Back on Track: News Archive
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Jump to December 2015 Timetable Change Summary
InterRail tickets: The attractiveness of InterRail was given a major boost at the start of 2016 through the inclusion of one free return trip in the country of residence to/from the border.
Belgium - Austria: The weekly Treski couchette train beween Belgium and ski resorts in Austria via the Netherlands ran in the winter 2015/16 season, apparently boasting the innovation of using a single TRAXX locomotive all the way through from Brussels to Austria.
Belgium - Luxembourg - France - Switzerland: Direct trains Brussels - Basel and Luxembourg - Basel ran for the last time on 2 April 2016, making the Eurocity brand extinct in Belgium and Luxembourg. Although a single TGV train pair between Brussels and Strasbourg via Lille has been introduced, journey times on the Luxembourg - Basel axis are now significantly longer.
Czech Republic - Germany: summer weekend services over the Vejprty - Cranzahl border crossing resumed on 1 May 2016 under an initiative of DB and ČD. Results have been so positive that a similar summer service will be provided in 2017.
Germany (- Czech Republic / Italy / Netherlands / Switzerland):
- DB withdrew all remaining CNL sleeper train routes at the timetable change in December 2016, replacing them with overnight IC, ICE and bus services. However, Austrian Railways (ÖBB) will take over some routes, while the Prague - Zurich service will be rerouted via Linz.
- In summer 2016 a Munich - Innsbruck - Bologna train pair was extended to/from Rimini at weekends.
- Car-carrying night trains between Düsseldorf and Verona ran once a week in summer 2016, this time operated and marketed by the partnership of Treinreiswinkel and Euro Express.
Germany - Sweden: Snälltåget cancelled all Berlin - Malmö services in the period 15-28 August 2016 thanks to construction work by DB on the German island of Rügen and a lack of serviceable locomotives owned by the Georg Verkehrsorganisation in Germany.
Kosovo - Macedonia: For some time now the 'direct' train pair between Prishtina and Skopje has been no such thing, in reality there is a change of train at the border station of Hani i Elezit. As if that were not bad enough, the northbound service was rescheduled to leave 10 minutes earlier from September 2016, thus breaking the long-standing connection from Bitola in the south of Macedonia. Infuriating nonsense!
Poland: service updates March 2016:
- 16 months after the loss of the Eurocity Wawel, direct trains once again linked Berlin and Wrocław via Cottbus, this time in the form of a weekend service between 30 April and 25 September 2016, subsequently extended to 8 January 2017. The States of Berlin and Brandenburg provided 100,000 EUR each in financial support. The service used DB Regio DMUs and was operated in partnership with the Polish operator KD, with single tickets from end to end costing just 19 EUR.
- A Zielona Góra - Frankfurt (Oder) train pair was extended to/from Berlin Lichtenberg from 1 April 2016. This has been achieved by opening up empty rolling stock transfers to/from Lichtenberg depot to passengers. As of 28 March 2016 the journey planner of the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB) showed the service running daily except Thursday (!) and with different timings between Frankfurt (Oder) and Berlin depending on the day of the week. It appears the service was financed until the end of 2016.
- A first step towards the provision of several daily services between Berlin and Gorzów (Wielkopolski) took place on 20 March 2016 with the introduction of one train pair between Krzyż and Berlin Lichtenberg. This is the result of welcome cooperation between the Lubukie Region (UMWL), the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB), Arriva Polski, DB Regio and the Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB). Trains are 'additional' on the Polish side but run in place of existing franchised NEB services between Kostrzyn and Berlin. VBB tickets are valid between Gorzów and Berlin. It remains to be seen whether Arriva will pursue its plan to operate a Torún - Berlin train pair via Krzyż.
December 2015 Timetable Change
- Bulgaria - Russia: a daily Sofia - Moscow service via Belgrade and Budapest is provided by RZD.
- Bulgaria - Serbia: a daytime direct service between Sofia and Belgrade runs again after a gap of 4 years. Approximate timings: Sofia 11:30 - Belgrade 19:30, Belgrade 07:35 - Sofia 16:30. It continues east of Sofia to/from Istanbul, at least in theory, depending on engineering works in Turkey.
- Croatia - Romania: Bogajevo - Erdut has reopened with two regional train pairs on weekdays - better than nothing!
- Croatia - Slovenia: the two train pairs on the Čakovec - Mursko Središče - Lendava route now operate on Mondays to Saturdays, not just on Saturdays.
- Czech Republic - Germany: Cheb - Aš - Selb - Hof has reopened with 9 daily train pairs.
- Czech Republic - Poland: interesting announcements have emanated from Poland...
- An additional EuroCity train pair between Prague and Warsaw, with a further extra train pair between Ostrava and Warsaw.
- 6 train pairs Cieszyn - Český Těšín - Frýdek-Místek (after a gap of 6 years with no trains)
- Reopening of the Bohumín - Chałupki - Rybnik (- Katowice) border crossing with 3 EuroCity train pairs and 4 local train pairs. The reopening was postponed to 18 January 2016. Until then EC trains were diverted and local trains bustituted.
- Czech Republic - Poland: direct services now run between Liberec and Szklarska Poręba Górna via Tanvald, following the approval of ČD RegioShuttle trains for use in Poland, or at least on this specific route. This permission apparently came just a few days before the timetable change!
- France - Germany - Poland - Russia: the Russian night train service linking Paris and Moscow runs 3 days per week, an increase in comparison with most of 2015. It continues to operate overnight between Paris and Berlin.
From June 2016 there should be an additional 3 train pairs per week between Berlin and Moscow using RZD's new Talgo trains.
- Germany - Poland: the 3 daily train pairs Dresden/Görlitz - Wrocław run once again, this time in partnership with Polish operator KD. An additional 6-7 train pairs to/from Görlitz are provided by KD, running to/from Jelenia Gora/Wegliniec/Zielona Gora.
- Germany - Switzerland: some Zurich - Munich EuroCity trains will be extended to/from Basel.
- Hungary - Poland: the direct EuroCity train Varsovia between Budapest and Warsaw is restored after an absence of one year. On selected dates it will convey through cars Burgas/Varna/Sofia/Bar/Beograd - Moscow.
- Hungary - Russia: a daily Budapest - Moscow service is provided by RZD.
- Serbia - Turkey: direct trains between Belgrade and Istanbul - or somewhere between the Bulgarian border and Istanbul in any case depending on construction works - were expected to be restored after an absence of many years.
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Nice try, but...
- Lithuania - Poland: draft timetables indicated a new Mockava - Białystok - Warsaw - Kraków TLK service, presumably with connections to/from Vilnius. Orginally planned to start at the timetable change, the latest talk is of
spring or summer 2016. Will it happen...?
- Poland - Ukraine: draft timetables showed two daily train pairs between Przemyśl and Lviv, including a night train to/from Warsaw, but these are reportedly postponed until further notice.
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- Belarus - Poland: the Minsk - Warsaw overnight service no longer runs.
- Belgium - Luxembourg - Strasbourg - Switzerland: the Brussels - Basel direct service of 2 train pairs daily (plus a Luxembourg - Basel pair) was permanently withdrawn from 3 April 2016, coinciding with the opening of the LGV Est through to Strasbourg. Luxembourg - Basel is left without direct services, with significantly longer journey times as a result of poor connections.
- Denmark - Germany: Copenhagen/Aarhus - Berlin direct trains are cut back to operate between Denmark and Hamburg in reaction to the extremely high fuel consumption of diesel ICE-TD trains, which will be taken out of service completely by the end of 2016.
- Czech Republic - Germany: the overnight train between Prague and Oberhausen is cut back to start and end in Cologne. In the southbound direction it is decelerated by 2 hours between Berlin and Prague (arriving at 11:30!), running attached to the first EuroCity of the day in this section. This means Berlin loses its early connection to Dresden and Prague.
- France - Switzerland: Lille - Geneva TGVs no longer run.
- Germany (north - south): the overnight train between Berlin and Munich has been withdrawn, a good 3 years before the high speed line via Erfurt will be in full operation.
- Germany - Poland: the overnight train between Oberhausen and Warsaw has been cut back to start and end in Cologne.
- Germany - Slovakia - Hungary: direct EuroCity services between Berlin and Budapest via Bratislava have been cut back from 3 train pairs to 1 service in each direction. Within Germany most trains run to/from Hamburg (one train pair to/from Kiel), but Rostock and Stralsund are no longer served.
- Lithuania - Russia: the night train Vilnius - Moscow no longer operates, meaning there is longer a daily service between the two cities. In this direction the (non-daily) Kaliningrad - Moscow train is an attractive alternative, but it arrives in Vilnius in the middle of the night in the other direction.
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Jump to December 2014 Timetable Change Summary
The offline journey planner for PCs/laptops offered by Austrian Railways - and with several language options - was discontinued at the end of 2015. However, the Slovakian infrastructure manager still offers a very similar programme, albeit only in Slovak! Click here and scroll down to PCEuropa.exe (CP 2015/2016) to download it.
Austria - Czech Republic: ÖBB reports passenger numbers between Graz and Prague have quadrupled since the introduction of direct services every 2 hours in December 2014. Despite being accelerated by an hour, the end to end journey time remains about 7 hours. This provides yet more evidence that rail can be popular for journeys of longer than 4 hours, especially when there is no need to change trains.
Austria - Germany: The Eurocity Vindobona between Vienna and Berlin used to carry as many as 90 passengers per train between Austria and Germany, but rail might have lost two thirds of these since the train was scrapped in December 2015. Read more in this European Transport Conference presentation.
Bulgaria: The Bulgarian government has done a u-turn! On 1 Feb 2015 almost all the trains withdrawn in January 2015 were reinstated thanks to an additional 40m BGN funding package. A victory for campaigners! Click here for a list of the 140 services originally planned to be axed.
Eurostar has relented to public pressure, abandoning plans to force passengers with bikes to dismantle them before taking them on board (November 2015).
France - Germany - Poland - Belarus - Russia: The thrice-weekly Paris - Berlin - Warsaw - Moscow service was reduced in frequency to weekly from April 2015, somewhat undermining recently announced price cuts. However, from 18/19 June it was increased to twice weekly until mid-September and re-timed to operate overnight between Paris and Berlin with brand new sleeping cars. We demand that DB (i) shows the train correctly in its journey planner and on all sources of departure information at stations, and (ii) sells tickets online and at stations. Just imagine how popular this could be if it were to run at least 5 days a week, with couchette cars added between Berlin and Paris!
Germany - Italy: Dutch operator Treinreiswinkel operated a weekly car-carrying overnight train between Düsseldorf and Verona from July until the middle of
AugustSeptember 2015, the first direct connection between the populous Ruhrgebiet of Germany and Italy since 2006. You don't have to bring a vehicle along to travel on these trains, something DB Autozug could learn from. More info here.
Hungary - Serbia: The rail service between Röszke and Horgoš has been suspended following the completion of Hungary's border fence on 14 September 2015, which has severed the route. See for yourself by looking at this photo of the scene and this map. In the wake of the loss of passengers this caused, domestic Hungarian trains between Röszke and Szeged have also been cut, running for the last time on 31 October 2015. Will other cross-border routes follow...?
Moldova - Romania: The daily Chisinau - Bucharest train was reduced in frequency to thrice weekly from 23 March 2015.
Netherlands - France/Italy/Slovenia: EETC Autoslaaptrein services (overnight car-carrying trains) ceased without prior warning on 15 April 2015, having apparently succumbed to price hikes of 50% in the Netherlands and 30% in other countries for infrastructure usage and locomotive hire.
Norway - Sweden: After a period of uncertainty, the Oslo - Stockholm service was improved from 9 August 2015, with up to 3 train pairs and a best journey time about 1 hour quicker than before, plus catering for the first time in many years. Sadly the new service has apparently been plagued by punctuality problems thanks to the many long stretches of single track on the route.
Poland: recent situation. Almost all passenger trains in Poland are financially supported by the national government or the voivodoships. Unfortunately the amount of money available is decided on an annual basis and towards the end of each year, leading to a great deal of uncertainty about what will run in the following year... In some cases new services are started only for funding to be cut just a few months later. This start-stop approach also affects international trains: see this blog post, this article on cuts announced for the start of 2015 and the following list:
- Białystok - Hrodna/Grodno (Belarus): a new daily TLK service (as part of a through service to/from Kraków) was launched on 4 September 2016.
- Białystok - Kaunas (Lithuania): a new weekends only regional service of one daily train pair started on 17 June 2016. Although it operates on new 'Via Baltica' infrastructure in Lithuania, track condition in Poland is such that the trains take 4 hours 40 mins to cover the 250 km.
- Krzyz - Kostrzyn - Berlin: services were heavily disrupted by staff and rolling stock shortages at the Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn from 26 July to 4 September 2016, although the direct Krzyz - Berlin train pair was restored (with DB staff) from 1 August.
- Warsaw - Minsk: the long-standing daily overnight train with convenient departure and arrival times was reduced in frequency to twice a week from 28 April 2015 and axed completely on 13 December 2015.
- Wrocław - Berlin (DE): the SPD in Berlin is running a campaign for the reinstatement of the EuroCity service that ran for the last time on 13 December 2014. In late 2015, the States of Berlin and Brandenburg announced they would financially support weekend services in summer 2016, although the Polish ministry of transport had declared that no money is available. UPDATE: the service will run between 30 April and
25 September 2016 8 January 2017, funded entirely by Germany according to the information available to us.
- Wrocław - Dresden (DE): Funding for these trains is in place on the German side of the border from December 2014 until December 2018. 4 days before the timetable change in December 2014, it was announced that financial support had been secured on the Polish side until 28 February 2015. On 20 February it was confirmed that the trains would not run from 1 March owing to a lack of money. This meant Wrocław had no direct services to/from Germany and a new 2 km gap in the European passenger network was created between Görlitz and Zgorzelec. Polish trains were granted permission by DB Netz to run into Görlitz station from 21 September 2015, making it possible to extend regional trains of the Polish operator from Zgorzelec to/from Görlitz from the 2015/16 timetable change. A further announcement was made on 24 September that money has been found by the government of Lower Silesia to fund 3 KD train pairs Wrocław - Dresden through 2016, also starting in December 2015. Bringing the story up to date, both the Dresden - Wrocław services and 6-7 pairs of additional KD trains across the Görlitz/Zgorzelec border began operating on 13 December 2015, the contracts having been signed just three days in advance!
- Wrocław - Trutnov (CZ): the Lubawka - Kralovec border crossing sees passenger trains only on summer weekends. Direct Wrocław - Trutnov trains did not run in 2015, but 3 pairs of Jelenia Gora - Trutnov trains were provided on weekends between 25 April and 31 August 2015.
- Kraków - Bohumín/Ostrava (CZ): this new service started on 14 December 2014 and ran for the last time just 17 days later! A truly absurd situation that leaves the Skawina - Oświęcim line with no passenger trains, just months after the completion of EU-financed upgrading!
- Poznan - Frankfurt (Oder) (DE): regional services ceased on 31 December 2014, just 5 months after they (re)started in August 2014. A weekend service primarily to serve students then resumed from 6 February 2015. Update: this service ran for the last time on 31 August 2015, following PR's decision to stop running all commercial services.
Spain: The overnight train between Madrid and Barcelona, which continued to/from Cerbère in France until December 2012, ran for the last time on 7 April 2015.
December 2014 timetable change summary:
- Austria - Germany: the EuroNight train between Cologne and Vienna is extended to/from Düsseldorf. Despite rumours of conversion to 'global pricing', the full range of tickets is thankfully still valid on this train...
- Austria - Hungary: additional EuroCity trains between Vienna and Budapest, forming an hourly service at peak times. One train pair is extended to/from Debrecen in Hungary... using Polish rolling stock, in an excellent example of good old cooperation and efficient use of assets!
- Austria - Italy: the EuroCity train pair Vienna - Venice reinstated last year continues to run and gains a restaurant. Funding for the popular MICOTRA service between Villach and Udine has been secured until at least December 2015. More EU kick-start funding for operations please! Services now run more often and a new station has been opened on the line between Lienz and Fortezza. There are also additional trains between Innsbruck and Bolzano.
- Austria - Poland: one EuroCity train pair between Vienna and Warsaw is extended to/from Gdynia.
- Austria - Switzerland: the EuroCity Transalpin Graz - Zurich regains its panorama car, offering a wonderful view of the Alps as the train negotiates the Arlberg Pass.
- Belgium - Netherlands: 'Benelux' InterCity trains from Brussels are increased in frequency to hourly and run through to/from Amsterdam for the first time since December 2012, albeit on a longer, slower route via Brussels Airport (why?). This means they reach Brussels just 37 minutes before some Eurostar departures, but common sense has prevailed and such connections are officially recognised.
- Bulgaria - Romania - Hungary: a new daily long-distance train between Sofia and Budapest via the new Danube Bridge 2 operates, travelling by day between Sofia and Craiova and overnight between Craiova and Budapest.
- Croatia - Slovenia: services are restored to the Čakovec - Središče - Ormož line, with 3 train pairs on weekdays. See also 'close but no cigar' below.
- Czech Republic - Germany: four new regional train pairs operate between Gera and Cheb via Plauen, reducing end to end journey times by about 20 minutes.
- Czech Republic - Poland: the daytime direct Eurocity train pair between Prague and Warsaw is reinstated. The Polish domestic section between Nysa and Głuchołazy regains two pairs of trains at weekends only, providing new journey opportunities between southern Poland and the Moravia region of the Czech Republic.
- France - Italy: Thello began a Marseille - Nice - Genova - Milan open access service under the EuroCity brand. The service started with a single, badly-timed train pair, but from 12 April 2015 it was enhanced by the addition of a further two train pairs between Nice and Milan at rather more passenger-friendly times. InterRail holders unfortunately receive only a 25% discount on full fares.
- Greece: the two pairs of international trains restored in May 2014 will continue, linking Thessaloniki with Sofia and Skopje/Belgrade. Trains on the latter route should be extended once a week in summer to/from Budapest.
- Hungary - Serbia: one of the Budapest - Belgrade train pairs deleted in December 2012 has been reinstated, restoring the service to 3 train pairs daily.
- Hungary - Slovenia: a direct service between Budapest and Ljubljana is reinstated after a gap of two years, this time with restaurant car (at least according to the Hungarian timetable). We hope that there will be no repeat of last year's partial bustitution on the Slovenian side owing to a "shortage of diesel locomotives".
- Hungary - Ukraine: a new direct service runs between Budapest and Kiev.
- Serbia - Croatia - Slovenia: the overnight train between Belgrade and Ljubljana via Zagreb is reinstated.
- Switzerland - UK: Geneva - London journeys will be faster and more convenient four days a week thanks to better connections (of about 40 minutes) in Lille Europe.
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Close but no cigar...
- Austria - Czech Republic: new 2-hourly RailJet service between Graz and Prague via Vienna. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of through trains from the Czech Republic to Villach, the Berlin - Vienna direct train and comfortable compartment coaches.
- Belgium - Germany: the frequency of regional trains between eastern Belgium and Aachen is doubled to hourly, with much better connections at both ends. However, a change of train in Welkenraedt is now required if travelling on regional trains between Aachen and the largest Belgian city in the region, Liège.
- (Bosnia -) Croatia - Hungary: the border crossing between Beli Manastir (HR) and Magyarboly (HU) regains local trains, but the long-distance train between Sarajevo and Budapest cut two years ago has not been reinstated.
- Croatia - Slovenia: two afternoon train pairs are reintroduced on the Ðurmanec - Sveti Rok ob Sotli - Rogatec line, closed to passengers back in 1994. Why no morning trains? Two train pairs have also been restored to the Čakovec - Mursko Središče - Lendava route... on Saturdays only, with no mention in the Slovenian Railways timetable.
- Czech Republic - Slovakia: several additional services operate between Prague and Košice, scene of a price war between the two national railway companies and two private 'open access' operators. However, this has come at the cost of one of the three sleeper train pairs on the route.
- France - UK: a new direct service London - Lyon - Avignon - Marseille will run up to four days a week... in this direction only! On the return journey passengers will be forced to detrain in Lille Europe to pass through security and passport control, adding 60-70 minutes to journey times. So why not simply provide better connections as per the Geneva route mentioned above?
- Germany - Poland: on 10 Dec 2014, just 4 days before the timetable change, it was confirmed that Poland had secured funding to run the Dresden - Wrocław trains until the end of February 2015. On 20 February it was announced that the money has run out: the service of three train pairs ran for the last time on 28 February 2015. This creates a new 2 km gap in the European passenger train network.
- Germany - Sweden: the Berlin - Malmö overnight train will run again in 2015, but with limited running days and only very basic couchette accommodation. An improvement this year is the option to stay on board in Berlin until 07:00, 40 minutes after arrival: we welcome such attention to detail. Click here for a preliminary timetable (switch to the Swedish version for the latest info).
- Italy - Slovenia: service boosted from two to five train pairs between Villa Opicina and Sežana, which since the Slovenian trains gained authorisation to run in Italy (on 5 January 2015) really are trains, not buses! However, a gap remains on the Italian side of the border between Villa Opicina and the rest of the network in Trieste...
- Norway - Sweden: an additional weekday train pair runs between Oslo and Gothenburg, but the northbound train departs far too early in the morning (at 04:30!) to be considered by most travellers.
- Romania - Serbia: originally announced as starting at the timetable change, it now appears that a direct train pair between Bucharest and Belgrade via the Vršac - Timişoara border crossing might resume in June 2015 after an absence of 3.5 years.
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- Albania: there is still no replacement in sight for the city centre station in Tiranë, closed in summer 2013 to make way for boulevard widening. The line to Pogradec, close to the border with Macedonia, was severed by road construction works in September 2012, with no indication that it will be reopened.
- Austria - Germany: the direct EuroCity train Vindobona between Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna ceased after 57 years' continuous operation.
- Austria - Czech Republic/Germany/Poland: EuroCity trains to/from northern Europe no longer run as far south as Villach, the border station with Slovenia.
- Belgium - Luxembourg - Strasbourg - Switzerland: the Brussels - Basel service is worsened with every timetable change. This one is no exception: trains are decelerated by a further 30 minutes. The route will be split in Luxembourg from June or December 2016.
- Bulgaria - Turkey: the overnight train Sofia - Istanbul remains severely disrupted by construction works in Bulgaria and around Istanbul.
- Bulgaria - Romania: the overnight train Sofia - Bucharest appears to have disappeared, possibly as a result of the withdrawal of Russia - Balkans through carriages. This leaves one surviving day train pair that takes 9.5 hrs...
- Czech Republic - Denmark: the overnight train Prague - Copenhagen was cut back to Duisburg/Oberhausen in Germany.
- Czech Republic - Germany: Cranzahl - Vejprty lost its few remaining passenger trains. Vejprty - Chomutov is served only at weekends and only between Easter and October.
- Czech Republic - Netherlands: the overnight train Prague - Amsterdam was cut back to Duisburg/Oberhausen in Germany.
- Czech Republic - Poland: the Polish transport ministry has decided NOT to fund the reinstatement of trains between Bohumin (in the Ostrava region) and Wrocław via Chałupki, despite announcements made in the autumn.
- Czech Republic - Poland: the new regional service from Bohumín and Ostrava to Kraków ran for the last time on 31 December 2014, a mere 17 days after it was launched. We have not made this up!
- Czech Republic - Switzerland: the overnight train between Prague and Zurich is decelerated by one hour in the Prague direction Sundays to Thursdays in winter.
- Croatia - Germany: the seasonal overnight train between Rijeka and Munich did not operate at all.
- Denmark - Czech Republic / The Netherlands / Switzerland: all overnight trains from Denmark were withdrawn.
- France - Germany: all City Night Line overnight trains were withdrawn, leaving Paris - Hamburg with no direct trains and Paris - Berlin with only the tricky-to-book sleeper train operated by Russian Railways, which does not run every day!
- France - Spain: despite the daytime Paris - Barcelona service remaining at a mere 2 train pairs per day (that take all day), overnight trains between Paris and Barcelona/Madrid have not been reinstated.
- Germany - Luxembourg: InterCity trains between Norddeich and Luxembourg via Cologne, Bonn and Trier no longer run west of Koblenz, bringing an end to direct connections between the populous north-west of Germany and Luxembourg. Although the replacement regional connections between Koblenz and Luxembourg will run hourly, we do not think these trains are comfortable enough for long-distance travellers.
- Germany - Poland: the Hamburg - Berlin - Wrocław Eurocity train Wawel was withdrawn without replacement, the final nail in the coffin being the competing IC Bus introduced by DB in 2013, which ran 3x daily in summer 2014 (since also cut back to one pair!). Never mind the millions of Euros invested in the modernisation of the line between Wegliniec and Wrocław... The Frankfurt (Oder) - Poznan regional service was withdrawn on 31 Dec 2014, a mere 5 months after it was introduced, but partially reinstated (at weekends) from 6 Feb 2015.
- Hungary - Poland: the direct EuroCity train Varsovia between Budapest and Warsaw no longer operates.
- Lithuania - Poland: the 'temporary' suspension of the daily international connection between Warsaw and Vilnius (with two changes en route) since September 2013 continues... Click here for alternative options.
- The Netherlands - Poland: the overnight train was withdrawn between Amsterdam and Duisburg/Oberhausen.
- Romania - Serbia: trains between Jimbolia and Kikinda ceased on 31 August 2014.
- Romania - Turkey: the overnight train Bucharest - Istanbul remains severely disrupted by construction works in Bulgaria and around Istanbul.
- Russia - Balkans: direct trains/through carriages routed via Ukraine suspended as a result of tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the collapse of the Ruble.
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Jump to December 2013 Timetable Change Summary
Many international City Night Line services cut in late 2014. The following routes were scrapped in December 2014 (routes to/from Copenhagen on 1 November 2014):
Meanwhile Swiss group umverkehR is running a petition to persuade SBB and the Swiss government to reverse the cuts of recent years and develop a strategy for international rail services. Click here for more information (in French and German) and to sign.
So what is going on? DSB (Danish railways) has blamed the loss of the Copenhagen routes on the seasonal nature of demand and construction work on the Danish island of Fyn in summer 2015. However, DB appears to want to withdraw from this market, having already started to take rolling stock out of service as it becomes due for heavy maintenance. Complicating matters is the situation with subsidy for the service within Denmark, with different stories emerging from DB, DSB and the Danish government.
In recent times the service has gained a reputation for poorer service in return for higher fares (for which DB is responsible) and timetabling/booking difficulties, thanks mainly to the inability of the Dutch, French and German infrastructure managers to plan their construction work at least 3 months in advance. Infrastructure managers continue to increase track access charges, further weakening the economic case for night trains. DB has stated that operating costs (the sum of track access, locomotive hire and personnel) in France are 70% higher per train km than in Germany. In the case of the routes to Amsterdam, locomotives must be fitted with a new signalling system (ETCS) to haul the trains between Emmerich and Utrecht, adding greatly to operating costs. In the meantime airlines continue to enjoy their tax-free status. Put together, this would appear to signal the beginning of the end of international night trains and car-carrying trains to/from Germany, which DB has said must cover their operating costs (or else be cut) by 2017. Despite all this, the trains are not empty: the demand is there! The key question is: who should be responsible for running such trains given the unsupportive framework conditions? Click here to read a related opinion piece in the European Rail Journal.
Major EuroCity cuts from December 2014: on 14 December 2014 Berlin and Dresden lose their direct connections to Vienna and Villach, the train between Berlin and Wrocław weill be axed and Budapest loses its direct link with Warsaw.
Journey planning: Although DB will no longer offer an offline journey planner from the end of 2014, ÖBB continues to do so: it can be downloaded for Windows here.
- Night trains to Italy/Germany/Switzerland: Austria's ÖBB is apparently poised to make a 46m EUR investment in night train rolling stock, in complete contrast to Germany. Read more.
- EuroCity trains on the Brenner route between Innsbruck and Italy continue to be a success story, with longer trains and additional services beyond Verona to Venice and Bologna from April 2014.
- Austria - Italy: regional authorities in Italy are developing proposals to support the reintroduction of long-distance trains from Vienna to Trieste via Ljubljana (Slovenia). News article (in German).
- EuroCity trains on the Brenner route between Munich and Italy continue to be a success story, with longer trains and additional services beyond Verona to Venice and Bologna from April 2014.
- 2-hourly regional trains between Dečin and Rumburk via Bad Schandau, Sebnitz and the 'missing link' to Dolní Poustevna started on 5 July 2014 and are carrying more passengers than expected!
- Bad Bentheim - Hengelo (NL): local trains on this route will be reinstated (and extended to/from Bielefeld) in 2017. More here.
Greece - Macedonia - Serbia: A Belgrade - Skopje - Thessaloniki train pair was introduced on 9/10 May 2014, thus restoring international trains to/from Greece after a gap of 38 months. While this is welcome, we hope the planned 05:00 southbound departure time from Skopje will eventually be shifted later, giving the train a fighting chance to attract leisure travellers. Update: as of March 2015, the southbound train leaves Skopje at 04:45!
Italy - Slovenia: regional authorities in Italy are developing proposals to support the reintroduction of long-distance trains from Vienna to Trieste via Ljubljana (Slovenia). News article (in German).
The Netherlands - UK: Any Dutch Station tickets to/from London via the Channel Tunnel are once again available from NS International.
Poland: Kłodzko to Kudowa Zdrój was expected to reopen on 30 May 2014, reducing the length of the cross-border gap to Náchod Běloves station in the Czech Republic to a mere 5 km walk...
Serbia: Services between Jimbolia and Kikinda (Romania) ceased on 31 August 2014, along with passenger trains on the Serbian domestic routes Subotica - Kikinda and Zrenjanin - Belgrade. The Sombor - Vrbas line lost its passenger trains on 14 December 2014.
Sweden: National operator SJ stopped selling international point to point tickets (except to Copenhagen, Narvik and Oslo) from 1 August 2014.
December 2013 timetable change summary:
Close but no cigar...
- Croatia - Hungary: the Zagreb - Budapest service has been restored to two daily direct trains in each direction.
- Croatia - Slovenia: a service between Karlovac and Metlika will be reinstated on 15 December 2013.
- France - Germany: the Paris - Freiburg TGV train pair introduced in August 2007 continues.
- France - Spain: new direct AGV trains operate between Lyon/Marseille/Toulouse and Madrid/Barcelona, to be followed (possibly) by Geneva - Barcelona from
March sometime in 2014. See also separate story under bad news below.
- Italy - Austria: a daytime Eurocity train pair (with Europe's most comfy compartment coaches) has been restored between Venice and Vienna after three years' absence.
- Switzerland - Austria: the Zurich - Austria route (via the Arlberg Pass) once again hosts a Eurocity train pair (with extremely comfortable Austrian compartment coaches) in the form of the 'Transalpin' Zurich - Graz, a big improvement over RailJet!
- Belgium - France: a slight increase in the number of 'Benelux' InterCity trains, but there are still 2-hour gaps and - because trains do not run north of Den Haag - passengers to/from Amsterdam must endure a tight, stressful, non-cross-platform interchange in Roosendaal.
- Germany - Sweden: the Berlin - Malmö overnight train ran again on selected dates in 2014 until mid-August, with a lone daytime train for good measure. We would have featured this under 'good news', but it does not convey sleeping cars and running days are extremely limited.
- Italy - Slovenia: two train pairs from Sežana to Ljubljana start back from Villa Opicina in Italy, restoring passenger trains to this border crossing. However, a gap in the Italian rail network remains between Villa Opicina and Trieste, despite the efforts of SŽ to restore services.
- Slovenia - Hungary: a service between Ljubljana and Budapest is once again offered via the shortest possible route, but a change of train is required in Maribor. Thankfully through tickets are available at reasonable prices. The train was reported as being substituted by buses or railcars between Hodoš and Maribor from late February until late June owing to "a shortage of diesel locomotives".
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- Greece remained isolated from all its neighbours at the beginning of 2014! See above for improvements from 9/10 May 2014.
- Albania: there is still no replacement in sight for the station in Tiranë, closed in summer 2013 to make way for boulevard widening. The line to Pogradec, close to the border with Macedonia, was severed by road construction works in September 2012, with no indication that it will be reopened.
- Balkans: no trains between Belgrade (Serbia) and Romania; the poor service of just one train pair between Belgrade and each of Zagreb and Sofia (overnight but without sleeping cars!) will not be improved. Cross-border trains between Bosnia and the Croatian port town of Ploče ceased in December 2013, and ALL passenger trains on the Croatian side of this border finished on 24 April 2014. A total of 10% of domestic services in Croatia were cut at the same time.
- Belgium - Luxembourg - Strasbourg - Switzerland: trains no longer run east of Basel in either direction; the morning train from Brussels is decelerated by 26 minutes until 14 June; the SBB carriages are replaced by SNCB/NMBS coaches without laptop sockets.
- Czech Republic - Bulgaria: the direct through coaches no longer run.
- Czech Republic - Poland: the daytime direct Eurocity train pair between Prague and Warsaw no longer runs. Trains between Bohumin and Wrocław via Chałupki are also cut.
- France - Italy: withdrawal of the overnight train between Paris and Rome; Limone - Breil-sur-Roya - Ventimiglia is likely to lose passenger trains in June 2014.
- France - Germany: withdrawal of the last remaining classic Eurocity train pair between Strasbourg and Munich.
- France - southern England: the traditional train - ferry - train route via Dieppe - Newhaven has become even more unattractive, thanks to the withdrawal of the last remaining direct trains between Dieppe and Paris. Journey times are extended by 30 minutes. As of 16 Dec 2013 journey planners were not showing the replacement shuttle trains (ordered by the Region Haute-Normandie) between Dieppe and Rouen.
- France - Spain: overnight trains between Paris and Barcelona/Madrid, together with direct daytime trains between Montpellier and Alacant along the scenic coastal route via Barcelona and Valencia, were suspended on 14 Dec 2013 in favour of direct Paris - Barcelona daytime TGVs that started the following day. Yes, the journey time has been shrunk considerably... but is still 6 hrs 30 mins from Paris to Barcelona! That's a very long time in trains designed with the same level of comfort as short-haul planes! Add 3 hours for journeys to/from Madrid, and you can see that these routes are eminently suitable for night trains or higher standards of comfort at the very least. We welcome the introduction of new daytime high speed trains, but condemn the accompanying cuts and reduction in choice.
- Germany - Netherlands: local trains between Bad Bentheim and Hengelo withdrawn.
- Germany - Poland: the Hamburg - Berlin - Wrocław Eurocity train 'Wawel' no longer conveys carriages with laptop sockets. Travel to Kraków is faster via Warsaw!
- Poland - Lithuania: the 'temporary' suspension of the daily international connection between Warsaw and Vilnius (with two changes en route) since September 2013 is extended until
the end of July 2014 at the earliest sometime in 2015 owing to construction work, with no rail replacement service on the Lithuanian side! Click here for alternative options.
- Western Europe - Russia: the through coaches from Basel to Minsk and Berlin to Saratov, Tchelyabinsk and Novosibirsk were withdrawn, destroying the last direct rail links between western Europe and Asian Russia.
The situation in south-east Europe remains dire. Back in 2007 it was still possible to travel between Ljubljana/Budapest/Vienna and Thessaloniki/Istanbul without changing, but today journeys are an ordeal rather than a pleasure. The lack of day train between Belgrade and Sofia renders many trans-Balkan rail journeys extremely difficult if not completely unfeasible.
Photo courtesy of afc45014 on Flickr.
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France - Switzerland: a new cross-border regional network centred on Geneva is to be launched in December 2017. More here.
End of the line for German car trains? There is increasing press speculation that DB will end Autozug operations and instead transport cars by truck (!) from sometime in 2017, leading to the loss of direct trains from northern Germany to southern Austria, France and Italy. Sadly these trains are unavailable to passengers who do not bring a car or motorcycle along, a bizarre and discriminatory policy that has no doubt contributed to the declining economic viability of the network. It is not yet known if the regular City Night Line (sleeper) trains that also convey car transporter wagons will also be affected. With this loss and SNCF's withdrawal from the car train market several years ago, only a handful of routes in/to/from central and south-east Europe will remain. Will Autozug's passengers travel on day trains and hire a car at their destination, or simply drive all the way...? UPDATE: trains on the last remaining Autozug route from Berlin's Wannsee terminal (to Munich) ran for the last time on 26 April 2014.
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