Faster rail journeys from the UK to France, the Netherlands and Germany could be a reality in two years as Air France-KLM has signalled its intention to run a rival train line to the current Eurostar service.

Journey times are expected to be slashed from the 2hr 15min it currently takes to travel from London to Paris to just under two hours, with fares also predicted to fall when competition increases.

The airline plans to launch its London to Paris and Paris to Amsterdam service by October 2010 according to reports.

“This shows that airlines now realise that high-speed rail is increasingly the natural choice for business and leisure journeys across Europe,” said a Eurostar spokesperson.

It is also believed that Virgin Atlantic is exploring the possibility of setting up its own high-speed rail service, while Deutsche Bahn has made public its intention to establish a London-Cologne service in 2010 after EU liberalisation policies comes into effect.

The move from Air-France-KLM comes as many airlines across Europe are making redundancies, cancelling non-profitable routes and in some cases closing altogether, as the price of oil stays high and the world’s attitude changes to short haul travel.

Competition forces change
Earlier this year, Air France complained that rail companies were receiving to much assistance from governments across the continent and that it amounted to unfair competition.

“Although competition in business is to be encouraged, it must however be fair, and the ground rules must be identical for all players,” stated a company spokesperson in an official statement. “Today, however, the various modes of transport operate according to different principles. On the one hand, the cost of the TGV’s infrastructure is funded by a nationalized company, the RFF (Réseau Ferré de France), specifically set up to this intent and therefore indirectly paid for by the taxpayer and not the operating company, French National Railways (SNCF), whereas Air France customers finance infrastructures directly. On the other hand, despite being already heavily taxed, the air transport industry must also pay for security measures while the railways do not since this is the government’s domain. Air France passengers have to pay an additional tax, this time to pay for security measures.”

Late last year a seven-member consortium of Europe’s biggest train companies signed an agreement to streamline services across the continent’s borders for rail passengers.

Called Railteam, the €30million project will install information points throughout major rail hubs in Brussels, Cologne, Lille, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. Improved connection with London and Paris will also go operational by 2009.

“For overseas property buyers, it’s the main TGV network that is interesting and allows property owners to access their property through a choice of travel,” said Katie Ash, from French property specialist VEF. Source: OPP

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