steerage on the new trains, as I always pay about thirty-forty pounds extra for Premium Economy, so I get the following benefits.

  • A very pleasant gluten-free meal.
  • A much more spacious environment.
  • It’s also rare that I don’t get a window seat.

But if I did use steerage, it would be a more pleasant experience than flying on a budget airline.

I think it’s been about ten years since I flew to a city within a two-hour flight of London, where there was a rail alternative.

I also tend to come home by rail, where I often get a connection to Brussels or Paris to catch a late Eurostar to London.

Comparing London-Amsterdam With London-Edinburgh

Both routes take about four hours by train, with the Dutch route slightly quicker.

Generally, trains operate between London and Edinburgh half-hourly for much of the day, whereas Eurostar only runs twice a day.

Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Schipol Airport is surely a much bigger market in terms of possible passengers, than the Edinburgh catchment area.

I think we’ll see the astute Dutch, using Eurostar as a marketing tool to attract more passengers to the Netherlands and London’s next airport at Schipol.

Especially, as the British seem very happy with a four-hour train ride in comfort.

Eurostar Will Grow Between London And Amsterdam

For these and other rambling reasons, I think that Eurostar to Amsterdam will grow to be a successful route.

The one thing they must do, is to make it possible to come back to London, without having to clear immigration and security in Brussels.

But Eurostar know that!

Amsterdam Is Just The Hors D’Oeuvre!

Once Eurostar and the Dutch get the route between London and the Netherlands working smoothly, I don’t think it will be long before other routes are inaugurated.

Eurostar have said these could be.

  • Bordeaux
  • Cologne and Frankfurt
  • Geneva

The key will be getting the immigration and security smooth.

I think it will continue to improve, as it seems to do, every time I travel.

Remember, the Belgians, Dutch, French, Germans and Swiss will want it to be smooth, as they will want to market their delights to a whole new market, so suspect a lot of co-operation, despite the decision of Brexit.

But, I think that a limit on a journey time of four or five hours would cut out a lot of other destinations.

Although many of the destinations like Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris will be places to have an enjoyable day or two before taking another train ride further afield.

The 15:00 From Amsterdam Centraal To Berlin

This train that leaves Amsterdam Centraal just under two hours after the Eurostar arrives and can take you all the way to Berlin, arriving at 21:22.

But this train with a change at Osnabruck, gives you a stopping-off point to Bremen, Hamburg and the Northern part of Germany.

I first came across Osnabruck, when I was left there without a train by Deutsche Bahn, as I wrote about in From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train.

But I found a delightful hotel on the station forecourt, called the Advena Hotel Hohenzollern.

Trip Advisor give it four out of five and currently say deals are available at under seventy pounds a night.

Osnabruck is not a tourist town, but it sits where the North-South and East-West rail routes cross.

Conclusion

As the network develops, I believe that a whole new form of tourism will take advantage.

 

 

 

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eurostar Announces Launch Date For Amsterdam Service

The title of this post is the same as this article in Global Rail News.

This is said.

  • The service will start on April the 4th.
  • London to Amsterdam will take three hours and forty-one minutes.
  • London to Rotterdam will take three hours and one minute.
  • Trains will leave London at 08.31 and 17.31.

But going to London will require a stop at Brussels to clear UK Immigration and security.

Hopefully, by the end of 2019, they’ll be a direct service in both directions.,

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Express London-Amsterdam Eurostar Service Being Explored

The title of this post is the same as the title of this article on Global Rail News.

This is the first paragraph.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has said it is in discussions with Eurostar to boost the number of journeys from Amsterdam to London in 2019.

The aim is to do the following.

  • Speed up the call at Brussels.
  • Increase services from two to three per day.
  • Reduce journey times from four to three and a half hours.

All very worthy, but I think Amsterdam even in three and a half hours may be a bit far, as the time by air is probably quicke.

 

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Eurostar Is Testing To Amsterdam

This article in Global Rail News is entitled Velaro Under Test In The Netherlands. This is the first two paragraphs.

NS and Siemens have completed the first tests of Eurostar’s new e320 train on the Dutch rail network.

Eurostar plans to launch direct services between Amsterdam Central and London St Pancras in 2017 and has now begun testing its new fleet on the Dutch HSL-Zuid.

It would appear that St. Pancras to Amsterdam will take about four hours.

I suspect they still got a few details to sort out.

  • Immigration control, as the UK is not in Schengen.
  • The Dutch signalling system.
  • The unusual Dutch train voltage of 1,500 VDC, as opposed to the British, French and HSL-Zuid of 25 KVAC.
  • To complicate matters the Germans use 15 KVAC and drive on the right.

It’s a pity for many, that HSL-Zuid was built deliberately to avoid calling at Den Haag.

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train

Although, I was intending to go from Hamburg to Amsterdam, as I said in this post, things didn’t work out as I and probably Deutsche Bahn intended.

The train was a few minutes late out of Hamburg and my First Class carriage seemed to be missing  from the German IC train I was on. (Note the missing E!)  Or possibly I couldn’t get near it, as the aisles were blocked with cases. If I’ve complained about Virgin’s services to Glasgow in the past, then this was complete travel hell, that I’ve never encountered on British trains in the worst of times.

At Osnabruck, I was supposed to change onto another IC train for Amsterdam, but of course by the time we got there I’d missed it.

I waited for perhaps two hours on the station at Osnabruck and nothing seemed to be happening.  There was no information posted and those in Information, told me to wait for the next Amsterdam train.  But they had no idea of when it would arrive.

One lady, who lived locally, had told me that the hotel by the station wasn’t at all bad, so as I had nothing to do I took the precaution of seeing if they had any rooms. A pleasant fraulein told me they had a few at €80 including breakfast.

So about ten, I put myself out of my misery and booked into the Advena Hotel Hohenzollern.

Advena Hotel Hohenzollern

Advena Hotel Hohenzollern

It was a decision I didn’t regret.

I thought that I might regret going to McDonalds for a bite to eat, but the fries and Coke had no effect. The trouble was that the information on the back of the paper on the tray is unreadable because it’s so small. So I assumed that they were as in the UK, and gluten-free! I did think though, that McDonalds were showing some very unsuitable adverts for their target clientèle.

On the other hand, breakfast in the hotel of fish, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee was excellent.

I would certainly use this hotel or one of the other, Advena hotels again. Also as a lot of the trains seem to go through Osnabruck, this hotel is a convenient place to break a journey.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 10 Comments