A Thalys train at Cologne station, Germany (photo © hidden europe).
It looks like all change at Thalys as the international rail operator trims its network. "Welcome to our world" proclaims a banner on the company’s website. But the Thalys world shrinks next week with the dropping of two routes which have featured in Thalys schedules since 1997. Thalys presently serves ten stations in Belgium. With next week’s cuts, that number drops to just four.
Thalys launched its core Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam route in December 1995. Just 18 months later, Thalys launched additional services. These included an extension of the company’s network to Germany, running Paris – Brussels – Liège – Aachen – Cologne. On the same date, Thalys introduced two new services from Paris to Belgium, as follows:
With the cuts which take effect next week, the route from Paris to Liège via Charleroi and that via Gent to Oostende slip from the schedules.
Thalys’ revenue is overwhelmingly generated by the main Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam axis. Summer 2015 will see up to 25 departures a day from Paris to Brussels with up to 11 of those services continuing beyond Brussels to serve Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
Compared with the main Paris – Amsterdam axis, the services from Paris to Liège via Charleroi and the route to Oostende have been mere tiddlers in terms of passenger numbers. The final departures from Paris on both routes will be on the evening of Tuesday 31 March (at 18.16 to Oostende and at 19.46 to Liège via Charleroi).
With the dropping of these two routes from Paris, six Belgian stations presently served by Thalys will drop completely from the company’s network. They are:
Thalys is the only dedicated high-speed operator serving these six railway stations. All six will continue to be served by a very good range of other trains.
This is not the first time that Thalys has trimmed its network. From 1999 until 2007 the company ran services from Brussels to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy (for Eurodisney). But the company has also been very entrepreneurial in developing new routes. The Thalys service from Paris via Brussels to Cologne has been extended to Essen (initially with one train each day, but now with three services running beyond Cologne). For the last three years, occasional Paris to Brussels trains have been extended to Brussels Airport. Last year Thalys launched a twice daily Lille – Brussels – Amsterdam service.
Thalys also runs seasonal services from Amsterdam and Brussels to the French Alps (in winter) and to Provence (in summer).