European Rail Connections: Headline changes in December 2012
The latest issue of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable is published today. Just for the record it is the 1,519th edition of the book. Can you imagine that? Surely no other volume in the history of publishing has gone to 1,519 editions.
Not all editions are equal. We happen to particularly rate the December edition each year, and that’s why we think this 1,519th edition is well worth buying.
New rail schedules in Europe from December 9
The reason is that, in a continent where most things are famously uncoordinated, Europeans do on the whole agree that new rail schedules should kick in on the same date each year. And that data approacheth. On December 9, new timetables start.
That’s where the December edition of Cook’s fabulous compendium of timetables comes in handy. It gives us the first comprehensive overview of Europe’s rail services for the upcoming year. In previous articles here on EuroCheapo we’ve highlighted what to look for in the new schedules, but here we focus on the headline changes in three countries where new rail lines mean better connections.
Speeding through Sweden: Stockholm to Umeå
Over the past year or two, a wholly new line has been opened in stages up the west side of the Gulf of Bothnia, transforming rail transport in this area of Sweden. December 9 sees a key stage in this project with the introduction of a new high-speed rail service from Stockholm to Umeå, with the fastest trains linking the two cities in under six and a half hours. The new Botniabanan route hugs the coast, effectively replacing the old Norrland route which follows an inland route through difficult terrain.
The Hanzelijn in Holland
Dutch engineering ingenuity has reclaimed substantial tracts of land in the Flevoland region and new communities need rail links. The railway to Lelystad was opened in 1988, but in a bold move the line from Lelystad is now being extended eastwards to Zwolle in the province of Overijssel.
The 50-km-long new route, which opens on December 9, is of more than merely local importance. It fills a missing link in the Dutch rail network and thus rewrites the geography of the Netherlands, suddenly allowing faster journeys from Amsterdam to the country’s north-eastern cities of Leeuwarden and Groningen.
Faster to Vienna
The Austrian capital moves a little closer to western Europe on December 9. No, not really. It stays just where it is, but rail travelers bound for Vienna from the west will benefit from the opening of the new high-speed line from Sankt Pölten to Vienna. It trims journey times on the Westbahn.
With the opening of the new link, most trains from Munich, Salzburg, Zürich, Passau and Linz will use the new fast link for the final part of their run into Vienna.
Browse the pages of the new Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, and you’ll find a host of new services. Tucked away in the tables, we have already discovered new direct sleeping cars from Milan to Munich, Paris to Rome and from Berlin to St. Petersburg.
We see that two distinguished Russian trains linking Moscow with France are being rerouted from the start of the new schedules. The Trans-European from Paris to Moscow will take a more southerly route through France, allowing it to serve Strasbourg along the way. The Moscow to Nice service will take a more direct route through Austria via Villach, so it will no longer serve the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck.
A touch of tradition
More than 1,500 editions of Cook’s celebrated timetable have smoothed the way of European rail travelers from the late-19th century to the present day. Online databases now allow travelers to plot their route from A to B with ease, but there is still space for a printed timetable — and especially one that so creatively compresses so much information as Cook’s European. We simply do not leave home without it.
You can see a summary of major changes to Europe’s rail services from December 9 on the Europe by Rail website (look for the link to ERT Newslines).
Special enhanced editions
Today also marks the publication of the expanded winter edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable. This appears just twice each year, and is normally published at the very end of November and in the closing days of May. The European rail schedule pages are the same as those in the monthly edition but they are complemented by additional features on rail travel in Europe.
And, for those travelers whose horizons extend beyond Europe, this twice-yearly special edition includes selected timetables for rail services in the rest of the world.