New fleet, new interiors and new destinations all part of ambitious European expansion
Eurostar is buying 10 new trains built by German manufacturer Siemens, with interiors designed by the Italian company Pininfarina which will begin operating in 2014. The smarter, faster fleet are part of an overall plan to expand Eurostar train services beyond the UK, France and Belgium, and into Germany and the Netherlands.
Eurostar’s current fleet speeds past some of Europe’s most breathtaking rural scenery at up to 300kph (186mph) but the new trains will be whisking passengers across Europe at top speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour – at speed-of-lightning velocity compared to road travel. The aptly-named “e320” model will take up to 900 passengers, 150 more people than its trains currently accommodate.
Expansion plans also include new routes, with Amsterdam rumoured to be the first choice as one of the new destinations. The journey time from London would be around four hours on one of the new trains.
It’s interesting timing as Germany’s famous high speed train operator Deutsche Bahn is in the early stages of planning to launch services from London which would mean competition for Eurostar.
One significant difference between Eurostar’s current and the brand new fleet of trains is the advantage that the e320 will be interoperable on European rail systems including Germany and the Netherlands, so trains will be able to travel further out. At the moment they can only operate in France and Belgium.
Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, said: "Over the last 16 years Eurostar has revolutionised travel between the London, Paris and Brussels but our sights are now set on expanding our business across Europe."
The higher maximum speed of the e320 means the journey time between Paris and London should eventually be reduced to just over two hours (the current journey time takes from 2h 15m), making it quicker and even easier to escape to a Parisian bistro for dinner before a weekend of shopping and sightseeing in the romantic capital.
Passengers on the new e320s will have access to onboard wifi and interactive entertainment, including video-on-demand, music and news feeds.
Eurostar has said it is investing a cool £700 million in its fleet and is also giving its existing 27 trains a facelift between 2012 and 2014. The German Siemens trains will appear in 2014 and the interiors of the new e320s have been left to the Italians – Pinfarina will design the interiors of both the new and refurbished trains
Petrovic says the investment demonstrates Eurostar’s desire to grow and maintain its position as the leading rail operator between the UK and the continent.