Taking the train to Amsterdam

Uncategorized | October 3, 2011

I can’t think of a better place to start any trip than London St Pancras. Since its redevelopment in 2007 it has not only become one of the most iconic railways stations around the world but is also one of the most impressive buildings in London and well worth a visit even if you weren’t catching a train like I was. Eurostar suggest customers be at check in at least 30 mins before departure (and in theory most days you only need about 10 minutes as it is so efficient and straight forward) but I would suggest giving yourself at least an hour so you can enjoy the station. Whether it be enjoying a glass of Epernay’s finest at the renowned Champagne Bar, or shopping for chocolates at Neuhaus, it really is a pleasurable place to spend an hour or so.

I was there to take the train to Amsterdam for a friend’s birthday. I had been weighing up whether to take the plane or train for a while but in the end went for the train option due mainly to the fact that in the end the fare was slightly less. On first viewing it looked like the budget airline I was looking at was going to save me a bit of money but when I calculated in the cost of the Heathrow Express ticket to get out to Heathrow from Paddington (and back), the extra cost for 1 bag to go in the hold of the plane (and back) and also the train tickets at that the other end to get from Schipol Airport into central Amsterdam then the train was in fact slightly less.

So I departed St Pancras in the early afternoon on a Friday via Eurostar to Brussels before changing platforms at Midi station on to the high speed Thalys train to Amsterdam. Since Eurostar changed its departure station from Waterloo, along with the opening of the first high speed line in the UK 4 years ago, the journey time to Brussels is now under 2 hours. From Brussels there are two options to getting to Amsterdam; first, the slower option on the ‘old’ line which takes just shy of 3 hours, but does save you some money, or the second option (which I took) via the Thalys train. The Thalys travels on a high speed line which was opened just under 2 years ago and has meant that Brussels to Amsterdam can down be done in 1 hour 50 minutes by train. So with my 30 minute change over in Brussels it meant that from leaving London to arriving in Amsterdam the time spent travelling was just 4 hours. ‘Just 4 hours’ I hear you say sarcastically! Yes, I know that the flight from London to Amsterdam is just an hour but when you factor in the time spent getting to the airport (as well as the cost) and the amount of time needed to check in (certainly no less than 90 mins) then the 4 hour train journey starts to seem that little bit more impressive!

As well as the journey time being impressive the trains were great as well. Eurostar was as good as ever but the Thalys train from Brussels was on another level. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in standard class. The seats were comfortable and large, with an impressive amount of leg room (being a fairly tall person this is very welcome, especially compared to how they pack you in on budget airlines) and the fact that there was Wi-Fi available on board meant that I could even keep up to date with England’s demolition job against India in the cricket!

So all in all, the train was a great success for not only the surprising speed of the journey but also the fact that I arrived at my destination very relaxed and ready for a great weekend in Amsterdam!