Eurostar Group Ltd., the operator of high-speed trains under the English Channel, promises a “leap into a different league” with new e320 trains from Siemens AG that it expects to have in service by the end of next year.

The 10 new trains, purchased for 700 million pounds ($1.2 billion) last year, have 20 percent more capacity and offer more room for each passenger. They’ll zip from London to Paris and other continental destinations at up to 320 kilometers per hour (199 mph).

“There will be a big, big difference,” Eurostar Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Petrovic said today in an interview. “It will be a leap into a different league.”

Eurostar provided its first London-to-Paris trips in 1994, and has a “good track record” of convincing customers to try taking a train rather than flying, the CEO said. The new trains will have Wi-Fi capability, even as they pass under the Channel. The e320s are key to Eurostar’s plan to have direct transit to Amsterdam starting in December 2016.

“We know that when we have a direct service it becomes a lot more popular,” Petrovic said. “I am very confident on that route.”

The trains are being tested on the lines in Belgium and France, as well as at Eurostar’s maintenance facility in London. The bulk of the work that remains relates to developing different signalling systems that are required for integrating routes in different countries.

Demand and bookings for leisure travel are picking up after a decrease during the World Cup finals and after the timing of the Easter and U.K. May bank holidays caused some travelers to book one trip abroad rather than two, Petrovic said.

Even so, Eurostar reported today that passenger numbers rose 2 percent to 5 million in the first half compared with a year earlier. Revenue gained 0.5 percent to 456 million pounds.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexa Liautaud in London at To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Risser at

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Photo Credit: Eurostar crew members got new uniforms this year. New carriages are following. DNA