Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Clearly the future frightens people

Posted in Europe, Great Britain, High Speed by Chairman Pip on 20 October 2010

I’d imagine that there are some people that are worried following the Great Experiment yesterday. First, I’ll say that Alice Bhandhukravi didn’t get the opportunity to follow up her Eurostar report with a trip to St Pancras for the Deutsche Bahn story. Perhaps BBC London will let her do an Inside Out report on the opening up of the high speed rail market to London. But, two things have caught my eye that relate to the run and display of the Class 406. The first was a wraparound advert on last night’s Evening Standard, which featured Eurostar advertising their fares to Amsterdam and Cologne, both via Brussels. I had to laugh at this, given that it was the same day that Deutsche Bahn announced their plans to run to Amsterdam and Cologne (and Frankfurt). Of course, Eurostar have offered inclusive fares to destinations that they don’t serve directly for years. It’s just funny to me that they choose this of all days to emphasise Amsterdam and Cologne. In any case, according to what DB have published, they expect their fares to start from around £40 (although I’m not sure whether this is single or return), so evidently Eurostar are starting the battle for customers straight away.

The second thing that caught my eye was the continuing saga of Eurostar’s new fleet. You’ll remember that both the French Government and Alstom were hopping mad when Eurostar announced that Siemens would be supplying ten new trains based on the Velaro. Although the government haven’t said much of anything further, possibly due to the fact that President Sarkozy had a summit meeting with Chancellor Merkel this week, Alstom have announced that they plan to institute legal action to prevent the deal, still on the basis that the safety rules do not permit any train type except that produced by Alstom (the whole concentrated power versus distributed power argument). In the unlikely event of Alstom winning its case (because I think it’s fair to say that everyone, with the possible exception of Mr Potato Head, sees this not as a safety issue, but as an attempt to guarantee French protectionist policies), this would have a knock-on effect on Deutsche Bahn, given that their Class 407 units will be, but for their length, broadly identical to Eurostar’s planned e320. Fortunately, given that the IGC has made its position clear that it intends to alter the safety rules, the French objections will fall by the wayside. There’s rather a good quote from Peter Ramsauer, the German transport minister, in the Financial Times article:

Many people involved say that neither Alstom nor the French authorities raised safety objections to the introduction of distributed traction trains before it became apparent that Alstom’s AGV distributed traction train had lost out on the Eurostar order. These issues have not been any obstacle months ago.

And people say the Germans have no sense of humour. They’ve obviously never seen Henning Wehn.

“Alstom heads for court over Eurostar trains”
“‘No serious rule breach’ in Siemens order”
“Eurotunnel Says Deutsche Bahn Fast Trains Pose No Safety Issue”


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maarten Otto, Maarten Otto. Maarten Otto said: Clearly the future frightens people: London – Amsterdam price war just started. […]

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