FRANKFURT Feb 18 Germany's Deutsche Bahn
has put on hold its high-speed Frankfurt-London rail
project after delivery delays on Siemens' ICE trains
and will focus now on routes to Brussels and Paris, a top
manager at the state-owned firm said.
Deutsche Bahn had hoped to open the route last year and said
the 640 km (400 mile) journey would take five hours, but late in
2012 it put back that deadline to 2016 when its 500-million-euro
($685-million) order for 16 trains was delayed.
"We have not entirely given up the goal of going to London.
But for now we are concentrating on going to Brussels and
Paris," Andreas Busemann, head of production at Deutsche Bahn's
long-distance business, told journalists on a trip from
Frankfurt to Cologne in a new ICE 3 high-speed train.
"Once that is done, we will think about whether, how and
when we will go to London," he told Reuters separately.
Siemens has delivered four of the ICEs, another four are due
to arrive in late March and the rest will be handed over once
they have been certified for use in Belgium and France.
"None of us anticipated that we would have such major
problems with certification. In the meantime, the business
environment has changed," Busemann said, citing increases in
French track usage charges and tough competition.
Cross-Channel train services are operated by Eurostar,
majority-owned by French state-owned SNCF.
Eurostar, the operator of the Channel Tunnel passenger train
service, is meanwhile also planning to start direct service from
London to Frankfurt and Cologne in the next few years, once it
receives its own order of trains from Siemens.
To make up for the delay, Siemens has said it would give
Deutsche Bahn one extra ICE 3 train free and it is in talks over
possible further compensation.
Juergen Wilder, CEO of Siemens' high-speed and regional rail
business, told Reuters on Tuesday that talks with Deutsche Bahn
were "constructive" but declined to say how long they might take
nor give details on more compensation payments.