The Germany-London high-speed rail link will be a direct challenge to European airlines, the Financial Times said.
“By 2016 and 2017 we would like people when they are thinking about travelling to these cities to consider taking Eurostar rather than flying,” Eurostar Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic told the paper.
Since launching the high-speed link between London, Paris and Brussels in 2007, Eurostar has almost killed off air travel between those cities, said the paper.
The line now carries 9.7 million passengers a year, offering much faster journey times between the city centres than air travel.
But now Eurostar is upping its game as it faces future competition from Deutsche Bahn. Germany’s train operator won a long battle with French state operator SNCF two years ago to gain access to the tunnel linking Britain and France.
Eurostar – 55 percent of which is owned by SNCF – has until now enjoyed a monopoly on travel through the Channel Tunnel.
But Deutsche Bahn is set on launching a competing ICE service by the end of 2015, said the paper, speeding passengers between Frankfurt and London via Cologne in an estimated five hours.
Still, Deutsche Bahn will have to pay above the odds for the privilege of using the line.
Petrovic thought at least one other competitor would get into the tunnel along with Deutsche Bahn, he told the paper, but said the opening up of the high-speed rail market was a good way to tackle the dominance of the airlines.
“The key growth area for us is to take market share off airlines and if more [train] operators come in it will grow the whole market for high-speed rail,” he said.
Now in an ambitious move, Petrovic said Eurostar would expand its service from its international hub in London not only to German cities, but also to Amsterdam, Lyon, Marseille and Geneva over the next five years.
The expansion will coincide with Eurostar taking delivery of ten German-made Siemens trains big enough to seat 900 passengers, scheduled from the end of 2014.
The deal sparked a row between Germany and France in 2010 when French engineering giant Alstom tried to stop Eurostar buying the trains from its German rival.