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Thalys is an international high-speed train operator originally built around the high-speed line between Paris and Brussels. This track is shared with Eurostar trains that go from Paris or Brussels to London via Lille and the Channel Tunnel and with French domestic TGV trains. Thalys reaches Amsterdam and Cologne, and its system is operated by Thalys International. Its capital is divided up between SNCF (62%), SNCB (28%)[2] and Deutsche Bahn (10%).



The decision to build a high-speed railway between Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam was made in 1987. On 28 January 1993,[3] SNCF, SNCB, NS and DB signed an agreement to jointly operate the axis through the brand Thalys, and in 1995 Westrail International was created by the French and Belgium national railways to operate the services. On 4 June 1996 the first train left Paris, taking 2:07 hours to Brussels and 4:47 hours to Amsterdam.[4]

On 14 December 1997 the LGV Nord and HSL 1 lines opened, allowing the travel time from Paris to Brussels to be reduced to 1:25 hours. At the same time service commenced to Cologne and Aachen in Germany, and Bruges, Charleroi, Ghent, Mons, Namur and Ostend in Belgium. On 19 December 1998 the Thalys Neige service started to the ski resorts of Tarentaise Valley and Bourg St. Maurice. In May 1999, the new high-speed line serving Charles de Gaulle Airport opened, and Thalys started direct services from the Airport to Brussels, including code sharing agreements with Air France, American Airlines and Northwest Airlines. On 28 November 1999, the company changed its name to Thalys International. In 2000, the Thalys Soleil started services to the summer resort Valence—this service was extended in 2002 to Marseille and Avignon. In 2003, services started to Brussels International Airport and the Thalys Nuits d’Eté service to Marne-la-Vallée. Deutsche Bahn purchased 10% of the company in 2007.[4] From 14 June 2009 the journey between Brussels and Cologne was shortened by 19 minutes when a new high speed line (HSL 3) between Liège and Aachen opened. The new high-speed line was initially only used by Deutsche Bahn's thrice-daily ICE trains running between Brussels and Frankfurt. Although HSL 3 was completed in 2007, Thalys trains had at this time not yet been equipped with the ETCS signalling equipment necessary to use the new line. As a result, Thalys did not operate on the new link until 13 December 2009. For this same reason, Thalys did not start operating on the HSL 4/HSL-Zuid high-speed line between Antwerp and Amsterdam until 13 December 2009.

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