A bullet train capable of traveling 200 mph arrived from Germany today in London's St. Pancras Station, heralding a broad expansion of high-speed Continental rail service from the British capital. It also marks the first challenge to Eurostar's virtual monopoly on passenger service through the Channel Tunnel. If all goes according to plan, starting in 2013 passengers will be able to travel by rail from London to Frankfurt, without changing trains, in only five hours.
Following several days of slow-speed safety testing, including an evacuation drill in the tunnel that connects France and the United Kingdom, the Deutsche Bahn InterCity Express (ICE) train pulled into the historic station to a crowd of dignitaries and press. Stepping onto the station platform, Deutsche Bahn's CEO Dr. Ruediger Grube said the arrival marked "a new era" in train travel, according to the Daily Mail.
Three-times daily service (morning, midday, and evening) between Frankfurt and London is expected to begin in December 2013, with one-way fares estimated at $60-$75, according to the Daily Mail. The service will comprise two connected train sets carrying a total of 880 passengers; one set will travel to Frankfurt via Lille, Brussels, and Cologne; the other will split off at Brussels and continue to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Deutsche Bahn's plans are contingent on final approval from the Channel Tunnel authorities.
Passenger rail service via the Chunnel is currently available only on Eurostar, the high-speed train that travels two routes: London-Brussels and London-Paris.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.