Last week here on EuroCheapo, we gave the low-down on when tickets will be available for booking trains in the new schedules that kick in on December 9. Let’s just take a moment to review some new services that will feature in the 2013 timetables. We’ll focus here on French connections — namely new links to, from or through France.
From Russia with love
From the timetable change-over day in December, RZD Russian Railways’ distinctive red and grey livery will be regularly seen crossing the Rhine at Strasbourg. For the first time ever, the city that hosts the European Parliament will enjoy a direct train to the capital of the Russian Federation. The new link is made possible by rerouting the existing Trans-European Express which connects Moscow with Paris.
Other new (or in some cases revived) links include direct thrice-daily EuroCity services between Nice and Milan. Oddly, this is a route where at the moment the only direct link is a weekly RZD train — which nicely highlights the capacity of Russian trains to pop up in the most improbable places across Europe.
Linking the Rhône-Alpes region with Piedmont
Elsewhere on routes linking France and Italy, look for better daytime connections from Lyon to Turin. Some of the existing Paris to Turin TGVs will continue as now to stop at Lyon airport station (called Lyon St Exupéry), but these will be augmented by thrice daily EuroCity services from Lyon Part Dieu (in the heart of the Rhône metropolis) to Porta Nuova station in Turin.
Overnight trains from Paris to Rome
The Paris to Rome sleeper, which was axed last fall, looks set to return from December 9. Provisional schedules show the overnight train leaving Paris at 6.45 p.m. and arriving into Rome at 10 a.m. the following morning. With proper sleeping cars (rather than merely wretched couchettes) and an onboard restaurant, this happily-reinstated service could well establish a niche as the sensible route from Paris to the Eternal City.
The operator of the Paris to Rome train will be Thello, a partnership of Veolia Transdev and Trenitalia. Thello made its debut on the European rails last December when it took over operation of the Paris to Venice sleeper from Artesia. It will be interesting to see if Thello revive the traditional name of the overnight sleeper from Paris to Rome: the Palatino.
Homage to Catalonia: France to Figueres
Daytime links through Languedoc to the south side of the Pyrenees get a boost with the introduction of more direct TGV services from France to Figueres. Star of the new schedules is a new direct daytime express service from Geneva and Lyon to Figueres (with a useful cross-platform connection at Figueres for Barcelona). With a departure from the Swiss city at 2:42 p.m., travelers can be in Spain in time for dinner.
As so often, this new fast daytime link comes at a price. We understand that the comfortable Elipsos overnight hotel train from Switzerland to Perpignan and Barcelona will be axed from December this year.
We have given no more than the highlights here. Other improvements from December include more direct Thalys trains from Paris to Essen in Germany, a new seasonal Lyria ski-train direct from Lille to Geneva and additional TGV services from Lille to Brussels.
The current October 2012 edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable includes previews of the new schedules for principal routes across Europe. The full schedules will appear in the December issue.