New high-speed train from Air France due to hit the rails in 2010
Good news for travellers between France and the UK. Very soon they will have more choices and possibly quicker trips and lower fares. Air France-KLM announced last month that it will offer high-speed train service between Paris and London starting in 2010. Service between Paris and Amsterdam is also planned, which will allow travellers to then connect to other trains going to other points in Europe.
The announcement comes in anticipation of the end of the monopoly held by Eurostar on the use of the rails and the Channel Tunnel in two years, when new “open access” laws take effect.
Not only will the new Air France train offer travellers more choice in train travel, the company also says it will be a time-saver.The trip from London to Paris could take less than two hours under Air France’s plan to bring a new generation of high-speed trains to the St. Pancras station in London, the most recently added stop on the Eurostar itinerary. The new Air France trains will be capable of a maximum speed of 224 mph, which is 38 mph faster than the current top speed of trains running to France.
When Eurostar launched its Paris-London train service, using the brand new Channel Tunnel, it was a novelty. Until then the only choices for travel between the two cities was either to fly to to take the long drive to Calais, the ferry to Dover and a drive or a train to London. Eurostar revolutionized travel by making it possible to go from the center of Paris to the center of London in about 4 hours by train. Over the years, as the technology of the French trains and the tracks were improved, travel time was cut to just over 2 hours 40 minutes.
Eurostar officials scoff at the claims of Air France that their new trains will cut the journey to under two hours, saying that the tracks are already at the limit as to the train speed they can accommodate.
Train travel has become the mode of choice for many travellers between Paris and London, both for convenience and price. As rising oil prices have hit airlines, trains have become comparatively more economical. Use of Eurostar jumped 18% in the first half of 2008. As far as convenience goes, Eurostar — and soon the Air France train — travels between city centers, rather than airports in outlying areas, obviating the need for a long, expensive taxi ride into town. For the growing number of people in France and elsewhere concerned about the environment, train travel also offers a greener mode of transportation.
By launching the rail service, Air France is taking an “if you can’t beat’ em, join ’em” strategy. Rather than continuing to compete and trying to convince travellers to use their planes, they will offer their own, better version of the competition’s service.
Virgin Atlantic and the German rail company Deutsche Bahn are also said to be considering similar services once the monopoly is lifted.
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