Direct trains between London, Amsterdam & Rotterdam set for 2020; Brexit still an issue

From next year the Eurostar train will run directly between London and Amsterdam and Rotterdam, instead of the current arrangement in which travelers leaving the Netherlands have to change trains and go through passport checks in Brussels.

When this direct train service starts in 2020, the passport checks at the Brussels-South station will be a thing of the past, State Secretary Ankei Broerkers-Knol of Justice and Security said in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. An agreement to make this possible has been reached with Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. The launch date was not set, but two years ago Eurostar expected it to begin in Late 2019.

The train from Amsterdam to London now takes 4 hours and 42 minutes, and the return journey is often 47 minutes shorter, slightly longer than expected. Travel time from Rotterdam is a minute shy of four hours, and the return trip can arrive from London in 3 hours and 16 minutes. Eliminating the Brussels stop should shave off three-quarters of an hour on the direct journeys leaving the Netherlands for the for the British capital.

Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit, could complicate the Eurostar plans, mainly because of cargo and passenger luggage transported on the trains. "The issue of customs formalities (and supervision) is not yet a problem when the Brexit agreement is approved and a transition period applies until the end of 2020", the State Secretary said. "However, if there is a 'no deal' Brexit, customs formalities and supervision already play a role at the start of the direct connection."

As the train would travel through the territories of four countries, the agreement to allow the direct train has required a series of complex talks.

One ongoing sticking point in the negotiations between the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom is the powers of foreign passport control personnel working on a train in another countries territory, or at a train station in a different nation. At issue is that Dutch law forbids foreign agents from holding suspects and taking them beyond Netherlands borders. To do so could be deemed criminal unauthorized detention or human trafficking.

The Netherlands is considering giving British border patrol the ability to hold a suspect for a criminal offense or extradition claim and immediately transfer the suspect to the relevant national authority.

Eurostar and the four national governments have been working on the direct train route for several years.