High speed rail in Europe on track to provide a painful blow to the airlines

On September 7th, the Dutch rail operator will finally start operating trains on the Amsterdam – Rotterdam high speed line, the next step in making continuous high speed rail travel possible from Amsterdam to Brussels and Paris.

This high speed line had been in the planning phase for over 30 years, and took ten years to build. As with many Dutch infrastructure projects, the environmental impact meant a lot of the track had to be tunneled or bridged, increasing the total cost. One of the longest tunnels crosses under the “Green Heart”, and is almost 8 kilometers long.

There is one minor snag – the trains required for continuous high speed travel have not yet been delivered, so even though there is one long high speed line from The Netherlands, through Belgium to France, parts will still be serviced at low(er) speeds using trains from the existing Thalys service.

Once the new trains are delivered, what will this mean for European travelers? Well, from the city center of Amsterdam to the city center of Paris in just over 3 hours. Or from Rotterdam to Brussels in just 30 minutes. Some times have been cut by more than 50%.

Flying the Amsterdam – Paris route takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but once you add the trip to the airport, check-in time and security, you are easily looking at 4 hours, so it is obvious that the airlines are really going to feel the pain from a 3 hour high speed trip. At the moment though, the current Amsterdam – Paris train takes about the same time as flying (4 hours 10 minutes) so there is no time gained.