We always do our best to get every detail absolutely spot-on and correct in European Rail News. Indeed, our instinct is to err on the side of caution. The inclusion of the Venezia Mestre stop for RZD's Moscow to Nice train in the December 2012 edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable may possibly have been premature. When new schedules are introduced, some details are not settled until the last moment. This is especially the case in certain countries - and Italy is one of those. The Italian railway authorities have been particularly pernickety about non-Italian operators making station stops at their stations. Remember the farce a year or two back when DB and ÖBB trains entering Italy over the Brenner route were not permitted not stop at intermediate stations in Italy en route to their final destination? Whatever the reasons in this case, and we can but speculate, we now understand that the RZD train will trundle through the Veneto without stopping. More's the pity! Our colleagues at Thomas Cook, who like us are inclined always to err on the side of caution, tell us that they will not include the Venezia Mestre stop for the Moscow to Nice train in the January 2013 edition of the European Rail Timetable. The train is shown in Table 59.
This clearly is a story to watch. Above it, it shows how timetables are not written in stone - they are more an art than a science. We have made minor amendments to the original article below.
For many years, Venice enjoyed a direct train service from Moscow, but it was unhappily axed in December 2011 — a victim of the demise of the nightly Budapest to Venice service which carried the through carriages from Moscow. This old service ran via Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.
Now the Moscow to Venice itinerary could well return, a result of the re-routing of the existing Moscow to Nice train, which now follows a quite different route from Vienna to Verona. Instead of running via Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass, the train now heads south-west from the Austrian capital, stopping at Klagenfurt and Villach before reaching Italian tracks at Tarvisio and continuing south through the Veneto region.
It would make perfect sense for the train’s operator, Russian Railways, to schedule a stop at Venezia Mestre station, thus reinstating that lost link from the Russian capital to the Italian Adriatic. Like the old Moscow to Venice service, the new train traverses four countries along the way, but they are entirely different from those served by its predecessor. The countries on the new itinerary are Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.
The first departure from Moscow to Nice on the new itinerary is on Thursday 13 December. The train leaves Moscow at lunchtime and crosses the border from Austria into Italy on the Friday evening. A Russian restaurant car is attached during the first part of the journey, serving lunch and dinner on the first day. Early the following day, a Polish restaurant car picks up the baton, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on the journey via Vienna and the Alps to Italy (and beyond). This is travel as it should be.
More by accident than design, this new itinerary for the Moscow to Nice service creates some enticing new travel possibilities across northern Italy. A Venice stop would allow a direct overnight train from Venice to Nice. This would not quite be a first, for cast back just half a dozen years and there was a regular night train from Venice to Nice. That train was called the Monte Carlo. Competition from discount airlines spelt the end for the Monte Carlo. That its new incarnation would not be run by a French or Italian rail operator, but by Russian Railways, is a mark of who has the upper hand in European rail transport these days.
So here's a chance for those keen to witness a little moment of history after many years without a direct train from the French Riviera to the Veneto region. The route through the Veneto is confirmed. The question is only whether the train will actually stop at Venezia Mestre. The direct Russian train from Nice to Moscow will leave Nice Ville station at 20.45 this coming Saturday (15 December). Before crossing the Italian border, the train also stops at Monaco-Monte Carlo and at Menton Ville. The full itinerary and timings for the Moscow to Nice service are shown as Table 59 in the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable. The December 2012 edition of the timetable already includes the new route via the Veneto - and includes a stop at Venezia Mestre. That station stop has yet to be confirmed. That sets us wondering. If Venice, then why not also Padua, another city in the Veneto that the train will pass through on its journey and where there would be some scope for developing Russian tourism.
The re-routing of the Moscow to Nice train via Villach and Tarvisio is part of a broader package of changes this month which affect Russian trains from Moscow to western Europe. You can read about further changes in another article published today in European Rail News.