Travelling from UK to Europe by train will soon be even easier with planned Eurostar expansion

May 3, 2022

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With all the issues Britain’s airports are facing at the moment, now might be the time to consider the train for your next trip to Europe.

All the more, in fact, because Eurostar is expanding its high-speed network deeper into the heart of Europe.

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That means more direct trains from London to Europe’s mainland than ever before — including the rail company’s first-ever connections to Germany.

It is the result of a mega-merger between Eurostar and rail giant Thalys, which had been Northern Europe’s largest high-speed train operator.

Currently, Thalys runs trains between France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, while Eurostar operates services through the Channel Tunnel from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

Related: Is it ethical to fly business class in light of the climate crisis?

But the new company the pair have formed – called Eurostar Group – will for the first time offer travellers a direct route from London to Germany — perfect for travellers who don’t wish to fly. The train routes will give travellers high-speed links from London to Cologne — in roughly five-and-a-half hours — not to mention options for current Thalys destinations Düsseldorf, Essen, Aachen and Dortmund.

The merger’s masterminds hope it will also encourage a greener alternative to flying as the travel industry’s fight to reduce its environmental impact intensifies.

“By joining forces with Thalys, we will be able to expand our reach and at the same time provide a powerful response to the increasingly serious climate change challenge and the growing demand for sustainable travel,” Chairman of Eurostar Guillaume Pepy said in a statement.

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Additional routes between London and Bourdeaux will be included, and more Belgian cities like Antwerp and Liège. The Alps service might also be extended.

“This merger project is based on the firm belief that trains are the most sustainable, fast, efficient and safest way to travel in Europe—now more than ever,” CEO of Belgian rail company SNCB and Thalys board member Sophie Dutordoir said, according to the outlet.

The announcement comes as airports up and down Britain have struggled to accommodate an unprecedented surge in travel as sun-starved Brits emerge from the COVID-19 bubble to gobble up flights abroad.

Staff shortages have led to thousands of delays and even cancellations in recent weeks as queues have stretched through terminals leading some passengers to miss flights.

Even over the bank holiday travellers reported lengthy waits at Manchester airport and Birmingham airport as airlines continue to fight to get a handle on their staffing woes.

And so, Eurostar’s news will come as a welcome alternative to Brits looking for a less stressful, potentially more reliable route to the mainland.

Does Eurostar have a loyalty programme?

If you’re not a member already it’s certainly worth joining Club Eurostar — particularly for those who hop across the Channel regularly – as you’ll earn 1 point for every pound you spend on Eurostar travel.

Related: The ultimate guide to Club Eurostar

Those booking with Club Eurostar will require 1,000 points for Standard class, 2,000 points for Standard Premier and 3,000 for Business Premier ticket purchases.

While you can’t collect Avios on Eurostar bookings, if you’re using a connecting train to reach London before changing onto the Eurostar it is possible to boost your Avios earnings for standard rail journeys by booking via British Airways’ Trainline shopping portal.

New customers can currently earn 3 Avios per £1 spend on their first booking, and existing customers will earn 1 Avios per £2 spend.

Featured image by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

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