NEXT summer Air France is proposing to withdraw its five daily flights between Paris and Brussels. For the moment nothing firm has been signed, and Air France says that it is still looking at the proposal. But with Thalys departures at half-hourly intervals during peak periods and hourly for the rest of the day, offering a journey time of just 85min, it is probably only a matter of time before France’s national airline throws in the towel.

From next year the airline envisages contracting with Thalys to provide dedicated first class seating on services between Brussels and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. By next summer there should be five trains a day each way, timed to feed passengers in and out of groups of Air France long-haul flights.

As with the Lufthansa-DB proposal for rail to replace air between Stuttgart and Frankfurt (p712), it will be important to ensure smooth arrangements for handling checked baggage, as only then will the train meet airline criteria. On-board service can be tailored to match that in the air, and in some cases it would not be hard to better it.

It is clear that Thalys has cornered the Paris - Brussels inter-city market, and is now poised to take the Air France interlining traffic from Belgium too. That Air France sees it worth building on its existing programme for rail to take over domestic short-haul flights is no mean achievement.