THE Dutch secretary of state for infrastructure, Mrs Vivianne Heijen, has approved a plan by Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail to ban Eurostar trains from Amsterdam Central between June 2024 and May 2025 due to work being carried out to remodel the station, a project which is not supported by many train operators.
During discussions with Mr John Voppen, CEO of ProRail, Heijnen was convinced that banning Eurostar from Amsterdam Central to allow the works to be carried out was the right decision. This is even though one year ago, Heijnen told Dutch MPs that it would be unacceptable for Eurostar to be banned from Amsterdam Central and she instructed ProRail “to do everything possible together with Netherlands Railways (NS) to solve the problems surrounding Eurostar during the renovation of Amsterdam Central.”
Eurostar trains can only use platform 15 at Amsterdam Central and the works will prevent access to the security and border control facilities necessary for travel through the Channel Tunnel to Britain. The Eurostar facilities at Amsterdam Central and Rotterdam Central were only opened in October 2020.
Eurostar operates four daily services between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels and London St Pancras International and currently plans to add a fifth round trip.
Eurostar says that limiting the service to Rotterdam - London is not economically viable as Amsterdam is the main generator of passengers with an average of 265 passengers per train. In any event, Rotterdam Central can only process a maximum of 150 passengers per departure, while a Eurostar e320 train has 900 seats.
Nevertheless, curtailing the London - Amsterdam service at Rotterdam has been put forward as one of three options to allow Eurostar to continue to serve the Netherlands during the reconstruction work at Amsterdam Central. The other two options are:
- keep the current terminal at Amsterdam Central open by making some minor modifications to it, or
- provide temporary security and border control facilities in a passage at Amsterdam Central station.
Eurostar, supported by NS International, which is a Eurostar partner, is convinced that maintaining the current facilities at Amsterdam Central is feasible. The city of Amsterdam is against losing the direct train service to London which it says is of major importance for the Dutch capital, while passenger lobby groups are furious. However, ProRail strongly opposes this and wants to eliminate any risk of delay to the reconstruction project.
Eurostar CEO, Ms Gwendoline Cazenave, met Heijen, Voppen and NS CEO Mr Wouter Koolmees on June 5 to see if a solution can be found. However, there was no positive outcome from the meeting.
If Eurostar is not allowed to operate trains to Amsterdam, it is very likely that Eurostar will cease to operate any trains to the Netherlands during the reconstruction works with passengers forced to change trains in Brussels, which will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in traffic. Eurostar extended its London - Brussels service to Amsterdam five years ago and has carried 1.5 million passengers to and from the Netherlands. It currently carries around 2000 passengers per day per direction.