THIS TIME in 2010, people will be whizzing by train between London and Paris in less than two hours, if plans by new rivals to Eurostar come to fruition.

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Air France have announced that they aim to branch out to rail travel when the Eurostar monopoly runs out in early 2010 and say they will bring in faster TGV-style trains, which will slash the journey time from 2 hours 15 minutes to about 1 hour 55 minutes.

Virgin, already big in rail travel in the UK, and German giants Deutsche Bahn also plan to enter the cross-channel market in 2010, with more European cities likely to be reachable by direct services.

Eurostar, which has seen a big rise in passenger numbers in recent years, was quick to sound a crie de guerre.

“It’s no surprise that airlines, hit by high oil prices and congested airports, are trying to turn themselves into train operators,” said a Eurostar spokesperson. “We will continue to compete with them whether they use wings or wheels.”