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Thalys International / THI Factory

legal form Thalys International : Limited Liability Cooperative under Belgian law
THI Factory : Public limited company incorporated under Belgian law
founding 1995
Seat Saint-Gilles / Sint-Gillis , Belgium
management Bertrand Gosselin
Branch passenger traffic

The Thalys (in German usage [ ˈtaːlɪs ]) is a European high-speed train based on the technology of the French TGV .

The core route between Paris and Brussels , which is served almost every half hour without stopping, is the fastest and most frequent direct connection between two European capitals. The 314.5 kilometers are covered in 82 minutes, the cruising speed is 230.1 km / h (as of August 2019).

Further connections are offered from Düsseldorf, Cologne, Dortmund , Duisburg and Essen as well as Amsterdam , Rotterdam and Antwerp via Brussels to Paris.

The term Thalys is no shortcut, but a 1996 by a Dutch name agency as a brand name thought up portmanteau , a Logatom that is equally easy to pronounce in all language areas where the trains.


Corporate structure

The companies behind Thalys are Thalys International and THI Factory , based in Brussels. Both are subsidiaries of the French ( SNCF ) and Belgian ( NMBS / SNCB ) state railways. On Thalys International also was German Bahn AG involved. The partner is the subsidiary of the Dutch Railways , Thalys Nederland .


After the decision in 1987 to put a cross-border high-speed train on the line that would connect Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne, Westrail International was founded in 1995 , which only took the name of the trains in May 1999 and has been called Thalys International since then . It is a limited liability cooperative under Belgian law (société coopérative à responsabilité limitée) . Until 2007, NMBS / SNCB held 30% and SNCF 70% of the capital. As of June 16, 2007, Deutsche Bahn acquired ten percent of the company's share capital . The other shares were held by SNCF with 62 percent and NMBS / SNCB with 28 percent.

According to media reports from October 2010, Deutsche Bahn wanted to end its stake in Thalys in the course of 2011. At the beginning of 2012, the end of participation was announced for the end of March. According to a press report, Deutsche Bahn has not been involved in the company since December 2011. In mid-January 2012, the SNCF and the NMBS / SNCB notified the Federal Cartel Office (BKartA) to acquire the shares in Deutsche Bahn . Since March 28, 2012, DB tickets are no longer valid in Thalys between Aachen and Cologne, with the exception of the Bahncard 100 and ICE route time cards. Since 2011, DB has no longer participated in the results of the company shared by SNCF and NMBS / SNCB. As of December 13, 2015, the Bahncard 100 and ICE route time cards are no longer valid in Thalys.

On March 31, 2015, rail operations in France and Belgium were transferred from the respective state railways to the newly founded railway company THI Factory NV / SA , 60 percent of which is held by SNCF Mobilités ÉPIC and 40 percent by SNCB / NMBS. In the Netherlands, the operation is carried out by NS Reizigers. In contrast, DB Fernverkehr AG withdrew from operating the German section of the route at the end of 2016; this was taken over by SNCF Voyages Deutschland GmbH , renamed from a Eurobahn company .

Thalys International will continue to exist and will continue to market the trains.

Deployed trains

Thalys PBKA
Thalys PBA
First class
Second grade

The Thalys was built for cross-border traffic between Belgium , Germany , France and the Netherlands and is therefore multi-system capable . There are two types of trains: the Thalys PBA (Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam) and the Thalys PBKA (Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam).

There are ten Thalys PBA units that are identical to the French TGV Réseau . They run on 25-kilovolt-50-Hertz alternating voltage . They are also equipped with some train protection systems from the three countries. The trains have a continuous output of 8,800 kilowatts at 25 kilovolts and thus reach 300 km / h between Paris and Brussels and between Antwerp and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport .

The 17 existing Thalys PBKA are also able to operate in the German network with 15-kilovolt-16.7-Hertz alternating voltage with an output of 4460 kilowatts. The design of their power cars is based on the TGV Duplex . You have been serving Cologne since December 14, 1997. Until 2006, Cologne Messe / Deutz was the destination and departure station, at times a pair of trains ran from / to Düsseldorf. In August 2011, Thalys expanded this service again to include the departure stations in Essen , Duisburg and Düsseldorf . Since March 21, 2016, some trains have been running to / from Dortmund and some of them also stop at Düsseldorf Airport .

Of the 17 units, seven are owned by NMBS / SNCB, six are owned by SNCF, and two each by Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Deutsche Bahn . The two PBKA units no. 4321 and 4322 of the Deutsche Bahn are internally referred to there, like all Thalys PBKA multiple units, as "series 409". They are part of the vehicle fleet of the Belgian State Railways.

Transport offer

Core brand Thalys

Maps of Thalys connections with end points and routes that are only served seasonally are shown with dashed lines
Thalys network (March 2016)

The trains connect the following cities across borders:

  • Dortmund - Essen - Duisburg - Düsseldorf Airport - Düsseldorf - Cologne - Aachen - Liège - Brussels Midi  - Paris North (5 train pairs to / from Essen, travel time from Cologne 3:14 hours, another train pair from Liège, three times a day to / from Dortmund ; a pair of trains has been running between Brussels Airport and Paris Nord since the completion of the Diabolo project )
  • Amsterdam - Schiphol Airport  - Rotterdam  - Antwerp  - Brussels - Paris (10 pairs of trains)
    • since December 13, 2009 via HSL Zuid with a travel time of 3:18 hours; The Hague has not been served since then.
  • Ostend  - Bruges  - Ghent  - Brussels - Paris (a pair of trains)
  • Brussels - Disneyland Paris (five pairs of trains, until March 2007). This relation was started on November 28, 1999 with four pairs of trains.
  • Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Antwerp - Brussels - Lille (two train pairs, since April 2014, will be canceled from the 2019 timetable)
  • In summer there is also a pair of trains between Amsterdam and Marseille, in winter from Amsterdam to Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the French Alps.

The trains between Brussels and Paris run almost every half hour, some of them in double traction, which are winged in Brussels to Amsterdam or Cologne . In Brussels there is a connection to the Eurostar to London.

Since April 2007 the trains should use the new high-speed line HSL Zuid (high-speed line Schiphol – Antwerp) , the start of which was delayed until December 2009; the Thalys PBA also lacked the ETCS train control system required for HSL Zuid ; Tests with the ETCS software version 2.3.0 took place at the beginning of November 2007 in Belgium and the Netherlands. For the same reason, the HSL 3 between Aachen and Liège has only been used since December 13, 2009.

With 25 trains per day in each direction, the company operates a dense train service between Paris Nord and Brussels Midi. The trains reach an average speed of 213 km / h. As a result, most of the commercial flight connections between these cities have ceased.

There are five international train pairs daily between Cologne (or Essen or Dortmund) and Paris, on the Cologne – Brussels section supplemented by four ICE train pairs on the ICE 79 Frankfurt – Brussels line. In 2006, 6.5 million passengers used the trains, and more than 55 million since the company was founded.

Low cost offer izy

An IZY train passes Longueau (France) station without stopping.

Since April 3, 2016, Thalys has also been offering an inexpensive, “ no frills ” alternative on the Paris – Brussels route under the izy brand . Two or three pairs of trains (Friday and Sunday) are offered daily. Tickets are only available online.

The main differences to Thalys are, on the one hand, the longer journey time (around an hour), as the train from Paris initially uses the classic route of around 200 km and not the LGV Nord . On the other hand, there is less comfort, there is only one car class and no bar. With the cheapest tickets (10 euros), no seat is guaranteed. However, if there are still seats available, these can be assigned by the train manager . Sockets are only available in the more expensive places.


Thalys train in Bourg-Saint-Maurice (French Alps)

In 1992 the railways of Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands ordered 37 high-speed trains from a French group of companies under the leadership of GEC-Alsthom with a total value of around DM 1.4 billion. The German Federal Railroad contributed with an investment volume that corresponded to three of these trains. At the end of 1995 the first intermediate car for the new trains was completed.

Operations between Paris and Brussels began in June 1996, with a travel time of 2:07 hours. The Thalys replaced the previous long-distance train Étoile du Nord / "Nordstern", which took at least two and a half hours. It was not until the Belgian high-speed line went into operation in 1997 that travel times were reduced to 1:25 hours.

In the first year of operation (1996) 1.6 million passengers used the Thalys. In 1997 three million passengers took the trains, and in 1998 4.7 million passengers. On March 25, 1999, the ten millionth Thalys passenger was celebrated. Around 14,000 people used this train every day. Between Brussels and Paris the occupancy rate at that time was 65 percent, between Brussels and Cologne 50 percent. Whereas the rail market share between Paris and Brussels in 1994 was 24 percent, in 2000 it was 48 percent.

At the end of 1997 Cologne was integrated into the Thalys network six times a day. In the first six weeks of 1998, 62,000 passengers used the Thalys trains from and to Cologne. Compared to the same period in the previous year, the number of passengers (compared to the Eurocity service at that time) increased by 15 percent. In the same period, after HSL 1 went into operation , the number of passengers on the Thalys network increased by 72 percent to half a million.

In 1999 the number of passengers increased by 5.5 percent year-on-year to 4.98 million. In international traffic with Germany and the Netherlands an increase of 17 percent was recorded.

At the end of September 1998 a pair of trains was extended from / to Düsseldorf. The extension to Düsseldorf was given up at the end of 2003. During Expo 2000 , a Thalys ran between Hanover and Brussels or Paris on Saturdays.

In the first year of operation in Germany, around 800,000 passengers used the trains. The forecasts were thus exceeded by eight percent. 70 percent of the customers traveled between Germany and France, two percent were in domestic traffic between Düsseldorf, Cologne and Aachen. The average occupancy between Cologne and Brussels was 50 percent. By the beginning of 1999 around a million travelers used the branch to Cologne or Düsseldorf. By the end of 2007, 8.5 million travelers were using the train service between Cologne and Paris.

From the end of May 2000 a pair of trains was introduced between Brussels and Geneva ; On Saturdays, a pair of trains also ran between Amsterdam and Valence .

In 2003 there was a drop in passengers for the first time in the company's history. In the first half of the year, the number of passengers fell by 3.6 percent. A modified price system was used to respond to this; since then there has been a constant increase in passenger numbers.

Since June 13, 2004, Thalys has been operating as a non-smoking train.

In 2004, the number of travelers increased by 3.9 percent to 5.95 million. Sales rose by 5.6 percent to 318 million euros. In traffic with Germany, sales fell by four percent. In 2005 the company generated 335 million euros. The average occupancy between Amsterdam and Paris was 70 percent.

During France's EU Council Presidency from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008 , two Thalys special train pairs operated daily from Brussels via Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to Strasbourg . However, these trains were only allowed to be used by members and employees of the European Parliament.

The proportion of Thalys trains in the modal split between Paris and Brussels is 50 percent.

Between January 2009 and December 2010, the interior fittings of the trains, the exterior paintwork, the catering concept and the entire appearance of the company were modernized and the train attendants and supervisors were given new uniforms. On January 8, 2009, the first modernized train (PBA) went on track. During the ten-week retrofitting in the SNCF repair shop in Lille , the trains also receive ETCS equipment (level 2). The planned total costs for the project amounted to around 100 million euros.

Since August 29, 2011 a pair of trains has been running daily beyond Cologne to Essen with stops in Düsseldorf and Duisburg ; two more pairs of trains followed on December 15, 2013. When the timetable changes in December 2015, the train pairs that have started or ended in Essen should be extended to Dortmund . On December 3, 2015, it was announced that the opening of the Thalys route from Dortmund will be postponed to spring 2016 due to the signal box fire in Mülheim .

On November 28, 2015, a Thalys special train with around 100 employees from the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, based in the Federal City of Bonn , drove from Bonn Central Station to the UN Climate Conference in Paris.

Passenger numbers and sales

year Passengers
in millions
in million  euros
1996 060
1997 115
1998 4.72 190
1999 4.98 220
2000 5.5 266
2001 5.8 294
2002 6.0 310
2003 5.8 301
2004 5.95 318
2005 6.15 335
2006 6.5 363
2007 6.2 364
2008 6.5 392
2009 6.07 382
2010 6.45 432
2011 6.6 470
2012 6.6 479
2013 6.69 487
2016 6.70 457.4
2017 7.2 509
2018 7.5 527


Former Thalys Store & More at Düsseldorf Central Station

Due to the withdrawal of Deutsche Bahn, the sale of Thalys tickets by Deutsche Bahn was discontinued on June 9, 2013. Tickets are on the train (25 euros surcharge), by phone from Thalys, the French (SNCF), the Dutch (NS) and the Belgian state railways (NMBS / SNCB), some travel agencies (also with a surcharge) and on the Internet for a maximum of three months Available in advance.

Since September 2018, Thalys tickets have been sold again by Deutsche Bahn. On December 15, 2018, all Thalys Store & More sales outlets across Europe were closed. Previously there were sales outlets at Cologne Central Station, Aachen Central Station and next to Düsseldorf Central Station , among others .

Service on board

First class lunch

As with most railways in Europe, there are two classes of car in Thalys . Thalys does not refer to them as “first class” and “second class”, as usual, but as Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 .

In the Thalys, depending on the time of day, breakfast, food (analogous to the plane) or snacks and drinks, including wine and beer, are served on journeys in first class (Comfort 1). There is also a large selection of daily newspapers here, except on Sundays.

Between Paris and Brussels, a refreshing towel is offered immediately after departure (combined with the option of pre-ordering a taxi at a higher rate at the respective destination station of the section) and free chocolate shortly before arrival.

Since the end of 2008, Thalys has offered WiFi internet access on all trains (marked with “Wifi Inside” on the window). Originally, wifi access for passengers was chargeable depending on the ticket, via online payment or by purchasing a code card from Thalys. Since April 2016, the trains have been equipped with a new WLAN system that is free for all passengers.

From 2008, four bicycle parking spaces per train were to be created on trains running between Paris and Cologne, which has not been implemented since then. Folded folding bicycles up to certain maximum sizes (75 × 53 × 30 cm) can be taken as normal luggage, with bicycles that cannot be folded both wheels must be dismantled and the bicycle must be stowed in transport packaging (max. 135 × 85 × 30 cm).

The on-board free magazine Thalyscope provides current issues with information about events and attractions at Thalys destinations.

Thalys Lounge

Thalys operates its own lounges in Brussels and Paris. The newest lounge at Gare du Nord , which opened on July 9, 2015, is located on Rue de Dunkerque and offers travelers with a valid Thalys the Card (Thalys loyalty program) a wide range of services such as free WiFi, free coffee and juices, but no luggage storage service . A fully equipped meeting room for up to six people is available for business travelers.

On December 15, 2018, all Thalys Store & More sales outlets across Europe were closed. In connection with this, the connected lounges in Cologne and Düsseldorf were also closed. The reason for this was a low occupancy rate in the lounges.

Armed attacker on a Thalys train in 2015

On the evening of August 21, 2015, an attack occurred in a Thalys in the Belgian-French border area when an armed man boarding in Brussels attacked other passengers. After injuring three people, he was overwhelmed by passengers and arrested by the police.


See also

  • Railteam , an international association to strengthen high-speed traffic


  • Wolfgang Bauchhenss: Competition for the Thalys. After a dispute - ICE 3 is now going to Belgium. In: Lok Magazin. Munich Jg. 42/2003, No. 256, pp. 14-15 ISSN  0458-1822 .
  • Thomas Feldmann: The coupling is done by hand. Thalys Duplex 2N. In: Lok Magazin. Munich Vol. 44/2005, No. 280, pp. 48-49 ISSN  0458-1822 .

Web links

Commons : Thalys  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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