Eurostar fails to back up transport secretary’s claim on expansion of international rail routes

The government is “fully committed” to expanding the network of international trains running to and from the UK, with potential destinations including Spain, Portugal and Italy, the Transport Secretary has claimed.

Speaking after the first direct Amsterdam-London Eurostar train arrived at St Pancras International, Grant Shapps said: “We are fully committed to expanding international rail routes as a Government – and Eurostar is too.

“Among those destinations mentioned to be added in the future is Bordeaux, Spain, Portugal, Geneva and beyond into the rest of Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Frankfurt. Ultimately, we want to see seamless connections, with continental high-speed networks to destinations lighting up across the departure board.”

However, despite these lofty ambitions, Eurostar doesn’t seem to be in as much of a hurry as Mr Shapps.

“We are always open to exploring new destinations, but at the moment our focus is on making a success of our new service between London and Amsterdam,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

Eurostar currently goes direct from London to 12 destinations across France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The company has previously announced its intention to bring together Eurostar and Thalys, the French-Belgian high speed rail operator, to create one unified European high speed rail company.

Labelled Project Green Speed, the merger, planned for 2021, would enable Eurostar to offer a “more extensive network, increased connectivity and frequency of service, and a fleet operating on renewable energy”.

Tuesday’s preview train from Amsterdam to London was the first service where passengers could go through security and passport control at the Dutch capital rather than having to do it in Brussels before changing trains.

Tickets for the new direct service will go on sale on 11 February, with the first commercial train going from Amsterdam on 30 April. Trains will run twice daily, Monday to Friday, with one a day at weekends.

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