I’m lucky enough to have received an invite to The Apeldoorn Conference on UK-Netherlands dialogue, taking place 6-8 March in Rotterdam. An easy and high speed train journey – perfect!

The route is Eurostar to Bruxelles Midi, then Thalys on the new HSL-Zuid to Rotterdam Centraal. Total journey time is just over 4 hours, making it comparable to the plane from London to Schipol and then the train to Rotterdam. It’s a journey that anyone should be willing to contemplate.

So how do you book?

I started at Eurostar.com, just to see what it would give me. £168 to get to Rotterdam on 6th March, and £155 to get back, £323 total, and this in standard class. For reasons I don’t understand it would only give me semi-flexible tickets.

So I returned to my standard 3-step process for booking European rail tickets:

FIRST, get all the timetable information from German railways – reiseauskunft.bahn.de. Screenshots: London-Rotterdam, Rotterdam-London

SECOND, work out where to split the journey for booking purposes. For London-Rotterdam it’s rather simple – split at Bruxelles Midi where you change trains (for more on complicated splits see this blog entry)

THIRD, book the tickets direct with the train companies involved, in this case Eurostar and Thalys

The result? £79 return for London-Bruxelles Midi, and €75 (£63.89) return for Bruxelles Midi-Rotterdam Centraal, total £142.89 return. Less than half the price quoted by Eurostar.com for the complete journey. OK, these tickets are non-exchangeable, non-refundable, but why are those not actually offered by Eurostar.com in the first place? Also considering this journey is 5 weeks away from now, it still strikes me as rather costly…

Once more the case for proper Europe-wide train booking systems is very clear – something for the workshop on transport and mobility at the conference?

Photo: michaël s “Thalys_Eurostar_gare_du_nord” SJune 12, 2005 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution


  1. Patrick Hamm

    Do you know of any groups or blogs that are organized around tracking and/or mobilizing pressure on Eurostar? I am currently highly irritated because they have just restructured their Frequent Traveller system so as to privilege first class ticket buyers much more, at the expense of those buying cheap tix (including myself – e.g., those buying the cheapest tickets will have to spend roughly triple the amount of those buying expensive tickets to qualify for the same reward milage). I intend to complain, including to the regulatory agency, but would be very interested in finding others who feel similarly, but I’m not that web-savvy. It seems from your experience that this reflects their overall approach. In any case, thanks for any help.

  2. The other trick is to buy a Eurostar ticket to ‘any Dutch station’, but this isn’t valid on Thalys.

    Reform is desperately needed, especially where one or more operator operates a ‘global fares’ (= ‘we do our own thing’) policy, with no through fares onto neighbouring railways. Paris to Hamburg is a good example: there is no choice but to split tickets in Cologne or Brussels if the first leg from Paris is on Thalys.

  3. Anonymous

    You also need to compare Eurostar to, er, Eurostar:


    “Londen naar Brussel” costs €208.50 at 8.58, but “London to Brussels” only costs £154.50, approximately £25 (€30) less!

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