The high-speed train from Deutsche Bahn was carrying out a slow-speed ‘dry run’ trial for a new direct cross-channel link between London’s St Pancras station and Frankfurt in Germany, as well as Amsterdam in Holland, within three years.
Experts say the competition could also mean lower fares with a one way trip to Germany costing as little as £39 to £49.
The German ‘Inter City Express’ train bearing the initial letters ‘ICE’ adorned as a red, white and blue Union Flag, aims to replace passenger jets as the main transport to Germany’s financial capital and the Rhineland from 2013.
Three services will run daily, and will also serve Brussels, Cologne and Rotterdam. The German company wants to run services direct between London and the continent three times a day.
Trains would leave London, travel to Brussels and then split. One half of the train would go on to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, with the other half travelling to Frankfurt via Cologne. The trains would be capable of travelling at 200mph.
It is the latest step in the plan to create high speed rail links across Britain and Europe – from Edinburgh to Madrid and Manchester to Marseilles.But while trains will hit 200mph on the Continent, tunnels on the UK side of the Channel mean high speed trains are restricted in many places to 140mph.
Launching the plan at St Pancras, Deutsche Bahn boss Dr Ruediger Grube who travelled with the train through the Channel Tunnel said it marked ‘ a new era’ of train travel adding:’Europe is becoming a small place.
‘Every day there are around 50 flights between the Greater London area and the region of Frankfurt and the Rhineland.’
Until now that was out of reach of the railways, he said:’But times change. Thanks to new railway lines, new high speed trains, and new transport policies, we will be able to share in that market.’
The plan is for three trains a day to Leave St Pancras carrying 888 passengers in 16 coaches formed of two coupled trains heading across the Channel. In Brussels, the trains will split, with eight carriages carrying 444 passengers heading to Rotterdam and then Amsterdam.
The other eight carriages will head to Cologne and then Frankfurt. Deutsche Bahn officials said the journey time from Cologne to London would be under four hours – less than the time it takes to get to Berlin, around four and a half hours: ‘Passenger can choose which capital they prefer – yours or ours,’ said one DB official.