Thalys - Key figures

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France/Belgium - 1996 - high speed operator - FR, BE, DE, NL

Thalys is the name of an international high-speed train operator which operates between Paris and Brussels, with extension to Amsterdam, Cologne and Essen (DE). Originally, Thalys International was created as Westrail International, a Belgian cooperative company and joint subsidiary of the SNCF and the SNCB, which is joined by a subsidiary created specifically by the Dutch and German rail companies (Thalys Netherlands and the DB, respectively). The purpose of this company is to create and manage a high-speed network covering Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Its capital was divided up between SNCF (62%), SNCB/NMBS(28%) and Deutsche Bahn (10%). Netherlands Railways (NS), while not a shareholder, was responsible for operating the trains in the Netherlands.

High speed services began 2 june 1996 between Paris and Brussels when the entire classical traffic Benelux-Paris was transferred to an complete “TGV” services. From Paris, the trip to Brussels takes 2h03, and the trip to Amsterdam takes 4h47. Since December 1997, the route is fully provided by a High Speed Line between the two capitals. Travel time between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam is reduced by one-half hour. Service is extended to Germany, with lines to Liège, Aix-La-Chapelle and Cologne. In Belgium, trains are also offered on regional routes, to Charleroi and Namur, and to Ghent, Bruges and Ostend. In 1999, Westrail International became Thalys International.

Services were created outside Paris to the south of France. Since december 1998, during winter Thalys Neige ("Snow") offers service to winter recreation areas from the Tarentaise Valley to Bourg St. Maurice.  And since 2001, a Thalys Soleil ("Sun") line was created, with service to Valence, extended in 2002 to Avignon-TGV and Marseille when the French high speed line “Mediterranée” was inaugurated. In 2015, Thalys run from Brussels, per day, 23 services to Paris, 12 to Amsterdam-Central and 6 to Cologne included 3 services extended to Düsseldorf and Essen. New services were still inaugurated from Lille for the first time, to Amsterdam and Genève. In April 2015, “regionals” Thalys from/to Ostend and Mons-Namur-Liège were cancelled due to a bad political deal in Belgium.

Rolling stock
Thalys uses a fleet of 26 TGV trains Alstom, compatible with different electrical characteristics of the four countries crossed and their respective signaling system. Since 2009, only the Belgian LN3 and LN4 and the Dutch HSL have ETCS level 2. LGV Paris-Brussels has the TVM system of SNCF and LN2 Leuven-Liège has the belgian system TBL2. To serve the entire network, the fleet must be compatible with the KVB and TVM (France), TBL1 and TBL2 (Belgium), ATB (Netherlands), the PZB (Germany) and finally ETCS 2 where this system is installed.

The first set of Thalys is the TGV Reseau, the same set than SNCF, which were built by Alstom between 1992 and 1996. These 9 trainsets triple-voltage (1.5kV-3kV-25kV) officiate between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, but of course not in Germany, hence the name, PBA. They were also used on regional Thalys to Ostend and Liege-Namur-Mons, as well as seasonal Thalys to southern France and to the Alps. Thalys PBA are all properties of the SNCF. After refurbishment in 2009, the Thalys PBA offers 361 seats.

Seventeen other trains were built in 1996 and 1997 with the concept of TGV Duplex regarding power cars, whose aesthetic has been greatly improved. The two power cars at each end pull an articulated set similar to a french TGV. Technically these TGV named PBKA are very close to the TGV Reseau, the "K" indicating they reach Cologne and are therefore quadri-current, with the German 15kV in addition. The Thalys PBKA offers 377 seats.

Since 31 March 2015, DB ceased to be a shareholder although it continues to assist with Thalys operations in Germany, SNCF and SNCB became the sole shareholders with a 60:40 split. According the CEO, the new organization should allow to gain control and give the ability to go further and faster. Thalys has now a full control of his staff (recruitments) and is responsible for his rail-paths. Thalys International has transported nearly 7 million passengers in 2014 and realized a turnover up 3% to € 500 million.