Could there be a direct train from Switzerland to London?
Swiss parliament member Matthias Aebische is calling on the Federal Council to examine with France and Great Britain how a direct Basel-London daily train connection can be created.
Today, travellers from Switzerland to the UK today have to change at least one train. The travel time with the TGV Lyria to Paris (just over 3 hours) and from Paris to London (around 2,5 hours), already adds up to 5,5 hours, but the stopover is at least an hour, and often even longer. “Many people today would like to travel climate-neutral. But if they have to change trains several times for a train journey in Europe, they end up taking the plane after all”, says Matthias Aebische, Member of the Swiss National Council, in Swiss paper Blick. Therefore, the Member of Social Democratic group SP has made a proposal to the Federal Council to examine this direct connection.
The travel time of a direct train would only be five and a half hours, and the trains in London can go directly to the center, making it attractive and competitive with the existing flight connections, says Aebische.
RailTech reached out to Eurostar, which runs trains to London through the Eurotunnel, if they see Basel – London as a viable connection. “It is encouraging to see interest from the Swiss parliament in expanding their international train route network”, said a spokesperson of Eurostar. “We always monitor the potential for new routes, but our current focus is on our core destinations (London, Paris, Lille, Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam)”. Swiss national operator SBB said to Blick in response that they do not anticipate the Federal Council, and did not disclose whether the route is being examined or even advocated.
Station rebuild necessary
To realise the connection, there is one main hurdle that needs to be overcome. Britain is no longer in the EU and only participates in the Schengen Agreement to a limited extent. Though Switzerland is also not a member of the Union, it is part of the Schengen Agreement, the world’s largest visa-free zone between countries which makes cross-border travel seamless. Boarding the train in Switzerland to the UK would thus involve both security and passport controls similar to airport security. For that, Basel’s station would need a significant rebuild to make this possible.
Aebische notes that it is already possible to travel directly to London by train from Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. “With a little push from Switzerland, that would also be possible from Basel without any problems”, he says. The initiative was also signed by the Basel-based middle national councilor Elisabeth Schneider-Schneite and the Basel-Stadt LDP representative Patricia von Falkenstein, among others.