First commercial Eurostar service from London to Amsterdam sets off
Direct passenger rail journeys between London and Amsterdam have launched.
The first Eurostar service departed London St Pancras International station at 8.31am on Wednesday.
The cross-Channel rail operator hopes the new city centre-to-city centre route will take some of the market share currently held by airlines, which offer flights lasting as little as one hour.
Train journeys from London to Rotterdam take three hours and one minute, with Amsterdam reached in three hours and 41 minutes.
One-way fares are available from £35.
Passengers on the first service were given a tote bag featuring an image of a tulip.
Eurostar chief executive Mike Cooper said: "The departure of our first commercial service to Amsterdam represents a historic milestone for Eurostar and the growth of international high-speed rail.
"With the Netherlands becoming increasingly popular as a business and tourism destination, the potential for our new route is significant and we look forward to offering our customers a fast, seamless connection between these key European cities."
Although passengers are able to travel direct from London to Amsterdam, journeys in the opposite direction still involve a change of trains in Brussels for passport checks and security screening.
Eurostar described this as a "temporary measure" while the UK and Dutch governments complete an agreement to allow border screening on departure in Amsterdam, as happens in Paris and Brussels.
This is expected to be in place by the end of next year.
Mark Smith, founder of rail website The Man In Seat 61, describes the direct trains as "airline-competitive".
He said: "Eurostar has already captured 70% of the London-Paris market, and this new service is a game-changer for London-Amsterdam.
"It's taken a while to implement, but the wait has been worth it."