Eurostar is launching a "seamless" new high-speed rail service running directly between London and Amsterdam, in a bid to encourage more passengers to opt for lower-carbon train travel across mainland Europe instead of taking a flight.
The Channel Tunnel operator claims the new direct train service cuts the journey time down to just over four hours between the UK and Dutch capitals as it will no longer operate passport checks at the halfway point in Brussels.
As a result, Eurostar said trains offered the most sustainable choice for short-haul European travel, with journeys between Amsterdam and London generating 80 per cent less CO2 per passenger than the equivalent flight for a comparable amount of time spent travelling.
The firm has also promised to plant a tree for every train service it operates across its routes in order to help sweeten the deal for eco-conscious travellers.
And, in a bid to further boost the credentials of taking the train over a flight, Eurostar launched a new TV advertising campaign yesterday carrying the slogan 'You see more when you don't fly', aiming to showcase the time-saving benefits of travelling directly to the centre of a city, rather than to the outskirts when landing at an airport.
Mike Cooper, Eurostar chief executive, suggested a major selling point of taking the train between the UK and mainland Europe was that it offered a far greener option for consumers compared to flying.
"Our services from the UK to the Netherlands have proved very popular with over half a million travellers since launch," he said. "Our fully direct service marks an exciting advance for high-speed rail and provides consumers with a comfortable, environmentally friendly alternative to the airlines on one of Europe's busiest leisure and business routes."
Tickets for the new service go on sale on Tuesday, with train fares priced from £35 each way, Eurostar said. The service kicks off on 30 April with two trains running each day from both Amsterdam and London. Plans are underway to later ramp up to four trains per day, while the company also intend to run a new service from Rotterdam to London from 18 May.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps welcomed the announcement. "The days of passengers being forced to decamp from the train at Brussels to file through passport control will soon be over, as we look forward to direct, return, high-speed services to Amsterdam and beyond," he said.
It comes as the aviation sector faces increasing pressure to decarbonise its operations in the face of growing concern about the impact of flying on the climate. Analysts have warned increasing 'flight-shame' among consumers - which has spread from Sweden where it is known as 'flygskam' - could hit airlines' profits heavily in the coming years.
Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, the Dutch government's Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, said the new direct London to Amsterdam Eurostar service demonstrated how the train could be "a fully-fledged alternative to the plane".
"The direct connection makes the train journey to London easier and faster," she said. "Checks in Brussels will no longer be necessary, saving travellers an hour of travel time."