Blink and you can easily miss a thousand changes to European rail schedules. We’ve been taking a look ahead to next year’s timetables, just to see what Cheapos can look forward to in 2009. All the new services mentioned here come into effect on December 14, 2008.
Prague, which just this year benefited from a new night train from Amsterdam (which stays in the 2009 schedules), gets a further upgrade in the 2009 timetables with a new daily night train to Zürich (like many other central European night trains named after a heavenly constellation, in this case Canopus). And Prague gets a new direct daytime train to Belgrade, the EuroCity Avala service.
Paris to Berlin; Berlin to Bratislava/Budapest
The long-standing Paris to Berlin night sleeper service run by Deutsche Bahn is entirely recast in the 2009 schedules, departing from Paris Est (rather than Paris Nord, as at present) and no longer serving Brussels. No great loss, we might add, for the train’s Brussels stops were in both directions at such inconvenient hours that no sane traveller made use of them. Berlin secures new direct night services to both Bratislava and Budapest, as well as a revised service with improved capacity to Warsaw.
Across the Alps; Austria; Budapest to Munich; Amsterdam to Berlin
New Cisalpino trains bring great improvements to cross-Alps services in 2009 with reduced travel times on routes from Geneva and Zürich to Milan, Florence and Venice. And new trains across Austria too, where Railjet will introduce a new premium service linking Budapest with Munich via Vienna.
International train services from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (great for travellers arriving off long-haul flights) get more prominence with a doubling of frequency of trains heading east towards Hanover and Berlin.
In Britain, services on the route out of London Euston get a boost with increased frequencies to both Birmingham and Manchester and a new hourly service to Chester. But it’s not all gain, for direct services from Gatwick Airport to the West Midlands and Manchester are axed after December 13, 2008. Thereafter, red-eyed passengers arriving early at Gatwick off overnight flights will need to change trains at Watford Junction or Reading for connections on to Birmingham and northwest England.
Eurostar service from London
In the winter 2008-09 timetables some thirty Eurostar trains each day will link London with Brussels, Paris, Lille, the Marne valley and the French Alps. With fares starting from €77 from Paris return and €80 return from any station in Belgium to London, we wonder why anyone still bothers to fly for short hops across the English Channel.
Fuller details of 2009 rail schedules for Europe will be available in mid-November 2008. To keep abreast of developments, just get hold of the latest issue of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.