Train connections on the fast track


NEW YORK -- High-speed rail in Europe will see major developments this decade, based on the European railroads' plan to reduce travel time to no more than three hours between major hubs by 2015.

Bernard Frelat, president of Rail Europe in Harrison, N.Y., said investments needed to support this goal are insufficient and "therefore the European Union is looking at more options that would combine public and private funding."

He pointed to the privatization of rail across Europe as one means of ensuring that high-speed growth coninues to mitigate unprecedented car and air congestion.

According to reports from Rail Europe, the following are among the key rail developments to watch for, many of which are ongoing.

  • Denmark: The rail tunnel between Malmo, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Denmark, will open on July 1. It will be a 38-minute ride city to city on high-speed equipment, 20 minutes of it through the tunnel of the new Oresund Link.
  • Service is planned to operate at 20-minute intervals from both sides and will include a stop at Kastrup Airport in Denmark. The Copenhagen city-to-airport service is already operating.

  • Sweden: In Stockholm, the Arlanda Express train began running at the end of last year between Arlanda Airport and downtown Stockholm. The train leaves each location every 15 minutes, costs $14 and takes 20 minutes.
  • France: France's TGV lines will make numerous strides by 2006. The Paris-Lyon line will be extended to Marseille sometime in 2000 and to Montpellier in a few years. Long-term plans are to build a tunnel through the Pyrenees and link the line to Barcelona, Spain, after 2005.
  • By 2004, a Paris-Frankfurt high-speed upgrade is expected to be completed, reducing travel time from six hours to four.

    By 2005, the high-speed technology of the Paris-Brussels section of the Thalys line is expected to be extended to Amsterdam and to Cologne, Germany.

    When completed, the Paris-Amsterdam journey will be reduced by one hour, to three hours 13 minutes. The Paris-Cologne ride will take three hours 10 minutes, 50 minutes less than the current time.

    Further plans are to provide a link to Frankfurt.

    By 2006, a high-speed rail line is planned to link Paris and Strasbourg in two hours and 20 minutes, cutting the current time by 40%. In connection with the project, new stations will be built in Champagne-Ardenne, Meuse and Lorraine.

  • Germany: Expanding on its numerous ICE services, Germany will run a link from Frankfurt to Paris by 2004, reducing travel time from six to four hours.
  • England: To cut the travel time of the Paris-London Eurostar, the Folkestone-London leg is being upgraded with high-speed track. The Paris-London service is expected to take two hours 30 minutes by 2001, shaving 30 minutes off the current time.
  • The west coast line from London to Glasgow, Scotland, is also getting upgraded with Italian high-speed tilting-train technology. Some sections may be running by 2002, reducing the overall travel time from five hours to four hours 20 minutes. When it is completed, in 2005, the travel time should dip to just under four hours.

  • Spain: The country's second high-speed line is being built between Madrid and Barcelona and is expected to be done in 2004. When it is completed, travel time between Madrid and Barcelona will be cut from six hours 30 minutes to two hours 30 minutes.
  • Italy has been upgrading the various sections since it installed its Rome-Florence line in the 1980s. Most recently, it has introduced higher-speed trains and upgraded the Rome-Naples line.
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