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The new Eurostar route will see two trains a day leave St Pancreas for the Netherlands capital - famed for it's weed-selling coffee shops and Red Light District. Work is ongoing at stations in Amsterdam and Rotterdam to build passport and security clearance facilities. This new service was preceded by a comprehensive testing of the Netherlands high speed network and the building of Eurostar terminals in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Trains from the United Kingdom capital will take slightly over three hours to reach Rotterdam and a further 40 minutes before arriving in Amsterdam, Eurostar said Friday.

About 4 million people now travel between London and Amsterdam by air, and Eurostar said it's targeting a significant share of that market. The company said that travel to Brussels will now be even faster with the new route too, only taking one hour and 48 minutes, instead of two hours and five minutes. Therefore the market is the same size as it was when the London-Paris train launched in 1994 and points out that, since then, the market for travel between London and Paris has more than doubled.

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'As the Netherlands grows in popularity as a key business and tourism hub, the potential for the new service and the overall market is significant, ' Eurostar said in a statement today.

Nicolas Petrovic, the outgoing chief executive of Eurostar, said the Netherlands service heralded a new era in worldwide high-speed rail.

The new trains start from just £35 one-way - and travellers will also save money on airport transfers as they will arrive in the city centre at both end. Passengers making the return trip will initially need to stop in Brussels for passport controls because Dutch stations aren't yet equipped to make those checks.