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.
Schengen the worlds largest visa free zone? What about the USA, Russia?
The visa issues would probably not apply to inbound traffic to the EU and Switzerland, so that trains might continue to Zurich and other destinations in theory, if they could master Swiss rail’s 15 kV power and train control system. The trains would then have to run as “local trains” back to Basel, where all passengers would have to depart before boarding of passengers to London.
Australia, China and Canada are also larger than the EU or Shengen area. May have uniform specifications for trains.
One trainset might travel Basel – London and either Paris – Basel or Paris – London daily during daytime, in both direction, i.e. 4 routes, or Basel – London 3 times oneway. With four trainsets, starting in the morning from Basel and London, and from Paris in both directions, departures about every three hours could be made possible.
With about 21 flights daily from Zurich and 6 from Basel to London, five train services would not seem too ambitious.
Eurotunnel track access charges may kill it.
This is completely unrealistic. What they should do is get a direct service to Lille, where you can make a same-station connection onto the Eurostar instead of having to cross Paris to reach Gare du Nord.
Expanding Eurostar services between Lille and London would have a big impact too – if they are hourly or better, then you don’t have to worry too much timing the Basel-Lille train.
If you wanted a much better service, then a new line Strasbourg-Luxembourg-Brussels would have a big impact.
There was a direct TGV service between Lille and Geneva but it turned out to be uneconomical. A Basel to Brussels service that stops at Lille would be the next best thing if they can’t sort out border controls at Basel (the alternative would be to turf the passengers off at Lille and put them through security, which I think is what they do with the ski trains).
There are almost 100 flights every single day between any of Switzerland’s airports and London. Now imagine if just one fraction of these travelers would opt to take the train, the market potential is huge! There is no doubt in my mind this direct link will eventually become a reality.
There are almost 100 flights every single day between any of Switzerland’s airports and London. If just one fraction of these travelers would opt to take the train, the market potential is huge! There is no doubt in my mind this direct link will eventually become a reality.
The service between Lille and Geneva was not conveniently timed . Sncf very often runs interregional trains outside of busy hours, effectively killing any hope for economic success. Even the Bordeaux Lyon services doesn’t run anymore , although nowadays these trains could run on highspeed lines for almost the whole route. Eurostar beeing managed by Sncf , a Basle London train will simply not happen.