Eurostar, the high-speed rail service connecting the UK with mainland Europe, is putting tickets on sale for a third daily direct service from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
The extra service, due to launch on 11 June, is in response to strong customer demand for the route to the Netherlands, which launched in April last year.
As tickets go on sale on Friday, fares will continue to start at £35 one way, with journey times from 3hrs 13mins from St Pancras station in central London direct to Rotterdam and 3hrs 52mins to Amsterdam.
On the return leg passengers will continue to face longer journey times, having to connect through Brussels for passport controls and security screening, until the two governments complete an agreement allowing passport checks to be conducted in the Netherlands.
“Our new route to the Netherlands has been met with strong demand from our customers, who increasingly value the ease, comfort and seamless experience of high-speed rail,” said the chief executive of Eurostar, Mike Cooper. “A third train each day will boost capacity whilst offering more choice and flexibility to travellers connecting between these European cities.”
Eurostar is targeting potential converts to high-speed rail by saying a London-Amsterdam Eurostar journey emits 80% less carbon than the equivalent flight. The third service will bring Eurostar’s capacity on the route to the equivalent of 12 flights a day, more than 75 flights a week and 3,900 per year.
The extra service will leave London St Pancras at 11.04 am, while the departure of the first daily train is being brought forward by 75 minutes to 7.16am, giving business travellers the opportunity of a longer day. The early train will reach Amsterdam at 12.11pm.
Plans for the highly anticipated service were first announced in September 2013 but the official start date was subject to delays while immigration and passport controls were agreed.
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 Dutch transport secretary, Stientje van Veldhoven, told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad in October that she was enthusiastic about further rail services and keen to see “as many passengers as possible off the plane for short distances within Europe”.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is under increasing pressure, with slots difficult to obtain at peak times.