Eurostar wants to turn Amsterdam into a full-fledged European train hub
Amsterdam must develop into a full-fledged European hub for train travel through Europe, said Gwendoline Cazenave, the head of the Eurostar Group, in an interview with ANP. Preparations are already underway, and all modifications are expected to be ready in 2025, she told the newswire. In this way, the Eurostar Group, which includes both Thalys and Eurostar, will be working towards a goal of processing 30 million passengers annually by 2030.
Currently, four trains depart the Dutch capital for London every day. That also includes transportation for intercontinental travelers who arrive in the Netherlands by plane and take the train in Amsterdam. In time, Cazenave would like to add a fifth train. "The train has to run a little earlier in the day, which makes it more attractive for business travelers in particular to opt for a train journey. They will then leave Amsterdam early and can be in London on time for appointments."
The growing demand for train travel has now picked up again, after the coronavirus crisis had again halted rail traffic in Europe last year. Cazenave said that the number of passengers on the Eurostar in March 2022 was only 10 percent of the total capacity available in 2019, the last year before the pandemic. Passenger bookings on the Thalys in March 2022 accounted for 30 percent of total capacity compared to 2019.
"But overnight demand picked up again, and by May we were at 80 percent for both stretches." Both trains are now fully operational again.
But to continue to grow, changes are necessary. There are already plans for this in Amsterdam. Ultimately, 600 people should be able to board a Eurostar train at Amsterdam Central Station, but capacity is currently limited to 200 people. This is due to the size of the terminal where passport checks are carried out now that the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union. The capacity of a Eurostar train between Amsterdam and London is 900 passengers. The layout of the stations is therefore one of the biggest obstacles to the target of 30 million passengers per year.
The rail infrastructure in the Netherlands may also hinder further growth, but Cazenave remains optimistic, saying the passenger target is still realistic. The cooperation with parties such as the Dutch national railway, NS, and railroad infrastructure firm ProRail regarding the timetable is "the future" for this, according to the Eurostar leader. These partnerships are key to adding the fifth daily train to London. "For example, we must ensure that we have sufficient capacity to work towards a more sustainable world and a more sustainable way of traveling."
Cazenave said she is not yet thinking about expanding the number of destinations. For this to happen, the infrastructure and timetable must first be properly aligned. Moreover, by the end of the year, the Thalys brand will disappear from the railways as a result of a merger with Eurostar. From that moment on, passengers will travel on a Eurostar-branded train to Brussels and Paris, which is now operated by the signature red and grey Thalys trains.
Reporting by ANP