Anyone who wants to take a flight on Thalys is almost too late. As of Sunday, the name will disappear from trains after more than a quarter of a century. The high-speed line between Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris will remain known as Eurostar.
No, the 25 Thales trains will not suddenly change completely. The well-known burgundy red with silver gray remains natural. Eurostar spokesman Nicola Petiot said it was very expensive to repaint all the equipment in Eurostar blue and yellow. However, from Saturday 30 September, the first Eurostar trains will be running. “All trains will carry the Eurostar logo in the coming months. This process is ongoing and should be completed by the end of this year.”
The biggest change travelers will notice starting Saturday is the replacement of the Thalys.com website and the Thalys app. Tickets must now be purchased via Eurostar.com. “There will also be a joint loyalty program.”
The name change is the direct result of the merger between Eurostar and Thales, which was announced in 2019. Travelers would be better off looking to one provider, French and Belgian Railways, shareholders of both carriers, it was said at the time. An equally important reason for integration is lower costs: after all, only one ticket system is needed, resulting in lower marketing costs.
“Eurostar is better known”
The merger was almost never implemented: due to the Corona pandemic, passenger numbers declined after 2020 and Eurostar fell into disrepair. Two years later, the two companies resumed their plans, after which the merger was finally completed last year.
Thales’ name is a victim of this and disappears. “Although both Eurostar and Thalys are well known in Europe, Eurostar is better known outside Europe,” Belgian railway company NMBS explained its decision two years ago.
Most travelers will not regret the passing of the Thales name. This name, which means nothing else, was coined in the mid-1990s after the French, Belgian, Dutch and German railways joined forces in 1993. The goal: high-speed connections between Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne and Paris.
Branding agency Globrands was then commissioned to come up with the brand name. The name had to sound French: after all, the French company SNCF was the main shareholder and was responsible. The result had to be “dynamic, practical, feminine and innovative” and radiate “attainable luxury”.
Then the quick PR guys reached out to Thales. “The result, the Thalys brand concept, was surprising and unique in many respects and shows courage,” Globrands continues to congratulate itself online on the discovery. More than ten years later, Globrands also came up with the name for Fyra, the failed high-speed route between Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Brussels.
The first Thalys flight was operated on 2 June 1996 between Paris Gare du Nord, Brussels and Amsterdam. Since the Belgian and Dutch high-speed railways have not yet been built, driving at a maximum speed of 300 km/h is only possible on the French road. So the trip takes approximately five hours, 4:47 hours to be exact.
At the end of December 1997, half an hour will be reduced when the 73-kilometre high-speed railway line between Brussels and the French border is completed. The HSL route between Antwerp and Amsterdam was only opened in December 2009. Since then, passengers have been able to travel from the Dutch capital to Paris in 3 hours and 20 minutes. From Rotterdam it takes more than 2.5 hours. From Antwerp you can reach Paris in two hours, and from Brussels the journey takes one hour and 20 minutes.
However, the connection has been a huge success since its inception in 1996. Thales has carried 144 million passengers over the past 27 years. Last year, 6.5 million people bought a ticket, a record. The direct connection between Amsterdam and Disneyland Paris, launched in 2019, has proven to be a stepping stone.
There were also bad days. The Thales incident made world news in 2015 when a Moroccan jihadist opened fire on a train filled with hundreds of passengers. The heroic action of three American friends, all military personnel, prevented a massacre. They were able to overpower the gunman who boarded Brussels and handed the suspect over to the police at Arras station in northern France. Only four people were injured.
The failed attack was made into a film three years later by Clint Eastwood. Americans Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos also received the Legion of Honor from French President François Hollande, and Barack Obama received them at the White House.
Since 30 September, all Thalys trains have been operating under the Eurostar flag. The Eurostar group will make this an official moment on Wednesday 18 October. “We will officially inaugurate the new Eurostar train to Paris at Amsterdam Central Station,” company spokesman Beto said.
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