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July 07, 2011

DB on track to launch ICE to London in 2013

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STEFFAN Geers, project director ICE London with German Rail (DB), confirmed today that DB is on course to introduce an ICE service from Frankfurt and Amsterdam to London in 2013. Speaking before Britain's House of Lords inquiry into the European rail market, Geers said that the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC), responsible for safety in the Channel Tunnel, gave its approval last month for the operation of trains with distributed traction. This has been a major barrier to the introduction of new trains in the Channel Tunnel other than the original Eurostar trains which have power cars at each end.
"DB is ready to hand in all the ICE safety documents and we are optimistic that the IGC will be able to make a decision on acceptance of our trains for operation in 2013," Geers told the committee. "It might sound tight, but we are in regular contact with the IGC, so these documents should be no surprise to the IGC."

Geers confirmed that DB is "fully committed to meeting all the security and safety requirements" for running ICE through the Channel Tunnel to London. He also revealed that DB is discussing with the UK Borders Agency alternative methods of checking that passengers are travelling legally. At the moment, border controls and full security screening takes place at each station where passengers board trains travelling through the Channel Tunnel. As this makes it very expensive to add new destinations, DB will only consider increasing the frequency of its planned service to London.

Geers also revealed that Eurotunnel's access charges for using the 50km Channel Tunnel account for 50% of the total access charges for the entire 992km route from Frankfurt and Amsterdam to London. This is because Eurotunnel charges per train and per passenger for using the Channel Tunnel. Geers conceded that this makes it very difficult for new operators to make a financial case for introducing new services.

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