Plans are afoot to merge two high-speed train companies – Eurostar and Thalys – to form one mega rail network spanning five countries, in a response to increasing demand for more sustainable travel options.
SNCF, the French state railway operator that owns a majority stake in both brands, has dubbed the project “Green Speed” and presented the idea to its board.
The idea is to create a sustainable European high-speed rail travel company, offering greater incentive for consumers to opt to take the train rather than flying or driving.
The aim is to up capacity from the current 18.5 million passengers a year to nearly 30 million by 2030, “providing a response to the growing demand for environmentally-responsible travel".
Merging the two operators would provide travellers with a more seamless experience, with one ticket for the whole journey, improved schedules for quick connections, and enhanced digital tools.
SNCF has also highlighted its desire to maximise the use of renewable energy for its fleet by 2030 and further reduce carbon emissions over the next decade.
Once fleshed out, the proposal will have to be approved by the companies’ various boards, as well as the European Commission.
Guillaume Pepy, chairman of SNCF, said: “The challenge of climate change and the demand for eco-responsible travel calls for an ambitious response. Bringing together the strengths of Eurostar and Thalys would be a powerful response to this challenge.
“The creation of a combined European high speed rail company would deliver a compelling alternative to road and air travel for our 18.5 million passengers and would herald a new era in the development of European high speed rail services.”
Sophie Dutordoir, CEO of SNCB and chairman of Thalys, added that the merger is based on the conviction that “now more than ever, the train is the safest, most sustainable, fastest and most efficient solution for travelling inside Europe".
Eurostar currently connects 14 cities across the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, while Thalys serves 26 destinations in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany.
The news comes as the flygskam (flight shame) movement continues to gain traction across Europe, with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's decision to travel to the US and back by boat heightening awareness of the campaign even further.
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