The new Eurostar – which has been created following the merger of Eurostar and Thalys – has launched with a new brand identity, all underpinned by its new motto, ‘Together We Go Further’.
The launch, which includes a new website, mobile app and loyalty program, has kicked off with a new 60-second advertisement created by adam&eveDDB and DDB Paris, which will launch across the rail operators European destinations from 16 October 2023.
In addition to the TV spot, the campaign also features a number of out of home and digital elements, for which ten artists were commissioned from the cities served by Eurostar, with the aim of ‘bringing each destination to life’.
“Travel inspires us and renews our sense of creativity, which we wanted to bring to life in our new campaign. We wanted to create the feeling of excitement customers feel when they are about to embark on a journey to discover Europe. We have packed the commercial and OOH ads with hidden details for the public to enjoy and discover the more they revisit, in the same way we explore our destinations,” said François Le Doze, chief commercial officer at Eurostar.
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Travelers will have a new option between Barcelona and Lyon, and Madrid and Marseille come July. That’s when Spain’s rail operator, Renfe, will launch new through high-speed train service on both routes, and reconnecting the country’s high-speed rail networks after an eight month hiatus.
Renfe will launch AVE high-speed train service from Barcelona to Lyon on July 13, and Madrid to Marseille on July 28. Both services will initially operate four-days-a-week — Friday through Monday — before expanding to daily in September and October, respectively. Travel times, however, will not exactly be speedy: Barcelona-Lyon will take just under five hours, and Madrid-Marseille just over eight hours.
Travelers can fly between Barcelona and Lyon on either EasyJet or Vueling in an hour-and-a-half, and between Madrid and Marseille on either Iberia or Ryanair in an hour-and-forty-five minutes, according to Cirium Diio schedules.
However, an increased concern in climate issues in Europe could work to Renfe’s benefit. Air France executives have said that they doubt domestic France travel demand will ever return to 2019 levels as many travelers, including lucrative corporates, switch to trains for more trips where rail options are competitve.
Renfe’s new cross-border service is not the first on either the Barcelona-Lyon or Madrid-Marseille routes. France’s SNCF operated high-speed TGV trains in partnership with Renfe on both routes until December.
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn expects a very good year in 2023. Ridership on its long-distance trains is forecast to be “well over” 150 million passengers, exceeding the peak before the pandemic of 150.7 million riders, CEO Richard Lutz said Thursday.
But while that outlook shows the strong demand for travel and resilience of rail in the post-pandemic world, it also highlights the limits of Deutsche Bahn’s network — once a leader in Europe. On-time performance of its long-distance trains dropped to a historic low of 65 percent as travelers flooded back, the operator said. For comparison, 76 percent of Deutsche Bahn’s trains were on time in 2019 when they carried 12 percent more riders.
Lutz used the operational situation to call for Germany to “change course and approach the renovation and modernization of [rail] infrastructure in a completely different way.”
Last year, Deutsche Bahn carried 132 million travelers on its long-distance trains. While still below pre-pandemic levels, ridership hit records during the summer — when the so-called 9 euro ticket on local and regional trains attracted people in droves to the system — and over the Christmas holiday. The operator opened a new high-speed rail line on a section between Stuttgart and Munich, and introduced new high-spreed trains, dubbed the ICE 3neo, in December. Deutsche Bahn also signed on as the Star Alliance’s first intermodal partner, and saw an increase in the number of passengers connecting between trains and planes.
“Climate-friendly mobility is booming,” Lutz said. “The demand is right and is currently growing strongly. This spurs us on to become better for our customers as quickly as possible – because Germany deserves a railway that is more efficient and punctual.”
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn saw demand for connections between its trains and flights operated by Lufthansa increase 25 percent last year. The increase comes after the railroad and airline expanded their partnership, including more direct trains to the Frankfurt airport, in 2021.
“Where aviation and rail cooperate, we record double-digit growth rates,” said Michael Peterson, the head of Deutsche Bahn’s long-distance rail division that includes high-speed ICE trains, on Monday. “Our expanded feeder services to the largest German airport in Frankfurt am Main are part of this success.”
While Deutsche Bahn did not release passenger numbers, it said demand for these joint air-rail itineraries — or travelers who book both a flight and train connection on a single ticket — fully recovered from the pandemic by October 2021, and then grew in 2022. The data does not include travelers who bought flight and train tickets separately.
Lufthansa has previously said that it sold roughly 575,000 joint air-rail tickets with Deutsche Bahn in 2019.
Increasing the use of rail and ground transport over flights is a big push in Europe’s efforts to cut carbon emissions. France has banned short flights on routes where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less, while airlines and rail operators in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland have all unveiled expanded partnerships in recent years. Deutsche Bahn, which has partnered with Lufthansa since the 1980s, even plans to join the global airline confab, Star Alliance, as its first intermodal partner.
However, major challenges remain, many related to the passenger experience and physical infrastructure. Wayfinding between flights and trains is limited at some airports, making the transfer experience potentially difficult for those unfamiliar with the process. And, outside of key high-speed rail routes in Western Europe, trains often take significantly longer than the flights they compete with.
Deutsche Bahn, in its statement Monday, highlighted the need for more infrastructure investment in order to expand the number of air-rail passengers. A new high-speed line between Munich and Stuttgart that opened in December will eventually link the Stuttgart airport, and the operator said a high-speed rail link to the Munich airport was needed in the future.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday unveiled plans for a high-speed train route connecting their respective capitals, Paris and Berlin, beginning next year.
“As a tangible initiative illustrating our will to push forward on decarbonizing our economies and our societies, as well as our cross-border links, we support the deployment of the high-speed train route between Paris and Berlin, as well as the night train liaison, both announced for 2024,” they said in a joint statement. They did not provide additional details, for example which country’s rail operator — France’s SNCF or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn — would operate the planned service.
A direct Paris-Berlin high-speed rail service would eliminate the need for travelers to change trains in either Cologne or Frankfurt. However, as rail blogger Alon Levy noted, without additional infrastructure improvements the new direct service will likely take about the 8 hours in travel, or about the same as the current connecting services.
Flights between Paris and Berlin take roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.
Deutsche Bahn and SNCF operate 24 trains between France and Germany daily, according to the latter’s website. Trains directly connect Paris and other French cities with Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and other German cities.
Spain’s rail operator Renfe has begun testing two new cross-border high-speed rail routes to France that could begin carrying passengers by summer.
Renfe tested through AVE train service from Madrid Atocha to Marseille on Tuesday, and from Barcelona Sants to Lyon on Monday. Once driver training and familiarization is complete, the operator aims to begin initial revenue service of three weekly trains on each route by summer. Renfe plans to increase the number of trains on both routes to twice daily — or 28 high-speed trains a day between France and Spain — under its second phase service plan.
Renfe did not disclose the expected duration of both routes. However, the Madrid-Marseille service would make 13 intermediate stops, including in Barcelona; and the Barcelona-Lyon route would make seven stops, including in Perpignan.
Expanding cross-border rail links is a goal of European Union authorities as they aim to cut the bloc’s carbon emissions. While many individual countries have invested in their own high-speed rail networks, connections between the networks are limited. Only about 7 percent of cross-border trips in Europe are made by rail, according to the European Commission’s DG Move department.
The rail link between France and Spain first opened in 2013. Renfe and France’s SNCF previously cooperated on cross-border rail service between Barcelona and both Lyon and Marseille but terminated their partnership in December. The SNCF operated Barcelona-Lyon trains made the trip in roughly 5 hours. Renfe’s new through trains will replace some of the services previously operated under the partnership.
SNCF operates three daily high-speed TGV trains between Barcelona Sants and Paris Gare de Lyon.
Private passenger rail operator Brightline carried a record 1.23 million passengers last year, the railroad’s first full year of operations since 2019. The number, which the railroad released in a monthly financial disclosure on Wednesday, represents a nearly 22 percent increase in ridership from three years earlier before the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the financial side of the ledger, Brightline’s annual revenues increased nearly 49 percent to $32 million in 2022 compared to three years earlier.
The 2022 numbers bode well for Brightline, which is the only private intercity rail operator in the U.S. The railroad is in the process of extending its Florida line to Orlando, which is expected to open for passengers later this year. Construction of the extension to the Orlando airport was 90 percent complete at the end of December. A future extension to Tampa is planned with Universal Orlando recently committing funds to construction of a critical 11-mile segment across Orlando.
Brightline recently released the first renderings of its new station at the Orlando airport. The facility is directly connected to the airport’s new Terminal C that opened last September.
Ridership on Brightline’s South Florida rail line between Miami and West Palm Beach got a year-end boost with the opening of two new stations — in Aventura and Boca Raton — in late December. The two stations added 17,682 riders to Brightline trains in just the last 10 days of the year.
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will reduce travel times between Munich and Stuttgart to under two hours when a new high-speed rail line opens in December.
The 37-mile (60 kilometer) Wendlingen–Ulm high-speed line will open on December 11, Deutsche Bahn said Thursday. The new line will reduce trip times between Munich and Stuttgart by about 15 minutes, or to as little as 1 hour and 57 minutes based on current schedules.
The line opening comes as Germany and other European countries encourage rail travel as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Last summer, Germany’s “9 Euro ticket,” as it was called, proved a popular success getting more people to use trains and buses for local and regional journeys. The country will roll out a new $50 (€49) monthly pass in January in response to the popularity of the 9 Euro ticket.
Shifting travelers from planes to trains is another part of Europe’s effort to reduce carbon emissions. As part of that effort, Deutsche Bahn will become the first rail member of a global airline alliance, the Star Alliance, as well as expand its airline partnerships. In France, the government has gone as far as to ban flights on short routes where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less.
Portugal is getting in on the high-speed rail bandwagon. The country’s prime minister, António Costa, unveiled Wednesday plans for a new $4.7 billion (€4.9 billion) passenger rail line that, when it opens in 2030, will cut travel train times between Lisbon and Porto by an hour-and-a-half to one hour and 19 minutes.
The planned line will connect Lisbon’s Oriente station to Porto’s Campanha station a little over 185 miles to the north. It will include four intermediate stops at Leiria, Coimbra, Aveiro and Gaia. In addition, Costa said the new line will eventually extend from Porto to the Spanish city of Vigo, about another 100 miles to the north, where it will connect with Spain’s AVE high-speed rail network. The extension will include stops at Porto’s airport, Braga, and Valença.
In comments posted on Twitter, Costa highlighted the importance of connecting Portugal’s two largest city as well as the country’s international competitiveness for the investment. The high-speed rail line will also help move the country to “the forefront of the fight against climate change, [and] changing the mobility paradigm.”
Trains have taken on a renewed importance across Europe amid the push to cut carbon emissions, and the spike in energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. France, for example, banned domestic flights on routes where a train makes the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less. And, in Germany, a so-called “9 euro ticket” local and regional rail pass this summer exceeded expectations — and proved doubters wrong — in boosting rail travel and helping ease the pain of high energy prices.
As travel has surged back from the pandemic, issues that the industry faced prior to the precipitous drop in travel are coming home to roost. That’s the case at Eurostar, the high-speed passenger rail line that connects London to Europe under the English Channel.
The introduction of border controls post-Brexit at Eurostar’s London and Paris terminals have created bottlenecks that, given the current infrastructure, are limiting the railroad’s ability to fully capture the dramatic surge in travel demand, Eurostar Group CEO Jacques Damas told the chair of the UK Parliament’s Transport Committee in a letter Monday.
Despite the installation of new e-gates and customs booths at London’s St. Pancras, station capacity is roughly 30 percent lower — or 1,500 people an hour versus 2,200 in 2019 — than it was before the pandemic, Damas claimed. “It is only the fact that Eurostar has capacity-limited trains and significantly reduced its timetable from 2019 levels, that we are not seeing daily queues in the center of London,” he said.
The situation Eurostar faces is reminiscent of the struggles at U.S. airports when new security rules were implemented after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Many airports were forced to adopt less-than-ideal solutions to accommodate security needs in spaces designed for less intrusive checks. Redesigning airport terminals for these needs continues to this day. For one: Denver airport’s $1 billion over budget terminal project is focused of fixing the security queue problems that were created two decades ago.
Eurostar, which is owned by French rail company SNCF and merged with Belgian and Dutch high-speed rail operator Thalys earlier this year, was operating about 75 percent of its pre-pandemic trains in July. Corporate travel, which is a key part of the line’s business, was at 70 percent of 2019 levels. But these numbers lag many of Eurostar’s continental peers.
SNCF, which operates the French high-speed TGV rail network, reported earlier in September that corporate travel across its passenger trains stood at 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Demand for travel to some destinations this summer was 10 percent above 2019 levels. And, in the first half of 2022, revenues for SNCF’s intercity passenger rail division, SNCF Voyageurs, were down just 4 percent compared to three years ago.
Elsewhere on the continent, high-speed rail operators reported strong passenger numbers this summer. Ridership on Germany’s Deutsche Bahn was up compared to 2019, though it likely benefitted from the country’s 9 Euro Ticket offering for local and regional trains, while Spain’s Renfe recovered to 91 percent of three years ago.
For now, at least according to Eurostar CEO Damas, the railroad may have to operate fewer trains than it did in 2019 through at least 2025. That may mean the recent decision to suspend popular service to Disneyland Paris could be extended for several years. In addition to the Brexit-related border control rules, Eurostar’s finances struggled by the lack of state aid during the pandemic, and a shortage of maintenance staff, he said.