Dortmund secures a direct rail link with Brussels and Paris from December 2015 (photo © Peter Lovás / dreamstime.com)
Thalys’ distinctive red livery appears in Dortmund for the first time in December this year when the high-speed rail operator extends its existing Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Essen service a little further east to Dortmund. For the last several years, Thalys has been nibbling away at the lucrative business market in the Ruhr region.
For many years, Thalys trains never crossed the River Rhine. Trains from Paris all terminated at Cologne Hauptbahnhof on the west bank of the river. Thalys’ efforts to extend its services beyond Cologne were not welcomed by Deutsche Bahn (DB).
By 2001, Thalys was managing one round trip each day to Düsseldorf, but difficulties in securing track access meant that the service was soon cut back to Cologne. One up to DB, but Thalys was undeterred. Since December 2013 Thalys has run thrice daily services beyond Cologne to Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Essen. From 13 December 2015, Thalys trains will be extended to Dortmund.
Departures from Dortmund to Brussels and Paris will be at 05.19, 07.13 and 15.13. Trains will leave Paris for the return run to Dortmund at 07.55, 15.55 and 17.55. For those with the stamina for a long day, it will thus be possible to make a round trip to Paris in a day – taking the first train out from Dortmund in the morning, the schedule allows just under eight hours in the French capital.
The travel time from Dortmund to Paris will be 4 hrs 46 mins. All trains will serve Liège and Brussels. The fastest travel time from Dortmund to Brussels will be 3 hrs 13 mins. Lead-in fares from Dortmund to Brussels and Paris are €19 and €35 respectively. Thalys trains can normally be booked three months prior to travel, so the new services from Dortmund are already open for booking.
Capacity on the Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Essen service will increase from 13 December, when a fourth daily round trip is introduced – this extra train will not run beyond Essen and so will not serve Dortmund.
The new Thalys direct link from Dortmund to Brussels recalls a little fragment of travel history. Cast back to the late 1990s and twice-daily Eurocity services linked the two cities. In those days the journey took four hours.
One has to look even further back to find the last direct Dortmund to Paris service. That was a Eurocity train named after the French author Molière. It was still running in the early 1990s, when it left Dortmund at 06.44 to reach Paris in the early afternoon. The return run departed from Paris at 16.37 and reached Dortmund just before midnight. The eastbound train carried a number of sleeping cars from Paris which were detached from the EC Molìère in Aachen and then carried forward on other trains to Copenhagen, Berlin and Moscow.