BELGIAN National Railways (SNCB) and its French counterpart SNCF Voyageurs have announced that they are examining the feasibility of reintroducing a conventional service between Paris Nord and Brussels Midi using locomotive-hauled coaching stock.

SNCB and SNCF Voyageurs have jointly submitted their plans to the rail regulators in Belgium and France, and hope to start operations “as soon as possible” and hopefully by the end of 2024.

The new service would restore through passenger operation to the conventional Paris - Brussels main line via Aulnoye-Aymeries and Mons, which was withdrawn following the completion of high-speed infrastructure and the introduction of Thalys services in 1995.

Rolling stock for the new services would be provided by SNCB, comprising I10 and I11 coaches capable of operating at up to 200km/h, which would be hauled by three-system class 18 and 19 locomotives equipped to take traction current at 25kV 50Hz ac in France.

The coaches have been authorised to operate in France along with the locomotives, which were supplied by Siemens between 2009 and 2012 and were granted authorisation in 2017.

While timetables and stopping patterns are still under development, the journey time between Paris and Brussels should be around three hours, twice as long as the high-speed service but broadly comparable with express timings until 1995.

The draft timetable is for five return services a day, but not to a precise regular-interval pattern. SNCB and SNCF Voyageurs say that their ambition is to “enable the greatest number of passengers to use this international route with the best journey time possible and at a competitive price.”

The partners also say that the new service is being developed with the aim of meeting climate change objectives and offering more environmentally-conscious customers an additional low-carbon transport option.

However, the capacity offered by the current high-speed service is insufficient and potential competitors are looking to enter the Paris - Brussels market.

Trenitalia is already operating its ETR 1000 high-speed trains on domestic and international services in France, and is known to be interested in extending its sphere of operations to include Belgium and the Netherlands.

Both Arriva Netherlands and Trenitalia subsidiary QBuzz have applied to the regulator in the Netherlands to operate services to Paris, including high-speed services in the case of QBuzz.