Posted 19th October 2010 | 3 Comments

First DB train at St Pancras, as French protests grow

THE first foreign train was due to arrive in London at about 02.00 today, in preparation for a formal reception ceremony which will be attended by the transport minister Theresa Villiers. The Deutsche Bahn ICE set travelled through the Channel Tunnel after several tests, including a full-scale evacuation on Sunday, but was expected to be hauled powerless to London by Eurotunnel locomotives.

Its arrival will be welcomed by some, including DB chief executive Rüdiger Grube, but the event will also be accompanied by high-level controversy.

The French government and train-builder Alstom have launched a vigorous campaign of opposition to the use of Siemens-built ICEs in the Channel Tunnel, and their anger has been heightened by the decision of the Eurostar board earlier this month to proceed with the acquisition of ten German-built Siemens Velaro-D sets for new routes from 2014.

Eurostar is planning to run beyond its present main termini in Paris and Brussels to Amsterdam, Geneva and Lyon, and destinations in other countries, including Germany, are not being ruled out.

The new Velaros will be needed to run on High Speed lines beyond Brussels and also to countries such as Germany and Switzerland, because there is no room on the present Eurostar fleet for further layers of equipment to cope with the additional types of signalling and traction current which will be encountered.

However, the French are now reported to be taking their complaint, in which they allege that Siemens trains will not meet Channel Tunnel safety rules, to the European Commission.

Even so, today's DB event at St Pancras will be a major milestone in the development of international train services to London. Expansion has been made possible by the introduction of international open access across Europe at the start of this year, and there is good reason to believe that more potential operators to London will make themselves known in due course.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Joe, London, UK

    Sleeper trains are being withdrawn all across Europe - they're generally just not financially viable, so I doubt if we'll see sleeper trains (which have about 20% of the capacity of seating trains) running through the tunnel. And as for the rest of Europe's rail network being decades ahead of the UK, well, going by the (in)frequency and (lack of) speed on most of the Continental network that is away from the high-speed lines (ie 95% of the network), I sincerely hope that we are not following them. There's more to a rail newtork than high-speed lines; unfortunately many countries, as well as the UK press, seem to have forgotten that.

  • Lorentz, London

    The safety issues are a sop, and a blatant attempt at protectionism on the part of the French.

    This implies no changes to the UK network, but towards growth in continental destinations and increased competition. The French network is not as advanced as it is made out to be; the high speed services are great, but local services are dreadful with SNCF far behind the standards offered by the UK ATOCs.

  • Andrew, London

    Aside from the obvious safety concerns this is great news. Finally Britain's pre-historic rail network is not only catching up with the rest of Europe - which, for example in France, is decades ahead of the UK's - but is now beginning to fully integrate itself into the pan-European network. Where next? Overnight sleepers from London to Venice, Copenhagen? Prague even? My only concern is DB's proposal for the tunnel fan system? Will this meet safety standards? We shall see.