No Trains to Greece… and Other Tales of Rail Woe

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Sezana, Slovenia train station
Sezana, Slovenia: now the end of the line - no trains to Italy. Photo © hidden europe magazine

Back in fall 2010, we highlighted some of the key missing links in Europe’s rail network. These are those frustrating gaps, where even the most dedicated rail traveller must switch to a bus: Poprad (Slovakia) to Zakopane (Poland), or the hop south from Narvik in Norway to reach the rail route south to Trondheim at either Bodø or Fauske.

But the list changes as new rail links are added and others axed. Those two mentioned above still apply, and the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable helpfully even includes the bus times for those two key lacunae in the network (Table 1183 for the short stretch over the border from Poprad to Poland, and Table 787 for that key gap in northern Norway).

Here are some new gaps that have appeared since we wrote that 2010 post.

Border Nonsense near Trieste

In a fiendishly short-sighted move the Italian and Slovenia railway administrations in December closed the last remaining passenger rail link over their common border. Words cannot express our dismay at this piece of ineptitude. Even at the height of the Cold War, there was a decent rail service linking Venice and Trieste with Ljubljana.

No longer. Not a single passenger train now crosses the border between the two countries. The Budapest to Venice night train, which used this route, has been withdrawn, along with the through carriages from Moscow to Venice.

Buses to Sezana

Of course there are alternatives. There are still plenty of trains around the head of the Adriatic from Venice to Trieste. But in Trieste travelers must resort to a bus for the short ride over the border into Slovenia. The run from Trieste to Sezana takes just 30 minutes. From Sezana, Slovenian Railways have up to nine trains each day eastbound to Ljubljana (but note that Sunday services are very sparse).

Spanish Tribulations

Portugal marked the New Year by withdrawing all trains across the border with Spain at Badajoz. This line only reopened two years ago, and we were great fans of this link. It opened up some good journey possibilities, allowing travelers to combine Lisbon with a visit to great cities in western Spain like Mérida and Cáceres.

Buses thru Badajoz

Obviously the wider traveling public didn’t share our enthusiasm for this cross-border route, as the Portuguese authorities say that there was no demand and that’s why they have cut the route. For those who still want to cross the border at Badajoz, there are good alternatives by bus – actually with more convenient timings than the train could offer, which may explain the demise of the rail service. You will find bus timetables on the Europe by Rail Web site.

The Greek Question

No, there are still no passenger trains across Greece’s international borders. When services from Greece to Macedonia, Turkey and Bulgaria were suspended in 2011, there was talk of this being merely a temporary measure as the Greek government tackled budget issues. But the trains have not restarted. In our article for EuroCheapo next week, we shall suggest routes by boat and bus for travelers still keen to go to Greece in 2012.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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