Eurostar has announced plans to merge with fellow European rail operator Thalys.
The Green Speed project would bring the two businesses together, operating across five countries – France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Together, the two companies operate 122 trains a day serving 18.5 million passengers annually across a catchment of some 245 million people.
Eurostar and Thalys, however, expect this demand to grow to 30 million over the next 10 years.
Setting out their joint-vision on Friday (27 September), the partners said the move was motivated by the challenges posed by climate change and demand for responsible, sustainable travel options in Europe which they said presented “a great opportunity for both companies in terms of development”.
A merger would link the UK with mainland European rail networks serving the Mediterranean, among other locations.
It would also, said Eurostar and Thalys, aim to provide a credible alternative to road and/or air travel.
“Combining resources – in particular fleets as well as information and distribution systems – would increase economic efficiency and provide the customer with an enhanced, sustainable commercial service, delivering on the ambition to increase the number of direct links between European cities in the future,” said the partners in a statement.
“All of the colleagues who have made Thalys and Eurostar the success they are today have unique experience of European travellers and their diversity. Tomorrow, they would build the Green Speed project drawing on their collective high speed rail skills.”
Benefits would include seamless ticketing and better connectivity, supported by “innovative digital tools” as well as new loyalty and partner offer schemes, including upgrades, discounts, complimentary journeys, lounge access and “other personalised benefits”.
Guillaume Pepy, chairman of French state rail operator SNCF, which owns majority stakes in Eurostar and Thalys, said: “The challenge of climate change and the demand for eco-responsible travel calls for an ambitious response. Bringing together the strengths of Eurostar and Thalys would be a powerful response to this challenge.
“The creation of a combined European high speed rail company would deliver a compelling alternative to road and air travel for our 18.5 million passengers and would herald a new era in the development of European high speed rail services. High speed is an opportunity for Europe, Europe an opportunity for high speed.”
Founded in 1994, Eurostar serves 14 destinations across four countries, including the UK via the Channel Tunnel.
Thalys, meanwhile, was founded in 1995 serving 26 destinations across four countries.