Eurostar trains will soon go direct to Italy, Spain and Portugal - but how long will the trips take?
Eurostar caused waves on social media this week after launching brand-new direct train route to Amsterdam, with ticket prices starting at £35.
For eager travellers, there's even more good news on the way - the European train company is now eyeing up direct routes from the UK to Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Earlier this week, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that ministers are helping Eurostar bosses to launch services that could take passengers as far as Rome, Barcelona and Lisbon on high-speed trains.
These new services are possible in part because of a new merger with high-speed rail firm Thalys, expected to be completed in 2021. Currently, Eurostar runs regular services from London St Pancras to Paris, Brussels, Rotterdam, Lyon, Marseille and Avignon. The company also runs some seasonal ski services.
Eurostar recently launched a direct service from London St Pancras to Amsterdam and back (Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Eurostar)
Extending Eurostar's reach across Europe
Direct services to Amsterdam have been possible since 2018, but until recently passengers wanting to return by Eurostar had to travel through Brussels and change.
Currently, the furthest a direct Eurostar can take passengers from London is the south of France - around 800 miles away. This journey takes around 4hrs 41mins, with trains travelling at 180mph.
The new routes would extend Eurostar's reach across Europe. Based on rough approximations of speed/distance calculations and existing train times, a journey to Rome would take around 11hrs 30mins on the train, with Lisbon the next furthest at 9hrs 30mins.
Routes to Switzerland, Austria and Frankfurt may also be on the cards, with services to Eastern Europe also anticipated later down the line.
Eurostar has new routes planned to Italy, Spain and Portugal (Photo: Shutterstock)
When will the routes launch?
It is still unclear when the new routes will launch, but the new services will certainly put Eurostar into direct competition with budget airlines who run frequent low-cost journeys to European holiday destinations.
Extended rail travel across Europe will also be welcome news to travellers conscious of the environmental impact of flying.
Eurostar launched its first service in 1994. The company is based in London but is 55 per cent owned by French national rail firm SNCF, with a Canadian investment company holding 30 per cent.