London-Amsterdam direct by train in three hours 41 minutes – that is what Eurostar promises from April.
The Channel Tunnel train operator says the new link will transform travel and expand the market between the two cities.
But because of a bureaucratic hold-up, passengers coming back will need to change trains at Brussels, with journeys taking an hour longer.
The outbound journey will depart twice a day on weekdays from London St Pancras, at 8.31am and 5.31pm; on Saturdays only the morning train will run, and on Sundays only the evening train.
It will run non-stop to Brussels, a record journey of just one hour 48 minutes, saving 17 minutes on the current time.
After the Belgian capital, it will stop at Rotterdam, three hours and one minute after leaving London – providing connections to a wide range of Dutch stations. The train will pass through Schiphol airport station before arriving at Amsterdam’s handsome Centraal station. The morning train will arrive at 1.12pm, the evening train at 10.12pm.
Eurostar’s chief executive, Nicolas Petrovic, said: “The launch of our service to the Netherlands represents an exciting advance in cross-Channel travel and heralds a new era in international high speed rail.
“With direct services from the UK to the Netherlands, France and Belgium, we are transforming the links between the UK and three of Europe’s top trading nations.”
He told The Independent: “We will take a bit of market share from the airlines, but we will grow the market.”
London-Amsterdam is one of the busiest and most fiercely competitive air routes in Europe. A British Airways spokesperson said: “We know our customers enjoy the choice of 17 flights from London a day, with airports to suit travellers starting their journey from all across the region. And with a flight time of just 80 minutes, they’ll be sampling a beer by the canals long before the train pulls in.”
And easyJet flies from four London airports to Amsterdam, offering 21 daily flights each way. “We carry 1.9m passengers a year and provide easy and affordable fares from £29.99 one way,” said a spokesperson.
Eurostar’s city-centre to city-centre fares will start at £35 one way. Mr Petrovic told The Independent: “We need to build loyalty. We are back to the pioneering days of 1994, when we first served Paris. While the British know about Eurostar, the Dutch do not.”
In addition to the London links, Eurostar will be selling tickets between Brussels and Amsterdam.
The problem with inbound trains revolves around finalising a deal between the UK and the Netherlands on “juxtaposed border controls”, allowing British officials to check passports of passengers at Amsterdam and the intermediate step of Rotterdam.
“We need the two governments to agree how to do that,” said Mr Petrovic.
Until agreement is reached, the best route for UK-bound passengers will involve a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Brussels Midi, and a change to a Eurostar service. The fastest journey time is four hours 40 minutes.
Trains between the UK and Dutch capitals have been long promised, with the German operator Deutsche Bahn announcing, and then cancelling, a link five years ago.
Eurostar was hoping to pilot the route last year, but a range of technical issues intervened.
Mark Smith, founder of the international rail website, Seat61, said: “Eurostar is planning direct trains in an airline-competitive three hours 41 minutes, hassle-free, with room to work, power sockets, free wi-fi and, in 1st class, a meal and wine served at your seat.
“Eurostar has already captured 70 per cent of the London-Paris market, and this new service is a game-changer for London-Amsterdam. I expect two trains a day is just the start.”
Richard Gadsden tweeted connections for the morning outbound train from other UK cities: 5.05am from Manchester Piccadilly, 5.30am from Leeds, 6.10am from Birmingham New Street, 6.04am from Leicester and 5.32am from Nottingham.
Tickets go on sale on 20 February, the same day as a special promotional train will run.
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