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Thalys is an international high-speed train operator originally built around the high-speed line between Parismarker and Brusselsmarker. This track is shared with Eurostar trains that go from Paris or Brussels to Londonmarker via Lillemarker and the Channel Tunnelmarker and with French domestic TGV trains. Thalys reaches Amsterdammarker and Cologne, and its system is operated by Thalys International. Its capital is divided up between SNCF (62%), NMBS/SNCB (28%) 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, SNCF, NMBS/SNCB, NS and DB 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, taking 2:07 hours to Brussels and 4:47 hours to Amsterdam.

On 14 December 1997 the LGV Nord and HSL 1 lines opened, allowing the travel time from Paris to Brussels to be reduced to 1:25 hours. At the same time service commenced to Cologne and Aachenmarker in Germany, and Brugesmarker, Charleroimarker, Ghentmarker, Monsmarker, Namurmarker and Ostendmarker in Belgium. On 19 December 1998 the Thalys Neige service started to the ski resorts of Tarentaise Valleymarker and Bourg St. Mauricemarker. In May 1999, the new high-speed line serving Charles de Gaulle Airportmarker 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, the Thalys Soleil started services to the summer resort Valencemarker—this service was extended in 2002 to Marseillemarker and Avignonmarker. In 2003, services started to Brussels International Airportmarker and the Thalys Nuits d’Eté service to Marne-la-Valléemarker. Deutsche Bahn purchased 10% of the company in 2007. From 14 June 2009 nineteen minutes will be shaved off the journey time between Brussels and Cologne when a new high speed line (HSL 3) between Liège and the German border is opened. The new high-speed line will initially only be used by Deutsche Bahn's thrice-daily ICE trains running between Brussels and Frankfurt. Although HSL 3 was completed in 2007 Thalys trains have not so far been equipped with the modern signalling equipment necessary to use the new line. As a result Thalys trains will not use the new link until December 13, 2009 — once the necessary radio links have been installed. For this same reason, Thalys will not use the HSL 4/HSL-Zuid high-speed line between Antwerpmarker and Amsterdam until December 2009.


Beyond Brusselsmarker, the main cities Thalys trains reach are Antwerpmarker, The Haguemarker, Rotterdammarker, Amsterdammarker, Liègemarker, Brugesmarker, Ghentmarker, Charleroimarker, Aachenmarker and Cologne. Trains to these destinations run partly on dedicated high-speed tracks, and partly on older tracks shared with normal-speed trains; further high-speed track is planned to allow a full high-speed service (see, e.g. HSL-Zuid). Plans to continue the line past Cologne to Frankfurtmarker had to be abandoned because the power Germany's 15 kV electric system provides is insufficient for the Thalys trainsets to operate at full speed on the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line.

Travel time from Brussels (Brussels-Southmarker) to Paris (Gare du Nordmarker) is normally 1 hour, 22 minutes, for a distance of approximately . Peak speed is on a dedicated high-speed railway track.

The LGV (ligne à grande vitesse) 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. Thalys has been given the IATA designator 2H. This is used in conjunction with American Airlines and Northwest Airlines. 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 from Schiphol Airportmarker Amsterdam to Antwerp's Central Station and Brussels South Charleroi airportmarker.

Rolling stock

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 Electric multiple unit 186 300 9 1996 Tri-current; Operates only on the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam route.
PBKA Electric multiple unit 186 300 17 1997 Quadri-current; Operates on Paris-Brussels-Köln-Amsterdam route.

Accidents and Incidents

Thalys PBA near Dordrecht Zuid with a Paris-bound train

  • 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 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 partly to blame as they left the platform whilst still under a red signal.

See also

Thalys PBA and Thalys PBKA in Paris


Further reading

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