Eurostar has announced it is expanding its network of destinations in continental Europe, following a merger with French-Belgian high-speed train operator Thalys.
While the merger was initially delayed because of the pandemic, the merger was confirmed earlier this week after being approved by the European Commission last month.
Rail bosses have promised the move, known as the “Green Speed Project', will provide customers with a ‘more extensive network, increased connectivity and frequency of service’.
Currently, Eurostar connects travellers from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Rotterdam on direct routes, while Thalys currently operates services between France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
The partnership means Eurostar will be able to extend his European routes to not only allow UK customers to travel to more destinations in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but also reach Germany directly via train for the first time.
Sophie Dutordoir, CEO of Belgian rail company SNCB and chairman of the board for Thalys, told Euronews: “This merger project is based on the firm belief that trains are the most sustainable, fast, efficient and safest way to travel in Europe - now more than ever.”
The merger was first announced back in 2019, but after the outbreak of the pandemic, plans had to be pushed back – not least with both companies facing financial difficulties as ticket sales fell overnight.
In a 2019 statement, Eurostar CEO Mike Cooper said: “As you may be aware, the shareholders of Eurostar have today announced their ambition to bring together Eurostar and Thalys, the French-Belgian high speed rail operator, to create one unified European high speed rail company.
“This is an exciting development for our customers as it will enable us to offer you a more extensive network, increased connectivity and frequency of service and a fleet operating on renewable energy.
“By joining forces with Thalys we will be able to expand our reach and at the same time provide a powerful response to the increasingly serious climate change challenge and the growing demand for sustainable travel.”
When the Project Green Speed was first announced, Guillaume Pepy, President of SNCF - the France's national state-owned railway company, which majority-owns both Thalys and Eurostar - also said: “The challenge of the climate emergency and the demand for eco-responsible transport require an ambitious response.
"By proposing to pool the combined strengths of Eurostar and Thalys we want to respond to this challenge."
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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