Eurostar passengers travelling from Amsterdam to London will stop being “turfed out” at Brussels in April, the Transport Secretary said.
Grant Shapps claimed the launch of direct train services from the Netherlands to the UK will send a clear message that “although Britain has left the European Union, we are emphatically not leaving Europe”.
The route was launched in April 2018 with passengers able to travel direct from London to Amsterdam in just under four hours, but journeys in the opposite direction saw travellers change trains in the Belgian capital to complete passport checks and security screening – adding about an hour to the return journey.
Eurostar will begin running direct trains in both directions on April 30 following progress in negotiations between the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which will enable border checks to be conducted on departure in the Netherlands.
Direct services to the UK from Rotterdam will launch on May 18.
Eurostar expected to begin running direct trains from the Netherlands in 2019, but negotiations between governments took longer than expected.
Mr Shapps acknowledged the disruption passengers currently experience on commercial services.
In a speech at London St Pancras following the arrival of a preview train direct from Amsterdam, he said: “Returning passengers (are) unable to enjoy their journeys uninterrupted and have instead been forced to be turfed out of the train – disembarked – in Brussels, to go through I think what amounted to a 50-minute security immigration check.
“I know that was frustrating for Eurostar.”
Whenever I travel across Europe, I get a strong sense that the climate change agenda is growing in people's minds, and today is really in response to thatEurostar chief executive Mike Cooper
He declared that the Government is “fully committed” to expanding the number of international destinations linked to the UK by rail.
Among the locations “potentially to be added in the future” are Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Austria, as well as eastern Europe, he said.
Eurostar chief executive Mike Cooper said: “For too long, airlines have enjoyed no sustainable alternative to what they provide between Amsterdam and London.
“Whenever I travel across Europe, I get a strong sense that the climate change agenda is growing in people’s minds, and today is really in response to that.
“Our fully direct service marks an exciting advance for high-speed rail and provides consumers with a comfortable, environmentally friendly alternative to the airlines on one of Europe’s busiest leisure and business routes.”
There are currently three outbound services a day from the UK to the Netherlands.
The direct inbound journey from Amsterdam to London will begin with two daily services, with the aim of increasing this to three and then four.
Rail expert Mark Smith, founder of Seat61.com, said some passengers have been put off travelling by train between London and the Netherlands because of the lack of direct services to the UK.
He told the PA news agency: “Eurostar has been tackling one of the biggest air routes in Europe with one hand tied behind its back.
“Now they can go all-out for a large chunk of that air market.”
He described the firm’s offer of city centre-to-city centre journeys in three hours and 50 minutes with a check-in time of just 30 minutes before departure as “very competitive”.
Eurostar said tickets for the new direct services will be available from February 11 and will cost from £35.