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Eurostar and Air France KLM

Paris en moins de deux heures?

By Joffre Agnes


Eurostar has been crossing the Channel since 1994 with a monopoly guaranteed by the European high-speed rail service. However, in 2010 new "open access" laws will come into force and end Eurostar's monopoly; major turning point for the company which keeps saying it welcomes competition. But when Air France KLM announces its project to launch a faster train between Paris and London, the situation becomes more tensed...


Air France
Air France


In fact, rail travel,  has become an increasingly lucrative market which makes it a potential new target  for major airlines since passengers seem to prefer train to short-haul flights. Eurostar has seen its passenger number rise by as much as 18 per cent  in the first half of this year. Why? Because Eurostar is more convenient: passengers arrive directly in the centre of town, it is therefore faster, less stressful, greener and can sometime even be cheaper (no expensive taxi fares at the end). Thus, taking the Eurostar has become a natural choice for travellers. Moreover airline companies are facing huge issues with profit margins falling due to the economic downturn and the rise of fuel prices. This is why Air France KLM are trying to turn themselves into train operators, between London and Paris. Both Virgin, already a train operator in the UK and the German operator Deutsche Bahn have also expressed an interest. Deutsche Bahn have announced their plan to create a train line between London and Cologne...



As far as Air France are concerned, they plan to launch a train which will also compete both on price and speed against the Eurostar between London and Paris, that means it might become possible to cross the Channel in under 2h15. Eurostar however have explained that this could be an empty promise saying that the current top speed has being introduced to fit with the state of the railtrack and not because of the train technical limitations. This piece of information incidently has been denied by a source working at Saint Pancras's track... Nevertheless, Air France aims to buy new generation AGV trains which could reach 220mph (354km/h), that means 38 mph (61 km/h) faster than the current TGV! Their "airplanes on wheels", as Air France wants to call them, are going to be a cut-throat competition for Eurostar... Is it the end of Eurostar? Will this start a price war? Virgin have succeeded in the past at taking on much stronger competition. One might of course remembr the 80s and when Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic. This has yet to be seen. As far as travellers are concerned this can only lead to better service and better fares. We should all welcome the start of healthy competition.

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