Rail operators in France and Belgium have approved a plan to set up a separate company to operate the jointly-run high-speed Thalys service.

SNCF and SNCB have said that restructuring the service will ‘ensure agility in a competitive environment’.

From 2015, a single body will oversee Thalys train operations, pending approval from the European Commission.

The high-speed cross-border service was inaugurated in 1995 and provides passengers with direct links between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.

Last year, Thalys trains carried 6.6 million passengers and recorded a turnover of 479 million euros.

Guillaume Pepy, chairman of SNCF and Marc Descheemaecker, of SNCB, said: “This is a great opportunity to consolidate our historic partnership between our two companies and continue the development of high-speed rail in Northern Europe.”

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