Europe’s new rail schedules come into effect on Sunday December 11, 2011. And these new schedules will, for the most part, apply through December 2012.
The latest monthly edition (dated December 2011) of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable has just landed on our desks, and we’ve been taking a peek at what rail travelers can expect from the next timetables.
Two new high-speed lines
Two new stretches of Europe’s high-speed rail network open on December 11. These are the first section of a new AVE link from Madrid to northwest Spain, and in eastern France, the new Rhin-Rhône LGV (fast line).
The latter dramatically reshapes travel opportunities in an area of Europe where rail travel has been traditionally quite slow. Both these new routes defy the warp and weft of the landscape, with impressive viaducts and long tunnels allowing trains to cut through hills and valleys.
Effective from the start of the new schedules, passengers can benefit from:
1. A new direct service from Paris and Metz to Minsk and Moscow. The train, tentatively named “Transeuropean Express,” replaces the existing very slow through carriages from Paris to Moscow (which are tacked onto the end of the City Night Line train from Paris to Berlin). This is a big improvement for folk from Russia and Belarus looking to make tracks for western Europe. The new train will carry a Polish restaurant car from Paris to Warsaw and vice versa.
2. A new overnight sleeper called the “Orion,” which will provide a new link from Prague, Dresden and Berlin to Copenhagen. The new train will carry both sleeper and couchette accommodation, and a restaurant car will be attached in Hamburg to allow travelers to breakfast in style on the final part of the journey to the Danish capital.
3. A very convenient new direct daytime train from Budapest to the Austrian Tyrol and the Swiss Alps. This is a route that has long been served by the Wiener Walzer night train, but now there will be a daytime Railjet service from Budapest to Salzburg, Innsbruck and Zürich.
4. New direct regional trains between Paris and Lyon using the classic 19th-century route. This is a gem of a journey, one that features as the very first recommended journey in the book Europe by Rail (as part of “Route 1: London to the Med”). Five TER trains each day from Paris Bercy will take a shade over five hours to reach Lyon. Of course, if you are in a rush take the TGV, but the new TER link takes in some parts of rural France that are just far better appreciated from a slower train.
5. Many new TGV services from Alsace, the France Comté region and elsewhere in eastern France to the Rhône Valley. For example, the number of daytime TGVs from Strasbourg to Marseille leaps from one to three. These services are highlighted in the wholly revamped Table 379 of the December issue of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.
Details to note
1. Travel time from Paris to Zürich is trimmed by 30 minutes from December 11, with these trains rerouted via the new Rhin-Rhône line. This means that services will now depart from Gare de Lyon rather than Paris Est.
2. The main overnight train from Warsaw to Minsk (viz. Train number 116 which carries through carriages that continue east beyond Minsk to Russia) will depart from Warsaw Gdanska from the December timetable changes. So it will no longer serve Centralna and Wschodnia stations in Warsaw – and connections onto this train from Berlin and all points west will be made a little more difficult because of the need to trek through Warsaw to Gdanska station.
3. The Paris to Venice overnight train will switch from Paris Bercy to Gare de Lyon. From December 11, the train will be run by a new operator called Thello.
4. A splendid array of through carriages to various points in Ukraine will again be attached to the Kashtan train, which runs from Berlin to Kiev. The through cars from Berlin to the Crimea, the port city of Odessa and other eastern Ukrainian cities were withdrawn in late summer but happily return in the new schedules.
The authors express their thanks to Brendan Fox, editor of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, and to his colleagues. European rail travel would not be half so much fun without the splendid timetables produced by Brendan and his team.