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 | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 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 | Travel | , , , | 3 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 | Travel | , | 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 | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Ashford Spurs On Track

The title of this post is the same as an article in the December 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

I wrote about the Ashford Spurs in Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs.

The Modern Railways article starts with this paragraph.

The launch of Eurostar e320 services from Ashford International has been pencilled in for 3 April 2018, foillowing progress with the Ashford Spurs project.

Surely, a result of their completion will be that more services will stop at Ashford International station.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – 5th August 2017

It’s all change at Waterloo station with Platforms 20 to 24 open for business.

I think what has been revealed today is an excellent stop-gap to allow platforms 1 to 9 to be extended.

  • Network Rail and South West Trains are also to be congratulated on putting a large number of informed staff on the platforms to answer passegers’ questions.
  • With luck too, the vast open spaces around platform 20 to 24 will help to calm passengers.
  • But they weren’t lucky in that everything was disrupted by a signal failure early in the day.

If I have any criticism it is over the length of time it has taken to get these platforms open.

The International platforms were closed about the time my wife died in December 2007.

That closure has just been too long.

Passenger And Train Capacity

From what I saw today, Network Rail have opened five new platforms numbered 20 to 24, with the following features.

  • The ability to handle twelve-car trains.
  • Wide platforms for large numbers of passengers.
  • A new very wide gate line.
  • Lots of natural light and fresh air.

Passengers will wish all stations could be this good.

Just imagine five packed commuter trains arriving at those new platforms at around the same time.

  • Each pair of new five-car Class 707 train can hold just over sixteen hundred passengers.
  • A ten-car Class 720 train, which must be similar to South Western Railway’s new trains can hold around fifteen hundred passengers.

So can the platforms, gates and concourse handle all those passengers?

As the flow of passengers seems straight down wide platforms and into the Underground or out of the station through the Victory Arch, I suspect that the station has been designed to handle the greatest number of passengers, the trains can deliver.

With Crossrail, the stations at Shenfield and Abbey Wood will be handling twelve trains per hour (tph) in a two platform layout or 6 tph at each platform.

I suspect that the signalling and track layout at platforms 20-24 at Waterloo station, is such that each platform can handle at least four tph and possibly the six, that will be achieved at Shenfield and Abbey Wood.

If they can handle six, that is an unbelievable thirty tph.

This figure is probably way in excess of other capacity constraints in the complex rail network out of Waterloo, but at least platform capacity won’t be a constraint on growth in the future.

But four tph on each platform, would give a theoretical capacity of twenty tph or around thirty thousand passengers per hour. That is a massive increase in the capacity of the station.

It has to be taken into account, that part of the Waterloo Upgrade for August 2017 is lengthening Platforms 1 to 4 at the station and improving the track layout for the lower-numbered platforms. Access to the Underground is also being improved at platforms 1 to 4.

Are Network Rail creating another high-capacity set of four platforms at the other end of the station?

What is happening at platforms 1 to 4 will be revealed at the end of the month.

Conclusion

The work has whetted my appetite as to what the station will eventually look like!

In An Analysis Of Waterloo Suburban Services Proposed To Move To Crossrail 2, I came to the following conclusion.

Crossrail 2’s proposals for the suburban branch lines from Waterloo to the four destinations of Chessington South, Epsom, Hampton Court and Shepperton stations, can be fulfilled using the following.

  • More platform capacity at Waterloo.
  • Modern high-performance 100 mph trains like Class 707 trains.
  • Some improvements to track and signals between Waterloo and Wimbledon stations.
  • Wimbledon station would only need minor modifications.
  • A measure of ATO between Waterloo and Wimbledon stations.

What effect will this have on the design of Crossrail 2?

The Class 707 trains will not be arriving, but high performance Aventras will.

This August’s Upgrade will certainly make substantial increases in service frequencies and passenger capacity possible.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

London To Karlsruhe Via Paris

I took Eurostar and a TGV to Karlsruhe, using these trains.

  1. Eurostar – St. Pancras 08:19 – Paris Nord 11:47 – £115 from Eurostar
  2. TGV – Paris Est 13:55 – Karlsruhe 16:25 – £69.19 from Voyages SNCF

I took these pictures on the way.

Note.

  1. I bought both tickets on-line.
  2. Premium Economy in the new Eurostar trains is more cramped than the old ones.
  3. Eurostar’s Premium Economy gluten-free breakfast more than filled a hole.
  4. Paris Nord to Paris Est is just a Metro.
  5. I took a diversion via Republik, which was a good place to wait in the sun.
  6. I stayed in the Schlosshotel in Karlsruhe, which was one of several acceptable ones by the station.

I could probably have done the journey cheaper by flying, but it would have had more hassle.

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extending The Docklands Light Railway West From Bank Station

Two possible routes have been proposed foe extending the Docklands Light Railway to the West

Whether either is worth developing, I don’t know.

But consider.

  • The Thameslink Programme will improve access between London Bridge and Charing Cross stations, which could take pressure off the Jubilee Line.
  • The Thameslink Programme will improve Southeastern services into Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations.
  • Charing Cross station has a couple of spare platforms, that some would like to re-use.
  • Euston and St. Pancras stations have bad access to Canary Wharf and South East London.
  • The Bakerloo Line Extension has been given the green light.
  • Crossrail connects Canary Wharf to Bond Strreet, Heathrow, Liverpool Street and Paddington.

But the big issue, is what happens about Crossrail 2.

I feel that the more likely extension to the West is to go from Bank to Euston via City Thameslink and Holborn and/or Tottenham Court Road stations and finish by going on to St. Pancras.

It could link HS2 at Euston and European services at St. Pancras to the following.

  • Thameslink at City Thameslink station.
  • Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road station.
  • Bank and Canary Wharf stations.

It would also provide a decent link between the long distance services at Euston, Kings Cross and St. Pancras.

These factors would also influence the design of the DLR Extension.

  • The DLR has all the agility of a mountain coat to climb hills and turn sharply, so it might be possible to squeeze it through places impossible for a Crossrail or an Underground line.
  • 3D-design techniques are getting better every year.
  • Tunnel boring machines are getting more accurate.
  • Escalators are getting longer.

So could we see the extension going from Bank to City Thameslink as a traditional extension and then going in a long double-track loop via some or all of the following stations.

  • Holborn
  • Tottenham Court Road
  • Oxford Circus
  • Regents Park
  • Euston
  • St. Pancras
  • Covent Garden

It would all depend on where they could squeeze the tracks through.

  • Stations could be island platforms between the tracks.
  • Platform edge doors could be fitted.
  • Escalators and lifts could link the platforms to existing station.

There’s no reason why the line should be designed traditionally for the DLR.

 

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Eurostar Platforms At Waterloo Station Are Being Brought Back Into Use

When travelling to Shepperton, I walked from Waterloo East station to the balcony at Waterloo station.

You get a good view of the disused Eurostar plaforms, which are being brought back into use.

I also took a few as my train left the station.

At least this monument to bad planning of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, is being put to a laudable use of providing more capacity at Waterloo.

There’s some more pictures from before the work started in Waterloo’s Blue Elephant.

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

A Design Crime – Ebbsfleet International Station

If there is one station in the UK, that has been deliberately designed to be difficult to use, it is Ebbsfleet #international station.

Take this evening, when I had taken a lift to the station after the football at Ipswich, as the Great Eastern Main Line was having its annual rebuild and I didn’t want to spend an hour in a rickety bus, rather than in a comfortable Mark 3 coach.

Arrive at most stations in the UK or the world for that matter, and the first thing that you see is a ticket office or a ticket machine.

But not at Ebbsfleet International!

You are presented with a departure board, which tells you where trains will be going and if like me, you are going to St. Pancras International station, you notice that alternative trains leave from platform 2 and 5. Platform 2 is to the left on the level and platform 5 is to the right down a set of steps

So if you have just a fewminutes before your train, perhaps it would be a good idea to buy a ticket, as you enter the station.

But you can’t, as the only ticket machines are by the platforms. on either side.

Whose stupid idea was this?

If ever a station needed a ticket machine as you come in, with a sign saying that the next St. Pancras train leaves from platform X, it is Ebbsfleet International.

As it was, after about four minutes, I was able to determine that I had twelve minutes before the next train from platform 5, so I was able to walk down the set of steps, buy a ticket and get to the draughty platform about eight minutes before the train arrived.

Is Ebbsfleet International, the only station in the UK, where to transfer across a concourse between two ends, there is a set of steps in the middle?

It could be considered that Manchester Piccadilly has steps, but it does have fifteen platforms and was designed over a period of well over a hundred years.

The entry problem could be eliminated by more or relocated ticket machines and a small display telling passengers for St. Pancras, where to go.

It is all down to the bizarre layout of the station.

This Google Map shows the two-station layout of the station.

Ebbsfleet International Station

Ebbsfleet International Station

The lines going North South through the station are the Eurostar and the HighSpeed domestic services between St. Pancras International and Ashford International stations. The lines branching off to the South East, take the Highspeed domestic services to Faversham.

The Faversham lines have their own platforms 5 and 6 and there are two other platforms 2 and 3 in the other side of the station, sandwiched in-between the Eurostar lines.

This station was built on a green field site with plenty of space, so surely a better layout of lines could have been provided so that all Highspeed domestic services used the same pair of platforms.

Getting There

Ebbsfleet International was certainly designed to be difficult to get to from other parts of the London and the South East.

Romford is a major station in East London, with this recommended route to Ebbfleet Inyternational.

  • TfL Rail to Stratford
  • DLR to Stratford International
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International.

It may be step-free, but there is certainly quite a distance on the flat.

This is the route from Guildford

  • South West Trains to Vauxhall
  • Victoria Line to St. Pancras
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

Not a route that I’d recommend to anybody with a heavy  case or any difficulty in walking.

This is the route from Greenwich.

  • Southeastern to Charlton
  • Southeastern to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That route truly is a corker.

This one might improve as according to Modern Railways for August 2016, that Thameslink will be starting a service between Luton and Rainham via Dartford and Greenwich. Hopefully this would mean a route from Greenwich to Ebbsfleet Internation as follows.

  • Thameslink to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That is only one change, but you’d still need to go over the step-free bridge at Gravesend.

The solution would be to do either of the following.

  • Create a proper passenger connection between Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations.
  • Allow North Kent services that go to and from Dartford to call at Ebbsfleet International station.

Why didn’t the traditional North Kent services call at Ebbsfleet International station from Day 1?

Get the connection right and all those stations between London Bridge and Rainham would have a two trains per hour service to Ebbsfleet International.

Future Expansion

Ebbsfleet International also seems to be designed deliberately to make extension difficult.

Space for extra platforms for these possible services seems not to have been left.

  • Termination of Continental services, should St. Pancras get too busy.
  • A Crossrail extension from Abbey Wood station.
  • An East-West service from Reading and Gatwick.

Expansion can only probably be achieved by  adding further complication and difficulties for passengers at this truly dreadful station.

The designer’s dictionary, certainly didn’t include that important word future-proofing.

He certainly gave Eurostar and the Highspeed domestic services, one of the least passenger-friendly stations in the world. that fits well with Eurostar’s other crap stations.

  • The extremely passenger-unfriendly St. Pancras.
  • The bleak, isolated and draughty Stratford International

Perhaps the airline industry had a hand in its design, in the hope they could strangle the whole enterprise!

Stratford and Ebbsfleet could also have been designed the way they are, so that they didn’t have easy and quick interchanges with Crossrail.

That would have meant, that passengers would use this more affordable service rather than the expensive Highspeed domestic ones, that always seem half-empty, when I use them.

The three stations are all certainly design crimes and taken together they make the Channel Tunnel Rail Link a design crime of the most immense proportions

But given that it is impossible to do much with the station, what should be done now?

  • The draughty space between the two separate stations, should be made more welcoming.
  • Information should tell passengers the next trains to all stations.
  • Ticket machines must be provided as you enter, rather than being hidden away.
  • The steps to platforms 5 and 6, should be replaced by short escalators and an inclined lift.

Perhaps most importantly, contactless ticketing using bank cards and Oyster must be available on all Highspeed domestic services. I can use that to get to Gatwick Airport, so why not Ebbsfleet International?

Related Posts

A Trip To Sheppey

A Twelve-Car Ready Railway

Along The North Kent Line

Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations

Connecting North Kent And The Medway Towns To Ebbsfleet International Station

Extending Crossrail To Gravesend

Rainham (Kent) Station

Thameslink To Rainham

Through The Medway Towns

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey?

 

 

September 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 7 Comments