Reed Travel Features
NEW YORK -- The world's longest suspension bridge, Eurostar
hotel service from London to Frankfurt, Germany and double-decker
tilting trains in the Swiss Alps are among Europe's top coming
All of the above have one thing in common: speed.
Unity on the continent might be elusive, but expanding
high-speed rail connections should make it easier for European
Union officials to arrive on time for their meetings.
In fact, travelers in a hurry are opting for high-speed trains
over airplanes at a growing rate.
Subsidized by their respective governments, Europe's trains are
inexpensive to travel and often make city connections as fast as
planes, when one considers airport check-in and transfer time.
A spokesman for Rail Europe said that three-hour Eurostar
service between London and Paris has captured 40% of a market
formerly dominated by air.
Overall, high-speed rail's market share in comparison to air is
50% to 60% for train routes that run from two to three hours.
Even though high-speed rail lines are available in only eight
countries -- Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain,
Italy, Spain and Sweden -- European officials said the goal is to
connect all EU countries by 2000.
So far, intercountry high-speed rail in France connects with
only four countries -- Great Britain, Belgium, Spain and
The link to Spain, however, is only to Irun, a city that borders
France and has no high-speed connections with the rest of the
The Rail Europe spokesman said the first priority is to connect
the existing high-speed countries.
"The governments of France and Spain have been talking about a
tunnel to link Paris and Barcelona via Montpellier [France] for
years, but it seems that plan is on hold," he said.
"The French also have looked at connecting all of their
high-speed rail, which would provide faster links to neighboring
More connections are under way.
The following is a Top 10 list of high-speed rail developments
targeted for 1997 and beyond:
1. This spring, a bridge-tunnel, Storebaelt, will connect
Copenhagen, on the island province of Zealand, to Denmark's Funen
The 4.2-mile-long suspension bridge will be the world's
Storebaelt will make it possible to travel from western Europe
to Copenhagen by train and car without having to board a ferry.
The new link, in conjunction with a bridge between Sweden and
Denmark, to be completed by 2000, will create the first land-only
access from the west to the Scandinavian peninsula.
Storebaelt's rail line will be inaugurated in June, shortening
the current, one-hour trip between Funen and Zealand to 15
Although Storebaelt's train is not technically in the high-speed
category, it is expected to run in the 110 mph range.
2. Switzerland will have its first double-decker trains in
The trains, running at 120 mph, will travel between St.-Gallen
and Interlaken, stopping at Zurich and Bern.
3. In Spain, the AVE will make its debut between Bar-celona and
Valencia this summer, saving 30 to 45 minutes on the route.
4. The ICE will run between Berlin and Hanover, Germany,
starting in June, reducing the two-hour-45-minute trip to one hour
and 45 minutes.
5. A Eurostar spokesman said there would be a March announcement
regarding the train's entry into the CRSs, but no further details
were available at press time.
Eurostar plans to operate night trains from London to Amsterdam,
Netherlands, and London to Frankfurt by early 1998.
6. The double-decker TGV that was introduced between Paris and
Lyon in December will be extended to Marseilles and
The track between Valence and Marseille will be upgraded within
the next two years, shortening the journey by up to 45 minutes
7. The Thalys line from Paris to Brussels, Belgium, will extend
to Cologne, Germany, in 1998. This will link French and German
8. Germany will run night trains in mid-1997 from Hamburg to
9. Rail officials are looking at a high-speed link between
Torino, Italy, and Lyon, France, by 2005.
10. As for high-speed rail making its way into the former
Eastern Bloc countries, DERrail's Schmidt said, "It will happen,
but nobody knows when."
Her picks for who would get there first were the Czech Republic,
with service from Prague to Berlin; Poland, with service from
Warsaw to Krakow, and a big chunk of eastern Europe, with service
from Berlin to Moscow.