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Explore the Heart of Europe by Rail with Eurostar

With the merger between the Eurostar and Thaly’s network now complete,

JAX FAX thought this was a great time to look at how this transforms the rail experience for both travelers and travel advisors.

 

Originally announced in September 2019 by the shareholders of the cross-Channel high speed train operator Eurostar and Belgium/France high speed rails Thalys, the merger sought to combine Eurostar’s cross English Channel lines with Thaly’s extensive European network. Governmental approval was finally received in March 2022 and planning work commenced to merge the two operations. The combined operations now goes by the name the “Eurostar Group,” and is based in Brussels.

 

To recap each of the high speed rail networks pre-merger, Eurostar operated year round service linking Amsterdam, Brussels, Lille, London, Paris, and Rotterdam, while Thaly’s network linked the cities of Antwerp, Liège, Cologne, Aachen, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland Paris), Düsseldorf Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, and Amsterdam Schipol Airport.

 

The new Eurostar network creates one single rail network connecting France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. Starting last October, the red and white trains that have run between France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany since 1996 now carry a new Eurostar logo. For those advisors interested in the new Eurostar’s corporate structure, SNCF Voyages Developpement (a subsidiary of SNCF Voyageurs) has 55.75% of the shares, with CDPQ having 19.31% of the shares, SNCB with 18.50% and Federated Hermes Infrastructure with 6.44%.
The combined operation will include the 51 trains in the Eurostar Group’s fleet (25 Eurostar, 26 Thalys) and will wear a new logo with a six-pointed star. Inspired by Etoile du Nord, the original rail service that linked Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam starting in 1924, it also pays tribute to the first Eurostar logo. An animated spark graphic evokes a compass, symbolizing the brand’s purpose…to spark new opportunities by connecting people, places, businesses, and cultures across borders.

 

Eurostar transports travelers from London to Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes, London to Amsterdam in 3 hours 52 minutes and Paris to Amsterdam in 3 hours 19 minutes. Serving 5 countries with a combined populations of 245 million consumers, it is the largest international high-speed network in Western Europe. Winter seasonal service will be available to Chambery, Albertville, Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne, Landry, and Bourg-Saint-Maurice and summer seasonal service will be maintained to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, and Valence.

 

In coming years the company will pursue an ambitious environmental policy, offering an attractive alternative to road and air transport, and accelerating the shift to eco-friendly rail.
The Eurostar Group plans to build on strong consumer recognition of the Eurostar name in Europe and around the world, says CEO Gwendoline Cazenave. The plan is to transport 30 million passengers annually by 2030, substantial increase from 2022, when Eurostar carried 14.8 million travelers and Thalys carried 6.5 million.

 

What This Means For Travel Advisors
To begin with, all trains now bear the name Eurostar emblazoned with the new logo. It is important to note to travelers that while branding is now unified, trains colors remain the same, with those trains serving London being BLUE, while those serving France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany will remain Thaly’s RED.
To combine the two networks, a new Eurostar “HUB” has been created at Brussels Central Station enabling easy transfers between the BLUE trains (traveling to/from London) and the RED trains (traveling between Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Germany).

 

JAX FAX would be remiss in not pointing out that the new HUB at Brussels Central Stations makes it easy for travelers to use Brussels as a hub for their European vacation. Travelers can unpack once and using a rail pass, take amazing day trips from Brussels to France, Holland and Germany. Plus, you have really fast connections to those traveler’s favorite Flanders destinations of Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Mechelen, Leuven, the coast, Flanders Fields.

 

Flanders News
While we are on the subject of the Brussels HUB, I would like to point out some of this year’s Flanders highlights. For clients who like a bit of healthy activity during their vacation, there are the Flanders’ “Finest Cycle Routes” that will take clients past all the amazing sights Flanders has to offer. Travelers can cycle through surprising landscapes and past unique heritage. The can stop for a moment to enjoy arts both large and small, and to sample the many gastronomic assets. To check out the Cycle Routes go to www.visitflanders.com/en flandersfinestcycleroutes.

 

For those travel advisors who know Marco Frank, the always present Flanders representative in North America, you know that no discussion of Brussels, or Flanders is complete without a brief look at the latest Flemish Masters exhibitions. This article is no different, as 2024 marks 75 years since the passing of James Ensor (1860 – 1949). Join Flanders in celebrating the life of this renowned Flemish Master with various exhibitions, activities and events in Ostend, Brussels and Antwerp. James Ensor is renowned as an innovator and a gamechanger. He belongs to the small company of European avant-garde artists who, in a loosely connected group at the end of the 19th century, liberated painting from romantic heroism, appearances and banal realism. Ensor’s view of humanity is sometimes light-hearted, often pessimistic but just as often lyrical and hilarious. By using imagery, form and color autonomously and detached from reality, he has created images in which an accurate representation of reality becomes secondary. To find about more about this years James Ensor celebrations, visit www.visitflanders.com/en/ensor2024

 

Since this article envisions using the NEW Eurostar Brussels HUB as the cornerstone of varied European itineraries it is important to note that some things have NOT changed with Eurostar, most importantly booking classes and what amenities are included on the new Eurostar.

 

Classes of Service
BLUE trains traveling to/from London offer three classes of service:
STANDARD: includes 2 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; the ability to purchase drinks, meals & snacks onboard; UK & EU electrical outlets
STANDARD PREMIER: 2 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; a light meal served at your seat; UK & EU electrical outlets; larger seats; free magazines
BUSINESS PREMIER: 3 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; a hot meal served at your seat designed by Raymond Blanc; UK & EU electrical outlets; larger seats; free newspapers & magazines; dedicated fast track ticket gates; exclusive lounges in London, Paris, Brussels, and access to NS International lounges in Amsterdam & Rotterdam

 

RED trains traveling between Belgium, France, the Netherland, and Germany also have three classes of service, yet the details differ somewhat:
STANDARD: WIFI; includes 2 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; the ability to purchase drinks, meals & snacks onboard; EU electrical outlets; taxi reservations
COMFORT: WIFI; includes 2 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; the ability to purchase drinks, meals & snacks onboard; EU electrical outlets; larger seats; taxi reservations
PREMIUM: WIFI; includes 2 pieces of luggage + 1 hand bag; gourmet meals served at your seat on selected routes; EU electrical outlets; taxi reservations; exclusive lounges in Paris, Brussels, and access to NS International lounges in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, & Schiphol.

 

Finally, what makes the Eurostar/Thalys merger work for travel advisors is that it simplifies the booking process for countless millions of travelers among the 5 countries that now make up the NEW Eurostar network- England, Belgium, France, the Netherland and Germany. This is best acknowledged by the new one website (www.Eurostar.com) and one combined Eurostar app. For further information on this transformative advancement please visit https://eurostarforagents.com and www.visitflanders.com.

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