The Anonymous Widower

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

Direct Fast Train To Bordeaux Opens Up Grape Expectations

The title of this post is the same as that as an article on Page 11 of today’s Sunday Times.

Points from the article.

  • SNCF and Eurostar are talking seriously about the route.
  • The journey would be less than five hours.
  • The service would go through Lille.
  • Preferably, customs would be in Bordeaux.
  • Markets include lovers of fine wines, those with holiday homes in the Dordogne and the 1.4m passengers, who fly.
  • Servies could be launched by 2022.
  • Fares could be as low as £90 return.
  • Eurostar would probably run the service.

Points from the Internet and myself.

  • SNCF already run a direct service between Lille  and Bordeaux, that takes four hours thirty-two minutes with eleven stops.
  • It skirts to the East and South of Paris.
  • London to Lille can be achieved in one hour and twenty-two minutes.
  • All of the other possible intermediate stops like Charles de Gaulle Airport and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy for Eurodisney are covered by other services
  • Under five hours is a necessity for sales and marketing purposes.

On the face of it, it would appear that under five hours is challenging, but what would happen to the times, if the journey was non-stop?

It must be under five hours!

I can’t wait for it to start.

Where Next?

Eurostar currently runs regularly to the following places.

  • Amsterdam
  • Avignon
  • Brussels
  • Lille
  • Lyon
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • Marseilles
  • Paris
  • Rotterdam

In addition, various ski resorts are served in winter.

Frontrunners for services must be Cologne, Frankfurt and Geneva, but then Eurostar will be tracking ticket sales to make sure they add the right destinations.

Cologne is my preference for another destination.

  • Cologne is an hour and fifty minutes from Brussels.
  • It is well-connected to the rest of Germany.
  • Frankfurt is only 62 minutes away on the Cologne-Frankfurt High Speed Line.
  • Eurostar’s Class 374 trains, would appear to have sufficient power for inclines of the Cologne-Frankfurt High Speed Line.

I estimate that the time from London to Cologne will be something like three hours and forty minutes.

But if the service were to be extended to Frankfurt along the Cologne-Frankfurt High Speed Line, London to Frankfurt should be under five hours.

More Details On 30th April 2018

There is an article on Global Rail News, which gives more details.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The owner and operator of the UK’s first high-speed line has revealed it is in advanced discussions with three international operators to launch a direct high-speed train from London to Bordeaux.

HS1 Ltd, Lisea, Eurotunnel and SNCF Réseau are working on agreed timetable slots and train routes and hope that a new international train operator will be able to get the route up and running “in a couple of years”.

Who is Lisea?

Lisea is the joint venture, that built the LGV Sud Europe Atlantique to Bordeaux and now operate the line. This is all explained in this extract from the Wikipedia entry for the line.

The line was built by consortium LISEA consisting of Vinci Concessions (fr) (Vinci SA subsidiary) – 33.4%, Caisse des dépôts et consignations – 25.4%, Meridiam – 22.0% and Ardian – 19.2%. The consortium will operate and maintain the line until 2061, and will charge tolls to train companies. The consortium invested €3.8 billion, French government, local authorities and the European Union paid €3 billion and €1 billion was contributed by SNCF Réseau (fr) (subsidiary of SNCF. Another €1.2 billion was spent by SNCF Réseau on the construction of interconnecting lines, control centres, capacity enhancements at Bordeaux and remodelling the track layout at Gare Montparnasse.

It looks very much like a French PFI.

Who Are SNCF Réseau?

This definition of SNCF Réseau is from Wikipedia.

SNCF Réseau is the infrastructure division of SNCF, and carries out track and other infrastructure maintenance, design and construction. Subsidiaries in the group include Systra, Inexia and SNCF International.

I have read that SNCF Réseau can be thought of as a French Network Rail.

More On Where Next?

The Global Rail News article also says this.

HS1 is also in discussions with operators to launch routes to Frankfurt and Geneva and has appointed a new market development lead, Edmund Butcher, to develop these plans.

As I said earlier, London-Frankfurt times would appear to be under five hours.

I can’t find a definitive time between London and Geneva, but I suspect it’s under six hours.

Other places and times could be.

  • Barcelona – Under ten hours – But gorgeous views through the Camargue.
  • Nice – Under nine hours – I did it once, as I wrote in Cambridge to Nice by Train.

It should also be noted, that as the French and German high speed networks grow, there will be large numbers of places accessible within a day, with a single change at places like Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lille, Lyon and Marseille.

I haven’t mentioned Paris, as changing at Paris often involved a trek across the city!

 

 

 

 

April 29, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Would A Sleeper Train Work Between London And Cologne?

In Disappointing Cologne, I said that if there was a sleeper train between London and Cologne, I’d use it.

  • Many passengers like quality sleeper trains.
  • Those like me, who do long journeys across Europe, often break the trip in as hotel. A sleeper would be a good alternative.
  • More and more people are avoiding flying.

I have used sleeper trains down from Scotland a few times. The Caledonian Sleeper is a civilised way to travel, which leaves late evening to come south, where you can get a decent snack and a good night’s sleep.

I last used a sleeper during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, as it meant I arrived in London early in the morning and I didn’t have to spend a night in Glasgow, where hotel rooms were in short supply.

In the end, the cost of the First Class sleeper ticket, was less than I would have paid for something like a Premium Inn in Edinburgh, which was all that was available.

Sleeper trains in those circumstances are good value for money and you don’t waste time travelling during the day.

The Caledonian Sleeper is being given new carriages and a lot of promotion and I suspect in a few years time, it will be a thriving service.

On the other hand, I once took a sleeper from Munich to Paris, which was run by Deutsche Bahn. I wrote about it in The Sleeper From Munich To Paris.

Deutsche Bahn have decided to discontinue their sleeper trains, as they are not profitable. But given their legendary customer service, passengers have probably chosen other methods of travel.

I believe that if a sleeper was setup between London and Cologne, that run on similar principles to the Caledonian Sleeper or the Night Riviera, that it could work.

Consider.

  • Cologne is a city of a million people in a region of three million.
  • Passengers arriving in Cologne could be in Frankfurt around 1000, Munich around 1100 and Berlin around 1200.
  • Passengers arriving in London could be in Birmingham before 0900, Cardiff before 1000 and Liverpool/Manchester before 1000.
  • Leaving late at night, must give a greater time to work or play.
  • If the new rolling stock for the Caledonian Sleeper is a success, I’m sure CAF would be happy to build some more!

The original plan for sleeper trains through the Channel Tunnel was too ambitious and relied on getting the regional business. I think that what is needed is a core route like London-Cologne, where the sleeper trains run, that uses the excellent high-speed services from the two end cities to connect onwards.

Surely, providing Customs and Immigration for a sleeper train would be a lot easier.

It would probably be easiest if they were done in London.

  • Outward to Cologne, changing to an onward service would be very easy in that station, after perhaps a passport check.
  • Inward to London, how many undesirables would use a sleeper train as a means of smuggling themselves or illicit goods into the UK.
  • A decent passport check by the Germans at Cologne would probably sort out the more blatant abuses.
  • After the atrocities in Brussels and Paris, I can’t believe that International travel checks won’t be tightened.

If London-Cologne could be made to work, would other core routes be viable?

They would probably need.

  • A destination station with lots of connections.
  • A journey time that would enable arrival in the destination early enough to catch important onward connections.
  • The city/area away from London must be able to provide good core business.

If we assume that passengers would want to be on their way from the destination at seven, then this would probably mean an arrival at five, so probably a six or seven hour journey time would be the maximum before it isn’t a viable option for passengers.

This would probably mean that Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris could be possible as destinations, but Munich and Geneva probably wouldn’t. Brussels would probably be ruled out, as Cologne would serve the same onward destinations better.

I think it is going to be interesting to see if and how this market develops.

 

 

 

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Disappointing Cologne

Cologne and its station disappointed me.

I was hungry and the hotel wasn’t exactly brimming with gluten-free food options. Or guests for that matter.

In fact, the whole city centre was dead.

Was everybody tucked up in bed watching the vEurovision Song Contest or because of the attacks in the city centre in the New Year, does everybody not go there any more.

In the end, I got supper in an Argentinian steak house, where the food was a lot better than the service.

In the morning, I didn’t have a ticket, so I arrived at the station a bit early, only to find that the machines didn’t seem to see the ticket I wanted and the ticket office wasn’t open.

It was a repeat of the customer service of the night before.

There are a couple of things to note in the pictures.

  • I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a number to buy a ticket.
  • I had masses of paper for my ticket compared to what I get in the UK.
  • Comfortable seats were thin on the ground.
  • There was a smoking area on the platform.
  • Lots of trains seemed to be locomotive-hauled.

Eventually, I arrived in Brussels with plenty of time to spare.

But surely the biggest disappointment about Cologne is why the Germans haven’t developed it as a gateway for Cross-Channel passengers.

Consider.

  • Cologne has very good connections to major German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, which are much better than those from Brussels or Paris.
  • A lot of visitors to Germany from the UK, may be going to Cologne anyway, so why force them to change trains in Brussels?
  • According to the Demographics of Cologne, the city has around a million inhabitants and is in a region of three million.
  • Cologne is about the same size as Birmingham, Glasgow or Liverpool/Manchester, so it could probably sustain a direct service.
  • If you need to waste an hour or so in Cologne, whilst changing trains, you are by the cathedral and the Rhine.
  • Cologne to London by train must be around four hours, which must be very competitive with flying.
  • A Sleeper train between London and Cologne would probably work. I’d use it!

I think the Germans can’t be bothered, as they’d have more passengers to cater for, who knew about customer service.

I know there’s the problem of Customs and Immigration, but if Deutsche Bahn were serious about running a service, I’m sure the problems are solvable.

I’ve been through small airports where excellent, efficient and probably very thorough systems had been setup to encourage traffic.

The problem could of course be the UK Border Force, who in my experience don’t seem to be the best in the world.

But then, the world needs to develop fast, efficient, automatic border checks, that I’m certain if we got right, would actually discourage illegal immigration.

As it is, we set up such weak checks, that they encourage criminals to encourage and fleece, those that might want to come to countries, where work might be available.

 

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Karlsruhe To Cologne

A lot of this section was along the side of the River Rhine, as rhe pictures show.

The train was running on the West Rhine Railway, which  is described in Wikipedia like this.

The West Rhine railway (German: Linke Rheinstrecke, literally ‘left (bank of the) Rhine route’) is a famously picturesque, double-track electrified railway line running for 185 km from Cologne via Bonn, Koblenz, and Bingen to Mainz. It is situated close to the western (left) bank of the river Rhine and mostly aligned to allow 160 km/h operation between Cologne and Koblenz and between Bingen and Mainz. Line speed between Koblenz and Bingen is restricted by themeandering nature of the Rhine.

It is effectively a 100 mph line, like say the Great Eastern Main Line between London and Norwich.

It is certainly one of those lines where you might pay the extra to go in First and make sure you sit on the river side of the train.

I had deliberately chosen a hotel close to Cologne station, so it was just a short walk to the hotel.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment