German rail boss hails 'new age' after channel crossing

19th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The head of German rail firm Deutsche Bahn said Tuesday that transport was on the cusp of a new age, after the first German train sped between France and Britain through the Channel Tunnel.

The high-speed ICE train made its first trip all the way through the tunnel under the English Channel overnight and was welcomed at London's St. Pancras station by German and British officials.

"We feel ... that rail transport in Europe stands on the threshold of a new age," said Ruediger Grube, as he announced a bold timetable of trains connecting the British capital with major European cities.

"Three trains a day -- in the morning, afternoon and evening -- will connect Frankfurt and London via Cologne, Brussels and Lille in both directions," said Grube, according to the text of a speech made at the station.

"For the first time, we want to link Amsterdam directly with London," added the rail chief, estimating it would take five hours to travel from Frankfurt to the British capital and four hours from Amsterdam.

The train made its inaugural test run on Wednesday, becoming the first passenger train not run by Eurostar -- an operator jointly owned by France, Britain and Belgium -- to use the tunnel.

Carrying drivers and technical staff from Deutsche Bahn and tunnel operator Eurotunnel, but no passengers, it went part of the way through the tunnel before turning back and re-entering France after 10 minutes.

The German operator wants to demonstrate its ability to run safely on the route, which is being opened up to competition under European Union rules, to the annoyance of France, which has so far dominated cross-Channel traffic.

© 2010 AFP

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