It’s about to get easier and faster to move across western Europe and the United Kingdom by train, thanks to the merger of two major railway operators, Eurostar and Thalys.
Currently, the London-based Eurostar shuttles passengers from London’s St. Pancras station across the Channel Tunnel to several French cities (including Paris, Calais, Lille, and Lyon), as well as Brussels, Belgium, and Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Belgian rail network Thalys serves destinations in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.
While the two companies do overlap, with each already operating some routes in France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, they largely serve different cities within those countries. Additionally, Thalys doesn’t currently operate in the U.K., and Eurostar doesn’t have any trains in Germany.
“This is an exciting development for our customers as it will enable us to offer you a more extensive network, increased connectivity and frequency of service and a fleet operating on renewable energy,” Eurostar CEO Mike Cooper said in a statement.
While it is not yet clear when the merger will go into full effect, when it does, it will mean travelers can move throughout the five countries—the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium—on a single ticket. Other benefits include more departure times and a shared loyalty program.
The hope with these developments is to get more riders on the rails. One of the merger’s goals, known as Project Green Speed, is to increase ridership to 30 million a year by 2030 (prepandemic, the combined passenger figures for the two companies were 19 million).
“By joining forces with Thalys, we will be able to expand our reach and at the same time provide a powerful response to the increasingly serious climate change challenge and the growing demand for sustainable travel,” Cooper said.
The plan was first announced in 2019 but was disrupted by the pandemic. It wasn’t until late March 2022 that the European Commission approved the merger.