From June 2024 to May 2025, no trains will depart from Amsterdam to London due to extensive renovations at Amsterdam Central Station, according to the statement by State Secretary Heijnen of Infrastructure to the House of Representatives. This means that the Eurostar, the train service in question, cannot operate from Amsterdam during this period.
The construction activities make it impossible to house the customs post at Amsterdam Central. The necessary passport and baggage checks remain necessary as the United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen customs zone.
Heijnen expresses its great disappointment about the failure to find a solution to this problem, which causes inconvenience to hundreds of travelers every day. Travelers Association Rover regrets that the train service is interrupted for such a long period of time. Director Freek Bos is dissatisfied: “This is actually unacceptable. It has been a very successful service and action is now being taken. Surely there must be a solution?"
At present, there are four daily trains running between Amsterdam and London, and Eurostar was considering the introduction of a fifth train. A representative of Eurostar reports to ANP that the route between Amsterdam and London is one of their most successful routes.
It is still undecided where travelers should board for the journey to London. Passengers may have to board in Brussels. The ministry indicates that Eurostar's management does not want to leave Rotterdam, reasoning that “the focus is on Amsterdam”. In addition, there is no room for extra checks in Rotterdam.
However, the company indicates that driving exclusively from Rotterdam to London would not be profitable. Rotterdam Central can accommodate about 150 passengers due to the limited space, while the trains can accommodate 900 passengers. Without the passengers boarding in Amsterdam (about 250), the trains would remain too empty. "A calculation shows that without these trains, 21 extra flights from Schiphol will be needed every day," a spokesperson told the ANP news agency.
A sustainable alternative is missing during the renovation. That is why the decision has come as a surprise to large employers who encourage sustainable travel by train. The train to London is an important alternative to the plane for them. The decision of the Secretary of State to put the Eurostar to London on hold for a long time is experienced by the companies as a major damper. Especially now the call for sustainable alternatives from the business community getting louder.
The train has enormous potential for replacing short-haul flights. It remains unclear which options are offered to offer business travelers to London a sustainable alternative. It seems that the more business traveler will only be able to choose the plane once the work starts at Amsterdam Central in June 2024. It is also not clear whether Rotterdam Central will remain a pick-up point. In short, the business traveler is out in the cold.
The Coalitie Anders Reizen, to which more than 70 large employers are affiliated, want to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions of their business mobility. One of the effective measures is replacing flights with trains for short distances. Destinations up to 700 kilometers are traveled by train as much as possible. They have adjusted their policy accordingly. The possibility to travel reliably by train must then be available.
The Coalition Travel differently sees the announced break for the Eurostar to London as a major risk. The routines of business travelers to catch the train are thus broken. The Coalitie Anders Reizen calls on the State Secretary to look more broadly at how the train service can remain intact and be further expanded.
Eurostar Group, which now includes Eurostar and Thalys, celebrated the fifth anniversary of direct rail traffic between Amsterdam/Rotterdam and London in April 2023. More than 1,6 million passengers have taken the high-speed train between London and the Netherlands since the first direct journey from London St Pancras International on 4 April 2018. From the end of the year, both Eurostar and Thalys trains will operate under a single brand: Eurostar. There will be one reservation system and one website with optimized timetables.