Paris to Berlin in four hours: The plan for Europe’s ultra-rapid train network

The EU's Covid-19 economic recovery package could be used to fund a European ultra-rapid train network - including a four-hour train link from Paris to Berlin.

Paris to Berlin in four hours: The plan for Europe's ultra-rapid train network
Photo: AFP

The EU's €2 trillion recovery package for economies blighted by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has been driven by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, and aims to avoid a damaging and long-lasting recession.

It proposes helping out industries particularly badly hit by the lockdown such as tourism.

But a report from the Vienna Institute for Economic Studies looking at ways of spending the fund to give the greatest benefit also suggests a series of massive infrastructure projects including a European ultra-rapid train network.

Map: Vienna Institute for International Studies.

The document proposes “a European green high-speed train network to be established as part of a recovery programme from the Covid-19 crisis over the period of the 2020s.

“The URT network should be a new double-track high-speed railway system that is complementary to the existing networks.

'However, where suitable, also existing lines could be adapted. An average speed in the range of 250-350 km/h should be achieved. This would allow passengers to halve the current rail travel times, for instance, from Paris to Berlin in about four hours, making air travel for a large part of the intra-European passenger transport obsolete.

“Cutting by around half the EU’s domestic air passenger operations has the potential to reduce global commercial aviation CO2 emissions by about 4-5 percent. In addition, rail cargo capacities would be increased, freight transport speeded up and so also road-vehicle emissions reduced.”

The plan proposes four lines.

1. Paris to Dublin – from Paris to Brest, taking the Brest-Cork ferry then running from Cork to Dublin. The report describes this route as 'taking on an additional significance in the context of Brexit'.

2. Lisbon to Helsinki – running from Lisbon through Spain and France, via Paris, then to Belgium and the Netherlands before splitting into a loop via Berlin and onwards to Helsinki.

3. Brussels to Valetta – through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy before taking the ferry to Malta

4. Berlin to Nicosia – with a ferry-based sea link between Piraeus and Paphos and a loop between Vienna and Sofia.

The plan would give France an extra 2,060km of high-speed railway and Germany an extra 2,299km.


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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.