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We travel on the inaugural Eurostar service to Amsterdam!

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On Wednesday 4th April Eurostar launched its new route from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Passengers can now travel from St. Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal in 3 hours and 41 minutes.

On paper this is almost four times longer than the average flight time between the two cities.  To find out whether it is worth taking the Eurostar I went on the inaugural trip.  Club Eurostar provided us with a free one-way ticket, but this was not part of the official media group.

I was booked in Business Premier.  I won’t go into too much detail regarding the seat as Rob wrote an in-depth review back in 2016 when the new e320 trains were introduced to the London – Paris route.  Instead I will concentrate on the journey itself.

At St. Pancras

The train was scheduled to leave at 08:31 and arrive in Amsterdam at 13:12.  As you only need to get to the station 30 minutes before the scheduled departure – and with Business Premier you can arrive as late as 10 minutes before departure – you can save at least 90 minutes here compared to flying.

I got to St. Pancras around 07:30 as I had a Business Premier ticket and wanted to have breakfast and coffee in the lounge.  Remember that American Express Platinum cardholders get free access to Eurostar lounges in London, Brussels and Paris irrespective of travel class.  You cannot bring a guest but your partner probably has a supplementary Platinum card anyway.  Rob has never had a problem taking his children in too although this is discretionary.

Eurostar employees were handing out Stropwafels to passengers as they were queuing up to go through security!

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

The Eurostar lounge is on your right as  you enter the station.  It is an odd shape, very long and not particularly wide.  The downstairs area of the lounge was fairly quiet.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

….. whilst upstairs was where everyone was waiting, chatting and taking videos and pictures.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

Just after 8am it was time to board the train:

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

I was in carriage 1 which was the last carriage and thereby at the other end of the platform.  The official media group was at the other end of the train – you may have seen pictures in the newspapers last week of Raymond Blanc personally supervising the food, but he never made it to my carriage!

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

To celebrate the first  train ride to Amsterdam each passenger found a tote bag at their seat:

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

The Amsterdam services do not stop at Ashford International.  This allowed the train to set a record-breaking time to Brussels as you will see.

Shortly after leaving St. Pancras we were served breakfast:

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

After 1 hour and 48 minutes we stopped in Brussels. This was 17 minutes faster than the previous quickest timetabled journey.  I can imagine that the Eurostar ticketing team will be taking careful notes, as they need to juggle the number of people who just want to travel from Brussels to Amsterdam with those travelling London to Brussels (and this is now the fastest service of the day) and those travelling through to The Netherlands.

Eurostar from London to Amsterdam

After leaving Brussels alcoholic drinks and snacks were served.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

I chose a glass of champagne (Piper) and was given a cheese and meat box. The cheese was very strong which I don’t like but the meat was very good.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

Three hours after leaving St. Pancras we stopped in Rotterdam:

Rotterdam

And 40 minutes later we had reached our destination: Amsterdam.  That said, we had to wait on the tracks outside the station for about 10 minutes before continuing to our platform.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

At Amsterdam Centraal everything was pretty unspectacular.  I was secretly hoping for a big party but it was not to be. I got off the train, walked down the platform, down the stairs and out of the station.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

There was no passport control as that had already happened in London.

Eurostar inaugural London to Amsterdam

Eurostar’s chief executive Mike Cooper said about the new route to Amsterdam:

“The departure of our first commercial service to Amsterdam represents a historic milestone for Eurostar and the growth of international high speed rail. With the Netherlands becoming increasingly popular as a business and tourism destination, the potential for our new route is significant and we look forward to offering our customers a fast, seamless connection between these key European cities.”

Will the new service be a success?

Having to compete with 17 daily flights from London to Amsterdam, it won’t be easy to win over frequent flyers on this route.  The arrival times of 13:12 and 22:12 are also not very business friendly. On the other hand Eurostar offers almost seamless wi-fi connection on the whole route, apart for a few bits as you can see on the map below, which means you can work during the journey.

eurostar wifi

For comparison, I took a BA flight from Amsterdam back to London City the next day.  I left the hotel (IHG’s Kimpton De Witt, more on that soon) at 11am and walked to the central station which took about five minutes. The next train to the airport was leaving at 11:34am, my flight was at 1:40pm but ended up being slightly delayed and I was back in the HFP office at Moorgate by 2:45pm UK time.

All in all my journey took 4 hours and 45 minutes.  Given that I could get from the office to St Pancras in around 15 minutes, the total travel time – at least outbound – is virtually identical by train and I would have had more opportunity to work on the way.

Conclusion

I can see why taking the train instead of a plane can be attractive on the London to Amsterdam route, although a lot will depend on how easy it is for you to get to St Pancras compared to your nearest airport.  With KLM and its partners flying from every major UK regional airport you are never far from a plane to Schiphol.

The real problem is on the return.  Until the passport control facilities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam are in use, you need to change trains in Brussels on the way back in order to be screened.  This will happen once a formal agreement has been signed between the UK and Dutch governments, but it’s probably not going to happen before late 2019. The increases the travel time to almost five hours which is unfortunate, and will certainly lead to people travelling to Amsterdam by train and back by plane as I did.

Whilst most of the publicity around this route has focused on Amsterdam, I think that Rotterdam will be the quiet success story.  The train takes about three hours, whilst the flying options are limited.  Rotterdam’s airport is not exactly a major hub, with no rail connection, whilst most of the major corporate offices are very close to the station.

I do recommend giving Eurostar a go on your next trip to Amsterdam or Rotterdam in order to make up your own mind.

Remember that Club Eurostar is still offering double points on all trips to the Netherlands booked before 13th April for travel by 31st August.  This is only valid on Eurostar trains and not any connecting Thalys services.  The bonus points do not count towards your status level.

This HFP article explains how to use your American Express Membership Rewards points to redeem for Eurostar tickets although cash tickets are cheap at the moment as they look to build volume and you may find that a better deal.

Thanks to Club Eurostar for their help in arranging my trip.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. David says:

    Paul, from Paul’s trip reports on YouTube was also seated in the same carriage you were. The service seemed fine, although I’m not sure the premium he paid would be worth it for a lot of people. (Even though check in is shorter with a business premier ticket.)

    I totally agree with you on Rotterdam, the time it takes could be a real game changer versus LON – AMS and back out again.

    I cant wait to try it out. Thanks for your review.

    • Lady London says:

      +1 re Rotterdam.
      So far as I can tell Rotterdam has lots of businesses that people visit from UK, as compared to Amsterdam? Basing on my limited experience booking flights out of the City for people it was always RTM rather than AMS,

      The Dutch train network is excellent and cheap so connecting from RTM to other places by train should be quick and easy.

  2. I love the idea.

    However not the return and passport control. Why can’t they board the train as they do from Paris?

    I think the major return issue will stop people using the service.

    A one way flight costs as much as a return normally so that is also not an option.

    • I’d say one way on Eurostar and one way on Avios is how I plan to do this. You info on one ways flights is also outdated. EZY has always priced legs separately and BA does so on many shorthaul routes (AMS being one of them). I picked a random date not too far in the future (18 April) and cheapest BA AMS-LGW was €56, cheapest AMS-LHR €93 and cheapest AMS-LCY €86. The only airline that still seems expensive as one ways is KLM.

      • Good to know that short haul is priced as one way tickets.

        I guess I am used to being ripped off for long haul!

      • (And Swiss, on a different market — even if flying only one way, buying a return and dropping the last leg is almost always cheaper)

  3. Frank says:

    Small correction: The passport control facilities have already been completed, however they cannot be used until a formal agreement has been signed between the UK and Dutch governments. Considering how the former is pre-occupied with other matters at the moment this isn’t expected to be in place until end 2019.

  4. My partner and I have platinum cards but my 6-year old daughter was disappointingly not allowed to come to the Eurostar lounge over Easter even though it was very quiet. Rob has had more luck than us.

  5. Some comments:
    As LCY has a 30 minute check-in how can you save ‘at least’ 90 minutes compared with flying? Of course it depends where you live, but from E14 (Canary Wharf, not an unusual start point) it’s quicker to get to LCY than St Pancras.

    Loads of people said the Eurostar food looked amazing, I’m guessing you chose the lighter offering but other people showed the Business Premier breakfast as very similar to an airline breakfast. It seems such a waste to serve airline style food on a train when on similar length services in the UK you can get a full English presented properly on a plate. For me, dining is part of the experience of longer train journeys, Eurostar would be a winner for me with better catering.

    I’m going to try the route (for no better reason than I’ve not been on Eurostar for a while) but my gut feeling is LCY-AMS in CE will be quicker and have the same quality of catering.

    It’s worth noting if you don’t redeem points a one-way in Business Premier is always £260, Business Premier is effectively the full-fare first class cabin. The cheaper Standard Premier (despite the name has the same first class seats) but it has reduced catering offerings, so you don’t have the option of the hot breakfast, just pastries. That said, there can be times when the Club Europe fare is more than Standard Premier, full fare CE is ridiculously crazy.

    • My feeling was the same re food. I’m currently sat on virgin east coast first class which offers a far superior breakfast even when you’re travelling <1.5hr journey. Also the hot all day food options are always good. The only thing missing is champagne and bloody mary’s! Oh and the tickets are a fraction of the price of Eurostar for even longer journeys.

      • I’m not a spirits person but I thought they’d be able to do a bloody mary on VTEC. I know they have vodka, do they not have any tomato juice? I stick with the Hop on Board (ale) 🙂 Bad news is they’re thinking of removing spirits (or making them chargeable) when the Azuma launches.

        Eurostar seems to be trying to be a plane on wheels. Back in the early 2000’s GNER leased some Eurostar sets to provide additional capacity London-Leeds (Google “GNER White Rose” if interested), they provided a full on-board restaurant service on these trains so Eurostar could do it if they wanted to (unless the kitchens in their new trains are more limited).

        • No they don’t stock tomato juice unfortunately but it’s not at all an issue when I’m only paying a maximum fare of £39 (£29 during the 50% sales) for advance return first class travel between Newark and London. This is for travel on Fridays and Mondays so I get the full service offering not the stripped down weekend service. Everyone moans about trains being too expensive but I actually believe that’s too cheap!

          If alcohol is removed with the Azuma train then I will certainly reconsider travelling first class on evening trains.

        • No plans to remove alcohol, wines and beers would remain. This was only a proposal, if everyone who received the survey said keep the spirits I hope they listen. Sales excepted, I’ve not been able to get a decent 1st class fare to Newcastle for a long time on the Friday evening trains (usually over £120 one way, which is still fine but I need to burn off my Avios so end up flying). That’s why I was surprised that when I booked Leeds at shortish notice (8 days) I paid around £40 (this wasn’t evening peak like Newcastle though, but I was still impressed).

          Best bargain for me is sometimes you can get London-Grantham on the 18:19 for around £16.00 in the sales, as that’s an evening meal train and usually has one of their best crews on you get a two course meal, at least one (often 2) drinks rounds and depending how busy they are the after meal hot drinks may appear in the 70 minute journey.

        • RussellH says:

          Eurostar (sales + marketing, not the operations or engineering sides) has **always** thought of itself as running an airline, not a train service. IIRC in the early days you even had to stay a Saturday night at your destination in order to get the cheapest fares! They still have a very limited number of destinations to which you can book a through ticket, they are all larger cities and probably have an airport. Compare Deutsche Bahn or Voyages-SNCF.

          Eurostar were always (I suppose that they might have changed) singularly unsympathetic towards tour operators, only being interested in the very largest firms who would guarantee them annual sales well into six figures, and demanding that they held a huge deposit of the TO’s funds at the TO’s risk. SNCF by contrast were very helpful and supportive.

      • Barnaby100 says:

        If the chef turns up which is 1 out of 4 on my last few trips. Never count on breakfast as they consistently don’t deliver.

  6. Anika – you talk about flight times but surely some major advantages not noted:

    Check in only 30 mins before.
    Not the same security hassle and baggage claim (if with luggage)
    Central London to Central Amsterdam by train
    Delay potential between two major Hub airports
    Better seat.

    I agree that it will struggle to compete for frequent business travellers but has to be a winner for leisure travellers surely? If comletively priced.

    • Genghis says:

      We last went to Amsterdam back end of last year for leisure on avios tickets. LCY quite close to our house, check in closes 30 mins before, travel HBO on exit row (status holder) so a bit more room. Yes the plane dumps you at Schiphol but Centraal is not the exactly centre of generally where we like to stay in Amsterdam either. I would like to try the train though.

      • All true and indeed LCY is also my nearest airport – tarmac to front door 45 minutes – but surely St Pancras is easier for most people to get to…and if you are a first timer to Amsterdam then Centraal is a likely choice? Personally I always find Amsterdam a bit difficult to navigate.

  7. Alexis O says:

    I took the Thurs evening train to Amsterdam. Security was quite busy, and weirdly the were pulling Amsterdam passengers out to skip the queue even though the train wasn’t derpating for another 40 mins (not that I’m complaining!). The on-boardiwifi was absolutely unusable until we got close to Brussels, and Vodafone reception in Kent was useless also, so I wouldn’t count on being able to work for most of it. Otherwise the journey was very pleasant indeed and would definitely do it again. Flying back this morning on Easyjet to Luton. Train is definitely preferred!

    • I go through Kent a lot on the train – O2 reception also non-existent.

  8. Greer says:

    Do you know if there is going to be a business lounge available in Amsterdam? Just wondering if there is any point in a business premier ticket?

  9. Wivus says:

    We have an office just outside Rotterdam, so this would be useful if we were not based in the West Midlands. I’ll wait until HS2 is completed. Or maybe not as I will be 6ft under by then.
    Until then I will continue with my campaign for direct flights from Stratford Upon Avon to Delft.

    • Mikeact says:

      Can’t you hitch a ride in that VC10 at Wellesbourne.?

      • Wivus says:

        Good idea. Just need a pilot from around Wellesourne or Honeybourne that does not still think it is WW 2 🙂

  10. Don’t forget you can use 4g on your mobile for no extra cost for the duration of the route – often better than onboard WiFi I find. I agree that Rotterdam is likely the more popular destination here – 20 minutes to The Hague by train from Rotterdam Centraal too, for example. The return does mess it up, but RTM-LCY is fairly frequent and Rotterdam Airport is tiny and still operates like City many years ago – you can stand in the middle and see all the gates from one spot, so getting there 30 minutes before departure is certainly possible if you have only hand luggage.

  11. Interesting to see HFP has made a return to the Kimpton De Witt after an unfavourable first review. I stayed there and thought it was great. It’ll be interesting to see what you think now!

    • We told IHG we had been invited on the Eurostar trip so they offered us a free room if we agreed to take another look. They accept that the opening was bodged and that it was a walking disaster at the time I stayed.

  12. I travel regularly to Amsterdam, often multiple times per month. There is nothing in this Eurostar service that would even make me consider switching from a LCC flight. Last year I travelled regularly to Brussels on Eurostar, and could usually guarantee some kind of hold-up, especially on the way back on a Friday night.

  13. Ha, I’ve been to the eurostar lounge at st pancras half a dozen times and I had no idea there was an upstairs section!

    Personally, given comparable journey times and prices, train wins over flying 100% of the time for me.

  14. Richard M says:

    The other thing that might be of interest to leisure travellers if not those on business, is that there are good and cheap rail connections to north Germany from Amsterdam. A two-hourly frequency intercity train runs from Amsterdam to Berlin via Hannover, with additional same-day connections off this up to Hamburg and elsewhere in Lower Saxony. Fares start from 39.90 Euros one way via bahn.de

  15. One good thing about the train is you can take a couple of bottles of nice bottles of wine on board if you are going for a romantic get away.

    Alternatively if you are away with the “lads” your can take your own crate of beer.

    Coupled with the fact that I live near St Pancras, the train wins hands down.

  16. Thanks for the review.

    Also remember that taking the train is far more environmentally friendly than flying that distance. If you’re at all concerned about your carbon footprint it’s a no brainer. I always take the Eurostar to Paris rather than the plane even though Heathrow is just 35 mins from Guildford where I live. I get on enough planes as it is so I’m very happy to take the train.

  17. ChrisC says:

    Why are people making such an issue of the train switch from Thalys to Eurostar on the return? Because in reality it isn’t a big issue. Take it from someone who has actually done it.

    It is a lot easier than some airline connection processes – off the Thalys down to concourse level via lift/ escalator and a very short walk to the Eurostar terminal for check-in and security.

    And doing Thalys & Eurostar offers more options for the return trip.

    • With a couple of kids and a couple of cases? Not keen.

      • ChrisC says:

        You’ve probably lugged luggage and kids far longer distances at airports than you would doing the platform change at Midi!

        Is it going to suit everyone then no but it will suit a lot of people to do this.

        I reiterate this is not as awful as some people make out.

  18. I can’t find any Club Eurostar redemptions Amsterdam-London for this year, but plenty in the other direction, seems odd!?

  19. Prins Polo says:

    How was the breakfast and coffee in the lounge? It’s mentioned at the beginning but not actually reviewed.

    Re saving “at least 90 minutes” on the outbound – what do frequent travelers think about arriving 10 minutes before departure? I travel on Eurostar rather infrequently and was always thinking it’s a bit too aggressive.

    If that’s used for the calculation in the article, then also the LCY cut-off time should be used rather than 1h40 minutes (90 mins + 10 mins).

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