Eurostar to launch London-Amsterdam direct service in April

Eurostar direct rail services between London and Amsterdam will begin on 4 April, the company has announced, in an eagerly awaited move expected to spark a price war with airlines.

Tickets for the two daily trains – starting from £35 one way – will go on sale on 20 February. The services will allow passengers to travel from St Pancras station in central London direct to the Netherlands in three to four hours.

More than 4 million passengers a year fly between London and Amsterdam, making it one of Europe’s busiest air routes as the Netherlands grows in popularity as a key business and tourism hub.

The cross-Channel rail operator is set to challenge established airlines on the route, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair. It will target potential converts by saying a London-Amsterdam Eurostar journey emits 80% less carbon than the equivalent flight.

Plans for the new service were first announced in September 2013 but the official start date has been subject to numerous delays while immigration and passport controls were agreed.

These issues mean direct services returning to London will not be in place until the end of next year. Passengers travelling from Amsterdam and Rotterdam will have to connect through Brussels for passport controls and security screeninguntil the two governments complete an agreement allowing passport checks to be conducted in the Netherlands.

Nicolas Petrovic, the outgoing chief executive of Eurostar, said the Netherlands service heralded a new era in international high-speed rail. “With direct services from the UK to the Netherlands, France and Belgium, we are transforming the links between the UK and three of Europe’s top trading nations.”

The launch follows the completion of testing on the Dutch high-speed network and construction of Eurostar terminals in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The journey time will be 3hr 01min between London and Rotterdam and 3hr 41min between London and Amsterdam.

New e320 trains, which have been operating between London and Paris since 2015, will be used on the route as their technology is compatible with the Dutch railway system.