We reported early last month on how flooding across Europe was playing havoc with rail services. The flood waters may have receded, but the legacy of the deluge continues to affect travel across the continent.
High summer on Europe’s railways
The coming six weeks represent the peak summer vacation period across most of Europe. Here’s a quick summary of what to expect on Europe’s railways. Remember the key message: The great majority of European rail services are running just fine. What follows may read like a litany of bad news, but remember that most journeys will not be affected by the trackwork and line closures mentioned here.
East-west hassle in Germany
The headline story is that Europe’s busiest east-west rail route is still severed between Berlin and Hannover. There is some talk that it could reopen by Christmas, while others are saying it’ll be 2014 before full services are restored. A revised timetable for train services in the region will be introduced on Monday 29 July: there is a useful summary of what that means in European Rail News.
What may seem at first sight to be no more than a little local affair in fact has repercussions on rail services over a wide region. The route that is closed is one which would normally be used by travelers making many long-distance journeys across the continent. It is used by the Amsterdam to Warsaw service, by the night train from Prague to Copenhagen and the Trans-European Express from Paris to Moscow. By way of example, the latter is rerouted to take a more southerly route through Germany, running non-stop from Fulda to Berlin via Thuringia and thus no longer serving Hannover.
Trains from Berlin axed
The premium Frankfurt Sprinter service from Berlin is a victim of the floods. It has been suspended for the foreseeable future. Other routes have been scaled back. For example, in the normal timetable there would be six daytime InterCity trains from Berlin to Amsterdam. Now there is just one — and the journey time is extended by 90 minutes to just short of eight hours. These changes will apply for some months.
Clearing up after the floods means that there’s a backlog of track maintenance that affects travel. For example, the main rail route from Berlin to Prague is closed for a couple of days next week. There will be no direct trains between the two capitals from midday Monday to midday Wednesday.
The Midi-Pyrénées area of south-west France was gravely affected by late spring flooding, and train services in the region will continue to be disrupted for a while. At present there are no services between Pau and Lourdes. The disruption has badly affected pilgrim traffic to Lourdes — where the shrine relies upon the railway to bring the great majority of pilgrims. SNCF say there is a chance of restoring at least a limited rail service by the time of the great Marian Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Meanwhile substitute bus services are in place. Infolignes is a good place to check for updates.
Rebuilding routes in the French Alps
A key access route to the French Alps is closed at the moment: the line from Valence Ville via Grenoble to Chambéry. The Valence to Grenoble section will not reopen until December, but the 60-km onward hop from Grenoble to Chambéry will have trains running again from early September. Meanwhile, buses are replacing trains on both sections of line. The travel time by bus from Valence to Grenoble varies between 70 and 100 minutes. Grenoble to Chambéry ranges from 59 to 75 minutes.
Buses in the Jura
The Swiss Jura region has a lot of trackwork taking place this summer, which means many alterations to services in the Neuchâtel region until mid-August. Buses will replace trains on routes up into the Jura Mountains from Neuchâtel. The route between La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle is completely closed, and buses are also replacing trains on the very scenic cross-border rail route to Morteau in France. The word is that this key cross-border route will have trains running again on 11 August. Buses are also replacing trains on part of the Neuchâtel to Berne route – that one is expected to reopen to rail traffic on 12 August.