Wednesday, 20 October 2010

German rail giant sends 200mph train into London on 'trial run' in bid to slash journey times to Europe


The high-speed Deutshe Bahn ICE3 InterCity Express train at St Pancas International station this morning on its trial run

A 200-mph German bullet train has crossed the Channel and rolled into Britain today from the nation most renowned for making its railways run on time.

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.

A train guard by the train which Deutsche Bahn wants to prove it can run safely through the Channel Tunnel

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.

A passenger carriage inside the German train which arrived at St Pancras this morning

Inside the cockpit of the ICE - which is capable of hitting 200mph

The ICE train route from London will slash journey times to Frankfurt

The German challenger arrived less than three weeks after Eurostar unveiled plans for its own 200mph bullet trains to whisk passengers from London to Paris in under two hours - as well as starting its own direct links to Amsterdam.

German railway giant Deutsche Bahn has been busy buying up a number of UK train operators and has now set its sight on taking on the airlines and arch rival Eurostar to win passenger services between the UK and the Continent.

It aims to slash the train travelling time from Central London to Frankfurt, nicknamed 'Bankfurt' in Germany, because it is the nation's major financial centre, from around six hours to five.

It also mean business travellers and tourists can relax for longer in their seats or work via wi-fi rather than enduring the hassle of airline check-in, security and trips to and from the airport.

Mr Grube said:'Three pairs of trains will connect Frankfurt and London via Cologne, Brussels, and Lille, with one train running in each direction in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening.

'This will also be the first time that Amsterdam and Rotterdam have a direct connection with London.'

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said it was 'great news' adding:'For many people high speed rail is a more convenient alternative to air or road - allowing them to hop on board in the city centre and catch up on some work along the way.'

However the high speed German-built Inter City Express (ICE) trains have first to pass stringent safety tests to pass through the Channel Tunnel - including evacuations.

Their arrival nevertheless highlights how far international relations have moved. Seventy years ago, at the height of the Battle of Britain, the narrow strip of water was all that separated Britain from German invasion. Today the nation which was defeated is now running much of Britain's railways.

The new train is being built by Siemens, the German firm which is also, controversially, building the new second-generation 200-mph Eurostar train - despite massive French anger and threatened legal challenges.

Eurostar launched in 1994 and now carries 9 million passengers a year between London, Paris and Brussels.

Earlier this month Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced details of the UK's own new bullet trains, with work on the £33billion high-speed project known as High Speed 2 (HS2) set to start in 2015.

It plans to link to the existing London to Folkestone Channel Tunnel link, now known as High Speed 1 (HS1).

The new British bullet trains will run initially to Birmingham before forking off into a 'Y-shaped' route north of Birmingham, with separate legs from the West Midlands to Manchester and the North West and to Leeds and the North East.

Mr Hammond says the proposed new 250mph high speed train service will slash journey times from London to the North by up to an hour. But the London to Birmingham stretch will not be complete until 2026, with lines to the North completed around 2033.

In April Deutsche Bahn - which now employs 27,800 people in the UK - agreed a £1.59billion take-over of UK bus and rail firm Arriva, which includes CrossCountry and Welsh rail services.

It has a 20 per cent strake in London buses, runs the Chiltern Railways route between London and Birmingham Snow Hill, owns the company which runs the Royal Train and recently won the contract to operate the Tyneside Metro in Newcastle and Gateshead.

It also has a 50 per cent shares in the London Overground and Wrexham and Shropshire.

Eurostar passengers pass the ICE high speed train at St Pancras this morning

source :dailymail


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