Eurostar to step up Europe’s train travel ‘revolution’

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LONDON - Eurostar, the operators of the high-speed passenger rail link between Britain and mainland Europe, Thursday vowed to continue the “revolution” in European train travel with an expansion of its network and fleet.

From 2011, Eurostar International Ltd will embark on a major investment programme of 700 million pounds ($1.1 billion) for the complete overhaul and refurbishment of its existing fleet and the purchase of 10 new trains, the company announced in London.

Capacity would be increased by 20 percent with the purchase of the new trains, which are expected to be delivered in 2014. They will be able to carry 900 passengers each, reach speeds of 320 km an hour and cut travel time between London and Paris to two hours.

The announcement coincided with the presentation in London Thursday of the Eurostar e320, a state-of-the-art design by German engineering firm Siemens, which has been named preferred bidder by Eurostar.

“Following completion of a competitive tender process, Eurostar has advised the participants of its decision to award the contract for the manufacture of new trainsets, subject to negotiation of final terms, to the train manufacturer, Siemens Plc,” a statement said.

According to Petrovic, “a few legal details” are still to be completed in the Siemens deal. The Siemens trains do at present not fully comply with safety rules in the tunnel, reports have said.

The Eurostar decision in favour of Siemens is likely to anger the French government which has been pressing for the new trains to be built by French company Alstom.

Alstom said Thursday that the current security rules applying to trains travelling through the Channel Tunnel conform to the highest possible standards and consequently do not permit the use of the trains that Eurostar states it has purchased.

“The definition and the possible evolution of these rules are neither the responsibility of the rail operators nor of the rolling stock manufacturers nor of the Channel Tunnel operator,” said the company.

The new trains and the refurbished fleet would make Eurostar “the obvious choice for short-haul European travel”, Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic told a news conference in London.

“Over the last 16 years Eurostar has revolutionized travel between London, Paris and Brussels but our sights are now set on expanding our business across Europe,” he said.

Among the destinations he hoped the new trains might travel to were the Netherlands, Germany and Geneva in Switzerland, said Petrovic.

German railways Deutsche Bahn plans to use the rail link through the Channel Tunnel for services to Cologne and Frankfurt from 2013.

Filed under: Economy

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