European rail speeds up

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The Independent Travel

The latest phase of development on European rail lines will mean that from December 13, 2010, travelers between Brussels and Amsterdam will be able to complete the international journey by train in 1 hour 53 minutes. Thalys will also put Cologne in Germany 1 hour 47 minutes away from Brussels.

The new high-speed rail, laid between Antwerp in Belgium and Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, will allow Thalys to accelerate to up to 300km/h (186mph), making it one of the fastest high-speed rail links in the world. The speed increase is predicted to shave 49 minutes from the current total time between Amsterdam and Brussels and 29 minutes between Brussels and Cologne.

Thalys operators are aiming for a 65 percent increase in traffic between Paris and Amsterdam, and a 30 percent rise between Paris and Cologne. To achieve this, it is also planning to increase the frequency of services between Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, a direct challenge to the airlines which cover the route. Thalys claims that the speed increase and new services could reduce carbon emissions by 25,700 tonnes for 500,000 passengers.

Whilst high speed rail travel has traditionally been considered expensive to run due to the initial and ongoing infrastructure costs, European rail has seen considerable activity in 2009. Earlier this year, the European Union announced that it would open up international rail lines to competition on January 1, 2010, meaning that any operator will - theoretically - be able to bid to run any service. Thalys is one of several European high-speed rail systems which could soon see competition on its route. Another route likely to be viewed as attractive is the line currently running Eurostar services, which connects Great Britain with France underneath the Channel.

Europe by Rail
ICE, Germany - Top speed 300km/h
TGV, France - Top speed 300 km/h
Eurostar, France/Belgium/UK - Top speed 300km/h
Trenitalia, Italy - Top speed 300km/h
AVE, Spain - Top speed 300km/h