The process of crossing international borders has been drastically enhanced in recent decades with the creation of the Euro-zone and various other political provisions. As bygone tensions from the strained atmosphere of the World Wars dissolve, Europe has progressed into a far more travel-friendly place where international cooperation and casual border crossings have become the norm. Vacationing in the German city of Stuttgart and feel like visiting France? A quick day trip will be no problem thanks to seamless and stop-free border crossings provided by the stipulations of the Schengen agreement, which allows uninterrupted travel between France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Tourism opportunities have increased and countries around the European continent have been adopting an attitude of openness to encourage travel between nations.
Legally Sound but Logistically Flawed
Although laws have been changing to accommodate culturally curious adventurers the problem of physical transportation remains. Europe is well-connected by a thorough network of roads and rail lines, offering tourists and commuters several options when it comes to traveling from one country to the next. But consider the ever-increasing demand for faster and more efficient transit coupled with travelers who strive to fit more and more into their holiday itineraries and you'll find that the business of long-distance public transport is not one met with much satisfaction by patrons! Ferries are time consuming and crowded rail stations are limited and often costly. Flights and airfare in Europe can be cheap but who wants to deal with the headache of airport terminals, customs, and baggage claims for a trip that could be taken via car ride in a comparable amount of time? Those who will not or cannot drive around Europe on holiday are often left unfulfilled in their pursuit of competent transport.
Shooting High of the Mark
With high hopes at stoking an effort to improve transit between the UK and the nearby country of Ireland, the CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) has made an ambitious proposition. The Wales, UK based think tank recently proffered the idea of an underwater tunnel connecting Holyhead in Wales, UK to the Irish capital of Dublin similar to the Channel Tunnel that connects mainland UK to the rest of Europe. The structure, spanning over 74 miles of ocean, would provide easy access between the two countries and would drastically improve trade and transportation links. The project, however, would cost a staggering £15 billion and could take nearly a century to complete. While the idea is sound in theory it has been rejected by the Irish government and founders of the concept seem a bit out of touch, with supporter Professor Stuart Cole quoted saying, "We're not talking about a massive amount of money."
In a more realistic effort to meet the needs of ardent globe-trotters, international railway operator Eurostar has unveiled some exciting new high-speed additions to their train fleet. Based in the city of London, England and offering services into Belgium and France via the Channel Tunnel, Eurostar announced last week that it will be adding 17 brand new state-of-the-art trains to its operations. The speedy modern marvels are fittingly named "e320", after the 320kmph (200mph) terminal velocities they are capable of, and will carry up to 900 passengers each. The new trains have been put on display at Eurostar's main hub at London St. Pancras Station and will be put into service on new routes to locations in France like Avignon TGV Railway Station and Marseille Railway Station starting in May of 2015; existing routes currently serve connections between London, Brussels in Belgium, and Paris Gare Du Nord Railway Station.
At a price tag of well over £550 million the introduction of the new e320 trains represents a major step in the improvement of cross-country rail services in Europe. The new e320 models, built by German manufacturer Siemens, feature a unique "inter-operable" capability that allows them to run across a variety of different railway systems. This versatility will present the opportunity for Eurostar to offer new high-speed routes that will eventually include destinations in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, with stops at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Passenger amenities have been upgraded on the e320s as well with more leg room for seats, personal power and USB outlets, Wifi connectivity, and chic newly designed interiors; the modern improvements almost make travel by rail comparable to the comfort and quality of traveling in your very own luxury vehicle!