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Unless you've got access to a continent-gobbling exotic GT and an immunity to speeding tickets, everyone who's ever traveled Europe knows that the preferred way of getting around the Old World is via train. (Heck, even us car-crazed nuts here at Autoblog take the train for European auto shows.) But for one high-speed train service, the experience is about to get a little bit more... automotive.

Pininfarina, the same Italian design house responsible for dozens of Ferraris and countless other automotive designs throughout the decades, has been awarded the contract to refurbish the train cars for the Eurostar line. Running between Britain, France and Belgium through the English channel, the Eurostar train travels at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph), making it from London to Paris in two hours and fifteen minutes. However, the high-class, high-speed trains haven't been redone since going into operation some 15 years ago. While Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo gets behind the project to build a high-speed train system in Italy, the first of Pininfarina's refurbished Eurostar trains is expected to hit the rails in 2012.

[Source: Autocar]


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  • 16 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      if i'm not mistaken, Pininfarina designed the new surface trams in Athens for the olympics. i saw them run in 2005, they are not all that nice. i thought they would look better. the classic TGV still gets my vote.

      i would appreciate if a Greek reader, or even an Athenian confirm that and post a picture if i'm right....
      • 6 Years Ago
      Being an American who has spent the last few months in Europe, I can say without a doubt that the Eurostar was the single most convenient, hassle-free, travel experience I have had in my whole life (short of a chartered jet, that is).

      In Paris, you show up at the train station, swipe your credit card, grab your tickets, go through minor security/customs (simple x-ray... no taking off shoes/jackets/etc) and then jump on the train. If you miss it, there's usually another one leaving within an hour (if not sooner).

      Once on board, it's smooth sailing. Decent sized seats, food, drinks, plenty of space to walk around. It's wonderful.

      That being said, it is a bit expensive. I lucked out and was able to get Paris -> London round trip for something like 80 euro. It's just so much more convenient than flying it is well worth the minor additional expense.

      Being from the mid-west, I really wish we had something like this to connect Minneapolis - Milwaukee - Chicago. It would be wonderful!
        • 6 Years Ago
        True, they need to get their prices figured out a bit.

        But if I remember correctly, there were endless conflicts between britain and france when building this. That's why they started each on their side, instead of tunneling trough from one side to the other. I'm sure it's got a lot to do with revenue, splitting of the investment, pride and credentials for the project.

        Because of that it turned out more expensive than estimated, which is why the business-model hasn't settled down yet.

        Anyway, when you book in advance it's possible to get cheaper tickets. I'm not sure you can get a plane ticket for a round trip Paris-London-Paris for 80 euros. Bear in mind that low cost airlines usually don't fly from airports like 'de gaulle' or 'london stansted' but instead out of minor airports in the vicinity. It's not only often 30-40 miles OUT of any major city, but like I said, you need to get there early and it's quite the hassle.

        But anyway, even is 80 euros is more expensive (let's say 20 euros more). It's absolutely worth it. Not having to drive up to a busy airport, finding a parking space, getting there one hour in advance, having your planes delayed because some douchebag is on the wrong plane or is afraid of flying. No turbulence, no excessive noise, no cramped seats.... Having to check out on the other side, looking for a bus/taxi/train to get to london itself. Been there, done that, no thank you.

        There's no compairing a low cost airline to a comfortable ride on the tgv. So for me it's well worth it. Off course, with longer distances, the plane gets back in the picture.

        Maglev trains would be even superior.

        Evidently, the US is much bigger, so I don't know what the average distance is between your biggest metropoles. But it's certainly something worth checking out...

        Look up on google: "Thalys interior" 1st class and 2nd class. You won't find that on a plane.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh, they do have the Maglev in Shanghai. I was so bummed I didn't get to ride it when I was there. But it's really a test track, it only goes from the Pudong airport to the edge of town (the limits of the Shanghai subway), it's something like 14km in length. And it gets very few passengers.

        It does go very fast though, over 400km/h for a very short period I think (it barely gets up to speed before it slows again for arrival).

        I personally can't see how maglev makes sense, seems like a lot of energy to me, but I do know that those who actually know the physics say over 350km/h or something, maglev supposedly starts to break even or better. Still, the track costs a fortune, I can't see how long maglev lines will ever be made.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There is little or no high speed rail in China. They have extensive regular rail, but almost no high speed rail and what they do have only goes 200km/h, which makes it not really high speed at all (slower than Acela!).
        • 6 Years Ago
        LS2LS7 -
        I agree with your points. I dont think anyone would go Seattle to San Diego but I was rather suggesting dedicated HS rail lining the destinations I mentioned. I would expect most passengers to only utilize portions of the line and not the entire route. I think the useful distance for HSR is probably about 400 miles. Outside of that one would be better served to take an Airplane.

        The problem with the Acela Express (as you mentioned) is that is shares the rails AND it is Amtrack so it has average service and high prices. It is sort of like being on a fast bus. In Europe the trains are much fancier (even in coach), which is nice. First class on most Amtrak trains is nothing special. Definitely does not fit the romantic notion many have for trains but the Euro trains pretty much live up to one's expectations.

        I would like to see a resurgence of train service in the US for no agenda other than another travel option. Here in Pittsburgh train service is VERY limited to Chicago or New York, both a VERY expensive, VERY slow, and not competitive with Air.

        China is just as big and geographically diverse and they have managed to implement a very extensive high speed passenger rail system.

        I would really like to see Maglev implementation (vs. sharing railways with freight) but I know this will never happen for all sorts of valid reasons.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Since the US is one nation, you won't have that interstate rivalry for the project, inflating project prices. So normally you should be spared from this sort of politics...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Bill,
        I would like to see regional high speed rail as well. I love the Euro train system and have only had great experiences as you have also commented on.


        East Coast - Boston, New York, Philly, DC, Richmond, and Atlanta could easily be linked with HS rail.

        West Coast - San Diego, LA, San Fran, Portland, Seattle

        Midwest/East - Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philly

        Ohio - Cleveland, Columbus, Cinci

        Trains already link these cities but they are not anywhere near the level of the Euro and Japanese offerings. Amtrak is not a good representative for rail service as freight always has the right-away, causing delays for the passenger trains. Trains are not fast as the use the low speed freight rails, fancy, or particularly convenient. Trains in the US compete with buses not planes. This is unfortunate as properly executed train service would be wonderful.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There were no conflicts when making the chunnel. They started from both sides, but that was considered desirable. It is the norm on any decent-sized tunneling project now (now that we know how to get the ends to line up properly in the middle). The tunneling on both ends was done on behalf of a single company, so there was no financial competition either.

        The cost was very high, but the business model has pretty much settled down. The business model is "ferry freight through the tunnel". The Eurostar is not the biggest user of the tunnel by far, the car and (more importantly) truck carrying trains that only run the length of the tunnel (and not Paris to London) are the big moneymaker. When the tunnel caught fire last time, it was a near-emergency for freight, the shutdown of passenger rail was a minor issue.

        Eurostar ran pretty smoothly for me, despite the fact that the tunnel fire had occurred only a month before, and one tunnel was still partially shut down. However, the jerks wanted you to show an hour early for the train (due to the service disruption) but they didn't show at St. Pancras until 45 minutes before the train and didn't start processing tickets/customers until about 40 minutes before the train left. When there is no disruption, it is possible to show about 30 minutes before the train, or even 10 minutes before the train if you have a first class ticket. It's likely that at non-peak times even regular customers could get away with showing only 10 minutes before the train. As another bonus to the speediness, you can carry on just about as much luggage as you want, no waiting at a carousel when you get there for your baggage to come out.

        The customs thing was okay. You have a metal detector and that's about it. No taking your shoes off or anything (of course, you don't do that on planes in Europe either). They might X-ray your luggage too, but if they do, they don't take it too seriously. You still have to go to passport control also. If you take the Eurostar from Paris to Brussels, it leaves from a regular track and there is no passport control or customs at all. The UK has not signed some accord (and likely will not) which would make it possible to travel Eurostar between Paris and London without security or customs.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Opps I forgot about the Acela Express in the North East that already links Boston, New York, Philly and DC by HSR. Still could be improved upon though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sorry, I didn't mean to give the wrong impression. I found 80 euro to be quite reasonable, but I have seen it go up to as much as 150 euro if not more for Paris - London round trip.

        Don't even get me started on the budget airlines... yeah, the ticket is like 30 euro... but then you have to take the shuttle to the airport (15 euro), plus 20 euro per bag you want to check, plus 10 euro to check in (if you have non EU passport)... plus the shuttle on the other end.

        I've done a lot of flying out of "Paris" Beauvais... which really isn't anywhere near Paris. The train is significantly more convenient (and usually cheaper... depending on where you're going).

        I had the opportunity recently to ride a Thaly's train Paris - Amsterdam and back. It was wonderful. I wasn't in first class, but even in 2nd, they offered wi-fi (for a price... I think it was 10 euro for the duration of the trip). I looked into the 1st class cars and they looked amazing.

        The distance between large cities in the US is much larger, I believe, than in Europe. For example, it is ~400 miles (~645km) between Chicago and Minneapolis. This is quite a large distance, but not outrageous. The distance between Paris and Amsterdam is ~500km (~310 miles), which is only slightly less.

        The problem occurs once you try to connect the west with the midwest with the east. I believe regional trains would work very well here, but traveling cross-country by train just isn't feasible.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Pininfarina has a long history of designing trains, trams, and anything on rails. I have ridden on both Swiss and Italian trains designed by PF and they have done interiors for many more and even buses.

      http://daniel.sparing.hu/2009/04/01/pininfarina/

      They won't be more automotive though, I believe that the trains are designed by Pininfarina's product design department and not the automotive designers.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Pininfarina is not new to trains. I was recently in Switzerland and noticed that a lot of locomotives and carriages had Pininfarina badges on them...
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