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Wednesday 20 October 2010

Breaking The ICE?

The man from DB almost shrugged, then put on his best face: “It’s not for the public” he explained, as another hopeful punter asked if he could see the first ICE3 high speed train in the UK close up, rather than through the glass screens or through a wire fence.

And it’s a demonstration that press junkets are disconnected from reality: if the entry of DB into the UK-Europe high speed market is to be a success, it will be through the patronage of those excluded from yesterday’s event, not by handing out goodies to the softball-pitching specialist press.

So what will be the reality of DB’s new service? Well, they helpfully distributed flyers to anyone showing a flicker of interest, and these state with some certainty that the ICE3 will be “Connecting Britain by high speed rail to new destinations across Europe from 2013”.

This may come as a surprise to the relevant authorities, who have not yet approved the trains for operation through the Channel Tunnel – as far as is known, DB have not even made a formal application. Apparently, the rules governing minimum length of trainsets passing through the Tunnel will be satisfied by running two ICE3 sets together between London and Brussels.

Images as published by DB

This is slated to happen three times each day, with the two sets splitting in Brussels to give services onward to both Amsterdam (via Rotterdam) and Frankfurt (via Cologne). Journey times of four hours to Amsterdam and five to Frankfurt may be bettered, but not significantly. So who will travel?

The leisure market alone will not provide sufficient revenue, though there will be no shortage of takers. So DB must appeal to business travellers, even though the journey times to Amsterdam and Frankfurt look, on the face of it, less attractive than flying.

The marketing push, I suspect, will emphasise the city centre to city centre ability of rail, the (hopefully) more robust and reliable timekeeping, and the ease of working on the move. All these will tempt business travellers. But one obstacle will remain.

And that is the patently ridiculous treatment of customs and other security issues, principally by UK authorities. It doesn’t get meted out to those who pass through the Channel Tunnel on car shuttles, and it is high time that it be scaled back in order to allow Eurostar, DB, and whoever else may enter the market in future to run a train service, rather than a ground transport airline.

Zelo Street, and no doubt other parts of the blogosphere, will continue to push for this. The specialist press will say very little, but continue the junkets.

1 comment:

AJ said...

It would be great to be connected to more cities via the Eurotunnel.