Authorities have found there is room for another rail company in the Channel Tunnel, and this will speed the ride for millions of incremental rail passengers.
Deutsche Bahn AG has been granted the right to run London-bound trains through the Channel Tunnel in competition with Eurostar Group Ltd. following three years of study by the body responsible for safety in the subsea link.
The German state rail company was given the go-ahead by the Anglo-French Intergovernmental Commission, Groupe Eurotunnel SA, which runs the 30-mile shaft, said in a statement today. The approval process was drawn out because the rolling stock to be used wasn’t permitted under existing safety rules.
The entry of Deutsche Bahn, which doesn’t plan to commence services before 2016, could add as many as 4 million passengers on German and Dutch routes to the 10 million who already use Eurostar’s express services, Eurotunnel said.
“This is wonderful news,” Eurotunnel Chief Executive Officer Jacques Gounon said in the statement. “Twenty years after the start of commercial services, the authorities have finally opened the Channel Tunnel to all.”
Deutsche Bahn plans to employ coupled pairs of trains from Siemens AG with motors slung under the railcars and requiring a staggered evacuation, the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority said in 2010 after the original submission.
“Deutsche Bahn warmly welcomes this decision,” the Berlin-based company said in a statement. “We don’t currently anticipate that the trains will be in complete operation on routes through Belgium and France before 2016.”
Eurostar, controlled by French state rail operator SNCF, links London with Paris and Brussels using an older Alstom SA model based on the TGV, meeting a requirement for a full-length train that can be evacuated from both ends of a single corridor.
Eurostar has also ordered Siemens e320 trains for delivery from mid-2014 which are earmarked for new services to Amsterdam. CEO Nicolas Petrovic said in March the stock could alternatively be deployed on existing routes to Paris and Brussels or to southern France because of high Dutch access charges.
Deutsche Bahn said in 2011 that services from Frankfurt to London via the Channel Tunnel had been put back from 2013 to 2015 after production of Siemens Velaro-D trains was held up by component supply issues, and the company said today that the 2016 service entry target relates to the production delays.
Eurostar’s e320 trains are also based on the Velaro series.
Editors: Heather Harris, Chris Jasper. To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Jasper in London at [email protected]; Alex Webb in Munich at [email protected]. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected]; Simon Thiel at [email protected].
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Photo credit: Deutsche Bahn ICE 3 high speed train leaves the Channel Tunnel during the preliminary tests in Coquelles, northern France, October 13, 2010. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters