World News

Germany's Frankfurt-London high-speed rail link put on ice

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - 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 (410 million pounds) 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.

($1 = 0.7298 euros)

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Louise Ireland