In 1987 it was decided that a high-speed train connection between Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam and Köln would be built. Ten years later, the Thalys train already achieves a travel time of 1h25 to Paris (over 200km/h). So the Thalys is this High-Speed-Train? Well, not always, as I experienced recently. While travelling to Paris is fast enough for daily commute, the train to Amsterdam is even slower than driving.
I actually had to go to the Hilversum Mediapark, the nerve center of the Netherlands’ broadcast industry. Apparently you’re supposed to take your car there, because the only train connection from Amsterdam to it is a small stop-everywhere train that only runs twice an hour. That combined with a Thalys that only runs once per two hours, is the reason it took me almost six hours to get back to Brussels in the evening. When I had to wait for an hour and a half in the Amsterdam station, I went to the only reasonable restaurant there, and when I asked the waiter for the non-smokers zone, he frowned and said “This is a restaurant designed like a ‘grand café’, sir, smoking is just part of that”. So I had to take a table next to the toilet, to be able to enjoy my meal without disgusting smoke in my face. As you might guess, it was not the best of evenings.
I wondered if it was just an idea or if the Thalys to Amsterdam is really that slow. It actually is:
While the Thalys to Paris reaches an average speed of 214 km/h, a speed we can safely say is improbable to do by car, travelling to Amsterdam does not even go above 80km/h. You’re even faster in London (366km), under the Channel and everything, than in Asterdam (210km). I will not be using that train again until they finally get it up to a decent speed in 2007: 1h30 from Amsterdam instead of 2h39. About bloody time.