Template:Thalys RDT Thalys is an international high-speed train operator originally built around the high-speed line between Paris and Brussels. This track is shared with Eurostar trains that go from Paris or Brussels to London via Lille and the Channel Tunnel and with French domestic TGV trains. Thalys reaches Amsterdam and Cologne, and its system is operated by Thalys International. Its capital is divided up between SNCF (62%), NMBS/SNCB (28%)[2] and Deutsche Bahn (10%).


The decision to build a high-speed railway between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam was made in 1987. On 28 January 1993,[3] SNCF, NMBS/SNCB,[4] Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Deutsche Bahn (then still Deutsche Bundesbahn) signed an agreement to jointly operate the axis through the brand Thalys, and in 1995 Westrail International was created by the French and Belgium national railways to operate the services. On 4 June 1996 the first train left Paris using the LGV Nord until Belgium, taking 2:07 hours to Brussels and 4:47 hours to Amsterdam.[5]

In 1997, the Belgian HSL 1 line, allowing 300 km/h and running from the French border to the outskirts of Brussels, was ready for service. On 14 December 1997 the first Thalys train from Paris to Brussels ran on the HSL 1, reduced travel time to 1:25 hours. At the same time service commenced to Cologne and Aachen in Germany, and Bruges, Charleroi, Ghent, Mons, Namur and Ostend in Belgium. On 19 December 1998 the Thalys Neige service started to the ski resorts of Tarentaise Valley and Bourg St. Maurice. In May 1999, the new high-speed line serving Charles de Gaulle Airport opened, and Thalys started direct services from the Airport to Brussels, including code sharing agreements with Air France, American Airlines and Northwest Airlines. On 28 November 1999, the company changed its name to Thalys International.

In 2000, Thalys Soleil started offering direct connections to the Provence; initially to Valence, and extended to Avignon and Marseille in 2002. Service between Brussels and Cologne was improved in December 2002 when trains began running on the new HSL 2 in Belgium. In 2003, services started to Brussels International Airport and the Thalys Nuits d’Eté service to Marne-la-Vallée. Deutsche Bahn purchased 10% of the company in 2007.[5]

Beginning 14 June 2009 the journey between Brussels and Cologne was shortened by 19 minutes when the new high speed line HSL 3 between Liège and Aachen opened using Deutsche Bahn's thrice-daily ICE trains running between Brussels and Frankfurt. HSL 3 was completed in 2007, but Thalys trains had not yet been equipped with the ETCS signalling equipment necessary to use the new line. After installation and testing, Thalys began operating on HSL 3 on 13 December 2009. For the same reasons, Thalys started operating on the HSL 4/HSL-Zuid high-speed line between Antwerp and Amsterdam 13 December 2009, two years after the line's construction.

Since 29 August 2011, one return journey to Cologne has been extended to Essen Hauptbahnhof.,[6] and since 30 October 2011, one return journey to Brussels had been extended to Brussels National Airport.[7]

Düsseldorf Airport station will be served from winter 2013 service.[8]

Before Thalys, there was already a privileged connexion since 1924 between Paris and Brussels, with train service l'Etoile du Nord. It connected the two cities in around 2h30 in the 1970s.


Template:See also Beyond Brussels, the main cities Thalys trains reach are Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Liège, Bruges, Ghent, Charleroi, Aachen and Cologne. Trains to these destinations run partly on dedicated high-speed tracks, and partly on conventional tracks shared with normal-speed trains. The high-speed lines used by Thalys are HSL 1 between Paris and Brussels, HSL 4/HSL-Zuid between Antwerp and Amsterdam, and the HSL 2 and HSL 3 between Brussels and Aachen. For its seasonal operations within France, other high-speed lines are used.

Plans to continue the line past Cologne to Frankfurt had to be abandoned because the Thalys train sets are very inefficient under Germany's 15 kV electric system and thus unable to operate at full speed on the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line.[9]

Journeys from Brussels (Brussels-South) to Paris (Gare du Nord) are normally 1 hour, 22 minutes, for a distance of approximately Template:Convert. Peak speed is Template:Convert on a dedicated high-speed railway track.

The ligne à grande vitesse (LGV) link with Charles de Gaulle Airport allowed Air France to withdraw its air service between Paris and Brussels; instead, Air France books seats on Thalys trains.[10] Thalys has been given the IATA designator 2H. This is used in conjunction with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. American Airlines has a code sharing agreement with Thalys for rail service from Charles de Gaulle airport to Brussels-South. The airline alliance SkyTeam also has a code sharing agreement with Thalys for rail service connecting its hub Amsterdam Schiphol Airport with Antwerp-Centraal and Bruxelles Midi/Brussel Zuid. Indian carrier Jet Airways has formed a codeshare agreement with the Thalys rail service between Brussels and Paris.[11]

Market Edit


Thalys targets a passenger market in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The percentage of income coming from different routes[12] demonstrates on which routes the company is most used:

  • Paris-Brussels: 55.6%
  • Paris-Belgium (outside Brussels): 8.9%
  • Paris-Belgium-Netherlands: 21.3%
  • Paris-Belgium-Germany: 11.8%
  • Others: 2.4%

52% of customers are from the leisure market; 48% from the business market.

A large segment of Thalys's total sales and income comes from the connection between Paris and Brussels. A comparison is made below between different modes of transport on this route in order to demonstrate the service offered by Thalys and alternative competitors in this particular market.

The comparison has been made for a single trip from Brussels to Paris, for a ticket bought within 24 hours of departure. Despite the European Directive on Competition in Rail Transport (EU Directive 91/440), active since 1 January 2010, there is no alternative provision of high speed train connections on this route (last checked in March 2010). Potential competitors are Deutsche Bahn, Trenitalia and Veolia, as this is regularly stated in the specialized reference newspaper “Ville, Rail et Transport”.

Comparison by transport and purchase mode (June 2009)[13]
Transport and purchase mode Description and comments Duration Single fare (without reduction, at a peak hour)
Thalys train Standard ticket purchased at railway station 1h22 €88
Other direct high speed trains No offer as of 25 September 2010
Thalys train through ads Online resale of Smoove tickets 1h22 Easier access to cheapest tickets (Smoove)
Other high speed trains 1. Brussels - Lille by TGV or Eurostar;

2. Lille - Paris by TGV

1h30, plus transfer time at Lille. If Eurostar, add advance boarding time (30 mn) €64.90 - €80
Regional trains 1. Brussels – Lille via Ghent or Mouscron (Belgium) by regional trains;[14]

2. Lille - Paris by TGV

3h, plus transfer time Brussels – Lille: €26 - €44.90;

Lille – Paris: €38.90 - €54; Total: €64.90 - €98.90

Bus Eurolines bus 3h45, plus 30 mn boarding time €21 - €23
Car Many car pooling websites allow to connect car drivers and those looking for a ride on a car trip. 3h €12 - €20 as passenger, depending on agreements with the driver.

About €37 for a driver (€12 highway toll, €25 for 400 km petrol/diesel)

Flights Brussels Airlines 1h00 flight time, plus at least 1h boarding time €188.06 (one way) and €335.55 (return fare )

Other information concerning the transport offer:

Before Thalys, in 1996, the train called Etoile du Nord (Northern Star), a Trans Europe Express, was connecting Paris and Brussels in 2h20.[15]

The prices of Thalys tickets vary widely, even for the same journey and same level of comfort. Here is an example of prices for Paris to Brussels, Comfort 2 (equivalent to 2nd class), maximum price, by ticket category:

Prices Thalys, Paris-Brussels, 14 June to 12 December 2009, comfort 2
Tariff nameDescription and commentsPrice
Hi-LifePeak hour€88
OptiwayNon-peak hour€71
SmooveTicket purchased in advance
(from 3 months to 15 days)
Up to €35 if booked 15 days in advance
(limited seats)
YouthUntil 25 years old€44 (limited seats)
SeniorFrom 60 years old€62 (limited seats)
KidChildUp to €29
Kid & CoChild accompanierUp to €43

About Smoove:

Until the 1990s, regular travelers remember that it was easy to find reduced price tickets at usual departure times (as 8 AM or 6 PM), through the promotional pages of Thalys website. In December 2009, tests effectuated on this site have evidenced that these reduced price tickets have become quite rare, and essentially for unusual departure times (between 6 and 8 am or after 9 pm.Template:Citation needed

About Kid and Kid & Co:

Unlike many national train companies, Thalys does not allow children below 12 years old to travel alone. This has been interpreted as a way to rise profits, according categories of users impacted by this measure.[16]

Since 24 August 2010, there is a supplement of €7 to Thalys (as well as other international high speed tickets) tickets bought at NMBS/SNCB ticket offices at train stations. This is due to a reduction of a sales fee paid by Thalys and Eurostar to the Belgian rail company.[17]

Thalys yearly passengers and revenue
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Passengers 4,72[18] 4,98[19] 5,5[20] 5,8[21] 6,0[22] 5,8[23] 5,95[24] 6,15[25] 6,5[26] 6,2[27] 6,5[28] 6,07[29] 6,45[29] 6,65[30] 6,60[31] 6,69[32]
Revenue 60[33] 115[34] 190 220 266 294 310 301 318 335 363 364 392 382 432 470 479 487[35]

All figures in millions. Revenue in millions of euro.

Accessibility Edit

Thalys trains are wheelchair-accessible, with assistance of the train staff. Bicycles are not allowed on Thalys, unless disassembled or packed in special wrap. Folding bikes are allowed.[36]

Rolling stockEdit

Thalys uses two models of trains, both of which are part of the TGV (train à grande vitesse) family of high-speed trains built by Alstom in France.

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Built   Notes 
 mph   km/h 
PBA 100px Electric multiple unit 186 300[37] 9[1] 1996 Tri-current; Operates only on the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam route.
PBKA 100px Electric multiple unit 186 300 17 1997 Quadri-current; Operates on Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam route.

Accidents and IncidentsEdit

File:Thalys (9335864131) (2).jpg


  • On 9 May 1998 a truck was struck by a Thalys PBKA on an unprotected level crossing; it had attempted to cross the tracks at the crossing when the train arrived. The truck driver was killed in the impact and the train's power unit and first two trailers derailed; the trainset was left heavily damaged. Six passengers were injured and tracks and catenary were broken in the incident. Trailers R1 and R2 had to be scrapped. The trainset was later repaired with the R1 and R2 trailers from a regular TGV trainset.
  • On 11 October 2008 a Thalys PBA set bound for Amsterdam collided with a local ICM train set at Gouda railway station in the Netherlands. The Thalys train set had been diverted via Gouda due to engineering work on its usual route. None of the passengers was seriously injured, but both trains incurred serious damage. An investigation concluded that staff of the local ICM was to blame as they left the platform whilst still under a red signal.[38][39]

See alsoEdit

File:Thalys in Gare de Paris-Nord, Paris 2011.jpg


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  12. Source:, consulted 17 April 2010.
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  14. An alternative connexion, if needed, is the following: Mouscron – Tourcoing by taxi (5 km), then Tourcoing – Lille in subway
  15. Paris-Bruxelles, ou les joies du monopole - Coulisses de Bruxelles, UE
  16. Les enfants interdits de Thalys - Autonomie, indépendance des enfants - FORUM Famille
  17. - Thalys et Eurostar économisent sur le dos de la SNCB
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  28. 2008
  29. 29.0 29.1 Volkskrant (2011)
  30. Press release Thalys
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  32. Persbericht resultaten 2013, Rotterdam 17 februari 2014
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  35., 17 februari 2014
  36. Thalys Trains, European Trains | Rail Europe
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Further readingEdit

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