Start-up announces Amsterdam to London and Paris high speed train ambitions

EUROPE: A proposal to launch high speed train services from Amsterdam to London and from Groningen to Paris has been announced by Dutch start-up Heuro, while Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson is also reported to be looking at competing with Eurostar on cross-Channel routes. On November 15 Heuro told Railway Gazette International that it aims to launch in 2028, offering 16 Amsterdam – Paris and 15 Amsterdam – London trains each day with intermediate stops at Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam Centraal, Antwerpen Centraal and Brussels. Two of the Paris trains would run to and from Groningen via Assen, Zwolle and Almere.   The company said ‘every day, 55 planes fly from Amsterdam to London, while only four trains make this journey. Heuro intends to change that, aiming for more trains to depart from Amsterdam than flights’. The leadership of Heuro includes Roemer van den Biggelaar, Ventures Manager at Amsterdam-based marketing company Marveltest, and Marveltest Managing Partner Bhup Singh. Heuro said its team includes former board members of Dutch national operator NS, bringing expertise in rail operations, and it is supported by investment firms from the USA and Switzerland. The unspecified trainsets would be designed to travel at more than 300 km/h and would accommodate up to 550 passengers. The services would be ‘not just a travel alternative, but a leap towards a more connected and sustainable Europe’, with ‘the best internet experience’ and ‘quality food’ with prices which would be ’both fair and transparent’. Heuro said it aims to replicate Italy’s high speed rail sector, which it said ‘stands as a testament to the benefits of competition in the industry’. It said the launch of Italo in competition with Trenitalia ‘resulted in a 40% fare reduction and a market growth of up to 300%’, and ‘exemplifies the potential impact Heuro aims to achieve in the Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris – London network’. Other operators Heuro’s announcement comes after Spanish start-up Evolyn announced plans in October for a Paris – London service, while on November 11 British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that Sir Richard Branson and Phil Whittingham, former head of Virgin Trains and Avanti West Coast, were also drawing up plans to compete with Eurostar and had held discussions with infrastructure managers. Commenting on the proposals, the AllRail association of new entrants to the rail market said it welcomed newcomers which would ’bring more choice and more trains to a market that is chronically underserved’. AllRail said ‘in all countries where high speed rail competition has been introduced, the fares for passengers have dropped and passenger numbers have grown fast. It is a clear win for modal shift to rail.’ AllRail President Dr Erich Forster added that ‘competition in Italy has led to more choice and more trains. It is clearly the solution for the northwest European high-speed rail market as well. Put simply, start-ups such as Heuro are the future of passenger rail.’