Today saw an interesting new development on the Deutsche Bahn (DB) website. Suddenly a handful of new trains have appeared. These trains all bear the prefix EST (suggesting a Eurostar service) and run between Brussels Midi and Frankfurt-am-Main. Although Eurostar has long sold through tickets from London to Aachen, Cologne and Frankfurt, this is the first time that trains bearing the Eurostar prefix have featured on the DB network.
Does this mean that Eurostar’s sleek yellow and grey trains will now be commonplace in Frankfurt? Well, actually not. The arrangement seems to be an interesting and novel case of code-sharing between rail companies. The practice is already commonplace among airlines, with carriers agreeing to carry the flight numbers of other airlines, so making through bookings possible and creating the illusion that their networks are more comprehensive than they in fact are. (There are a number of European examples of code sharing between an air carrier and a rail company. One in the German market is the arrangement between Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa whereby selected ICE train services to and from Frankfurt Airport station also carry a Lufthansa (viz. LH) prefix).
This evening’s train from Brussels to Frankfurt carries the designation EST 9217. It is actually the regular German ICE service that has long served this route. It is more commonly known as ICE 17. But the existence of a parallel number with the EST prefix invites passengers from Britain to believe that they can now travel right through from London to Frankfurt with Eurostar (albeit with a change of train in Brussels).
hidden europe is intrigued by this development. Might this be the prelude to a more comprehensive code-sharing between Eurostar and DB? Or is it part of a complicated pact that could see German ICE trains running through the Channel Tunnel to London? DB has made no secret of the fact that it has its eyes on the London market. Might this new code-sharing arrangement be DB’s first step in that direction? Watch this space.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries