Eurotunnel Owner Predicts New Direct High-Speed Rail Routes from London

   Getlink, the owner of the Eurotunnel, is gearing up to launch new high-speed train routes connecting London to Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva, and Zurich. This exciting development comes after substantial efforts to double the capacity of UK rail links to Europe.

Anticipating the new routes to be operational within the next five years, Getlink envisions expanding beyond Eurostar’s original London to Paris and Brussels services, which have been the mainstay for the Channel tunnel since its inception 30 years ago in May 2024.

Despite previous challenges in diversifying passenger offerings, Getlink sees a promising future with potential new entrants and destinations. Two noteworthy contenders expressing interest in challenging Eurostar's dominance are Evolyn, a Spanish rail firm, and Heuro, a Dutch train startup.

Yann Leriche, the chief executive of Getlink, said he had been in conversation with at least two other players about starting competing operations through the tunnel. This development hints at a dynamic shift in high-speed rail travel, offering passengers more options and expanding the reach of Eurotunnel services.

Speaking at an event held at the French entrance to the tunnel in Coquelles, Yann Leriche shared ambitious plans for the rail industry. According to Leriche, rail travel could potentially capture 30-40% of airline traffic on shorter routes from London to Germany and Switzerland, where train journeys typically span five to six hours.

Despite past attempts by operators to introduce new routes facing challenges, including the recent opening of the third-linked capital, Amsterdam, hindered by capacity constraints, Leriche expressed optimism. He noted a newfound interest and demand from potential competitors, with two, Evolyn and Heuro, making their intentions public. This has sparked a competitive race in the industry.

Leriche believes that increased competition and more train services will lead to eventual fare reductions, making rail travel a more attractive option. In addition to passenger services, Getlink aims to expand its freight offerings. Leriche urged the UK government to allocate a portion of savings from scrapping HS2 north of Birmingham to enhance a critical route capable of handling standard international containers. A proposed £50 million upgrade of the Folkestone-Wembley line could significantly increase freight train capacity, reducing road congestion in Kent, improving logistics chains, and enhancing overall resilience—an initiative Leriche emphasizes should be a top priority for Britain.

Getlink, the owner of Eurotunnel, overseeing Channel Tunnel rail infrastructure and Le Shuttle for road users, is making substantial investments in preparation for changes on the horizon. Currently, Eurostar, predominantly owned by SNCF, remains the sole operator of passenger trains utilizing the tunnel.

In anticipation of the anticipated EU entry-exit system introduction in October 2024, which will necessitate UK nationals registering biometric details upon entering the rest of Europe, Getlink is committing €78 million (£67 million) to new border booths. This investment aims to streamline processes and mitigate potential delays. However, it's estimated to take approximately six to seven minutes to process each carload of passengers.

Yann Leriche, the CEO of Getlink, expressed concerns about what he termed "social dumping" by competitors on the Channel crossing. He pointed out that companies like P&O Ferries and Irish Ferries are reportedly paying agency workers from overseas approximately 60% below the minimum wage, factoring in social benefits and leave, despite extended durations at sea. Leriche questioned the fairness of such practices, highlighting the need for industry-wide standards in Europe.