With the launch of Eurostar’s newest route, high-speed rail links a fractured Europe

Connecting Europe.
Connecting Europe.
Image: Reuters/Phil Noble
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After several delays, Eurostar’s newest direct route from London to Amsterdam has an official launch date, beefing up the UK’s transport links with the continent—right as the continent’s political situation does the opposite.

The April 4 launch date will add a third destination to Eurostar’s existing links between London, Paris, and Brussels. While there will only be two trains daily at launch, the route undoubtedly has a lot of potential: Eurostar estimates that 4 million passengers travel by air between Amsterdam and London each year—the same amount between London and Paris when Eurostar launched its service in 1994. Tickets go on sale on Feb. 20 and tickets start at £35 ($48) one way.

There’s one wrinkle, though. While trains outbound from London will travel directly to Amsterdam, the return journey will involve two legs: The first from Amsterdam to Brussels on a Thalys train (which is roughly one hour), then a stop for a passport check in Brussels, and finally a Eurostar train from Brussels to London. According to Eurostar’s announcement, this is temporary, and will be carried out “whilst the governments in the UK and The Netherlands complete an agreement which will enable passport checks to be conducted on departure in The Netherlands as in other key Eurostar destinations.”

While slightly awkward, this growing pain is likely to pale in comparison to the changes Eurostar will have to contend with when the UK finally works out a border deal with the EU. But while the border’s uncertain future may run counter to Eurostar’s brand image of seamlessly connecting the UK with continental Europe, the addition of another inter-Europe high-speed route bodes well for the sector’s health at large.

With short-haul budget flights and high-speed rail both booming in Europe and Asia, travelers have more and more options for getting from A to B affordably. According to research by the Journal of Advanced Transportation, passengers will consider a high-speed train over a plane up until a certain point: 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), at which point the time saved by flying becomes a more compelling motivator. But it’s not necessarily a zero sum game: Bloomberg reported last month that there is “evidence that, in many places, affordably priced train tickets actually spur new travel demand.”

Beyond mere travel time, Eurostar and other high-speed rail options offers travelers some nice perks. Traveling from city center-to-city center on a train is often more time efficient than flying in and out of the far-flung airports that low-cost carriers commonly serve. Plus, the experience can be far more pleasant thanks to easier security, nicer scenery, (and arguably much, much better snacks).

Brexit or not, Eurostar train is, by most measures, still more pleasant than a Ryanair flight.