Heavy rains over the hills of central Europe are playing havoc with train schedules this week. Many lines are closed, in some cases with little by way of substitute road services. The area of heavy early-summer rainfall extends from central Switzerland (in the west) to western Slovakia (in the east). The north-south extent is from Saxony and Silesia (in the north) to Slovenia (in the south).
Here is an update on those areas which are particularly badly affected:
The worst-hit region this afternoon is the hill country of northern Bohemia and in particular the Labe and Vltava Valleys. Dramatic TV footage of Prague this morning shows just how bad the situation is in the Vltava Valley.
Trains are still running on the main north-south axis from Dresden through Prague towards Vienna and Bratislava. But there are diversions and many services have been delayed in excess of two hours. Water levels are however still rising and it is possible that services running north from Prague (in particular trains heading to or through Usti-nad-Labem) might be suspended entirely later on Tuesday.
It is very likely that this will lead to the cutting of all rail services from Dresden south along the Elbe Valley route into the Czech Republic.
The situation is very grave is the Tyrol and Salzburg provinces. The main rail routes in and out of Salzburg are severely affected. No trains are running at all on the so-called Korridorstrecke from Salzburg to Innsbruck. (It’s referred to as a “corridor route” because trains cut through a corridor of German territory without stopping.)
The Salzburg to Munich service has been suspended. The premium Railjet trains which would normally run from Linz to Munich via Salzburg are being diverted via Passau. Reports in the international media have shown extensive flooding in Passau, but rail travel to and through Passau is still perfectly possible — although speed restrictions are in place.
The Brenner Pass route from Innsbruck to Italy is closed to rail traffic on the Austrian side of the border. Substitute buses are running between Innsbruck and Brennero. Rail services between Munich and Innsbruck which were suspended yesterday have now been restored.
The situation in the Elbe Valley south of Dresden had a mention already (see under “Czech Republic” above). With north-flowing rivers now full to overflowing, many minor rail routes in Saxony (and elsewhere in the southern half of eastern Germany) are threatened. The beautiful regional route through the hills from Leipzig to Meissen was suspended yesterday, and the authorities are saying it will take at least a week to restore services on that line.
On Tuesday afternoon, Deutsche Bahn took the difficult decision to suspend all Dresden S-Bahn services beyond Bad Schandau. The Leipzig to Zwickau route closed at the same time due to a landslide.
Night trains cancelled
Last night, many night trains across central Europe were cancelled. The cancellations included all services from Germany to Italy. The services from Cologne and Hamburg to Vienna did run, but only with seated accommodation — so no couchettes and sleepers. This was due to early inbound journeys to Germany having been cancelled due to floods.
Our guess is that tonight will be rather worse than last night. Deutsche Bahn announced this afternoon that tonight’s services from Munich to Venice, Milan and Rome are cancelled. Our guess is that this evening’s sleeper services from Berlin to Vienna and Budapest will not run, but it is worth checking of course with Deutsche Bahn. Tonight’s sleeper services from Prague to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Zurich may well be cancelled.
The broader picture
Do check with rail operators before setting out in the next days. There are widespread delays across a much wider area than we have mentioned here. In central Switzerland, for example, a landslide has interrupted all services between Arth-Goldau and Immensee.
Summer flooding is far from rare in central Europe. Heavy precipitation over the hills regularly causes fast runoff, particularly into the Danube and Elbe valleys. It may take a week or two for services to be restored, and there may be isolated instances where it may take longer. But normality will surely return. Meanwhile, our advice is to sit tight, amend your travel plans and just stay dry.