by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, October 24, 2018
More than 130,000 travellers have ditched the plane to take the train to Amsterdam, since Eurostar launched its new route to the Dutch capital nearly six months ago, the rail operator has claimed.
The service began in April, some 16 months after its intended debut, departing London St Pancras and arriving in Amsterdam just under four hours later, via Rotterdam.
Eurostar’s CEO Nicolas Petrovic said at the time that the plan was to attract those visitors to the city who “do not enjoy the experience of flying short haul”.
Now, in the first public assessment of the long-awaited route, Eurostar says it has succeeded.
“Our new service between London and Amsterdam/Rotterdam is proving very popular with customers,” the operator said. “Since launching the service in April we have carried over 130,000 additional customers - passengers who are now choosing high speed rail over plane.”
This apparent success is despite the fact there still exists no direct return train to London, owing to border complications. Inbound services must go via Brussels, and passport control, adding time and inconvenience onto the journey.
Eurostar, however, is so confident in the draw of its route that it intends to add a third train a day from June next year to meet demand. It says when a direct return is finally possible, a fourth will follow.
“As soon as the border controls allowing a direct journey are in place from the Netherlands to the UK, we intend to double the current number of trains each day to four, with ambitions for five services a day,” the operator said.
“As a step towards this, and recognising the commitments from the governments to have controls in place by the end of 2019, we will be introducing a third train each day from June 2019.”
State secretary for transport Stientje van Veldhoven said he supported plans for simple return journeys “wholeheartedly… because I want to get as many passengers as possible to choose the train over the plane for short distances within Europe”.
Eurostar said that 130,000 passengers choosing the train over air travel has saved more than 7,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
From a glance at Civil Aviation Authority data that shows air passengers between the UK and Amsterdam, it is hard to establish whether the airlines have taken a hit this year.
For August, for example, according to the most recent data, the number of passengers flying between London Gatwick and Amsterdam was flat, year on year; while Heathrow saw a 3 per cent fall. London City saw a 2 per cent increase, Luton 1 per cent, and Southend 9 per cent. Stansted experienced a 5 per cent rise.
However, the figures for the same-month increases year on year in 2017 were only dramatically different for London Luton, which saw a 35 per cent increase, and City, which saw a 28 per cent increase.
Gavin Haines, who rode the inaugural service to Amsterdam for Telegraph Travel, said of the experience: “The train is better for the environment, more refined and more productive for business passengers; indeed there are plug sockets and free Wi-Fi aboard the new e320 carriages used on this route.
“That’s not all. The seats are more comfortable, there’s more legroom and there are no tedious liquid restrictions or baggage charges to worry about; I was even able to take my fold-up bike, which wouldn’t have been practical on the plane.”