European Rail News

Archive: 2011
published on 7 December 2011
Many readers of the guidebook Europe by Rail have commented on the fabulously complicated arrangements that surround Berlin's railway stations. To us, it all seems crystal clear, but then we know the city well. We offer here some guidelines that help travellers find their proper place of departure or arrival.
published on 2 December 2011
There is something quite exquisite about grand railway termini. Folk fly through them, the dash for the train diminishing the status of these great cathedrals to travel. But these are not places through which one should rush. An earlier generation of Londoners referred to Victoria station as the "gateway to the continent". Victoria's role has been eclipsed by St Pancras — the grandest of termini in a capital that has many fine railway stations.
published on 23 November 2011
We drifted slowly through wintry forests, past unkempt meadows and villages full of scrawny desolation. We crossed the River Odra four times. And four times I gazed down at the river's wine-dark waters from the train, watching the waters swirling under bridges, swirling through history. We stopped on a level crossing, inconveniencing no-one, for cars there were none. But that was a fine moment, sunshine tussling with midday mist and for once getting the upper hand.
published on 16 November 2011
There was a time when travellers from West Germany enjoyed a fabulous range of direct train services to the Mediterranean coast of France. Cast back forty years and a mainstay was the daily year-round Hispania Express. From 23 March 2012 there will now be a new fast daytime service linking Frankfurt-am-Main with Avignon and Marseille.
published on 13 November 2011
In 2011, the Greek government — as part of its financial austerity programme — cut all train services across the country's international borders. Rail services to neighbouring Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey were all suspended. And just in case you wonder, there are no rail services anyway across the frontier between Greece and Albania.
published on 25 October 2011
When is a train not a train? Take a peek at page 685 of the 2011 edition of Europe by Rail and you'll see what we mean. There are some places in Europe where a rail operator offers transport by bus rather than by train. Such bus links are fully integrated into the railway tariff system and rail passes are accepted.
published on 11 October 2011
The railway platform at Tirana was as full as it ever gets. That meant all of half a dozen people waiting for the dawn train to Pogradec, among them an English gricer and a Polish twitcher. The latter had travelled across Europe to catch a glimpse of rare birds and was bound for Lake Ohrid.
published on 20 September 2011
Travelling across the North European Plain, a vast sweep of two-dimensional terrain that extends from Brussels to Berlin and beyond, travellers might well give thanks for whatever modest hills punctuate their journey. The Harz Mountains barely rise to more than one thousand metres, but seen from the flatlands to the north they appear mightily impressive: great, forested humpbacks that preside over the plains. The highest point is the Brocken, at 1,141 metres the loftiest elevation anywhere in northern Germany.
published on 1 September 2011
Boulogne has always knocked spots off Calais as a port-of-entry into France. The city has a particularly attractive Ville Haute (Upper Town). But sadly, you'll not find a lot of travellers from England visiting Boulogne nowadays. The famous port has been left proverbially high-and-dry with no ferry operators regularly serving the port.
published on 13 July 2011
Platform Four in Tallinn station: the train to Narva rests in the sunshine. An odd selection of shopping bags, magazines and items of clothing scattered on plastic seats are evidence of people having made a claim on a particular space on the train. One person has left an umbrella, another a melon and a third seat is occupied by a plastic chimpanzee. Their respective owners stand on the platform until it is evident that the train is about to depart.
published on 10 June 2011
We sensed we were crossing into another world as the Moscow-bound train rumbled over the long bridge that spans the River Bug. The reed beds are full of wildfowl which are not troubled by the frequent trains that rattle overhead. This is the border wilderness that divides Poland from Belarus. It marks one of Europe's great divides: the Curzon Line.
published on 29 May 2011
You could easily miss Elton. The train from Dublin to Cork speeds past Elton. You hardly catch a glimpse of the cluster of houses that make up this little Irish village. When the grandly titled Great Southern and Western Railway built a line through the district in 1849, they judged Knocklong, just a couple of minutes up the line from Elton, as deserving of a station. So Elton, a little smaller than Knocklong, lost out.
published on 6 May 2011
Are not the finest parts of many long train journeys those fleeting glimpses of a city or a country that you get just prior to arrival at your destination? There is a superb moment on the train journey through Slovakia towards Budapest, a view dominated by the huge basilica at Esztergom.
published on 4 May 2011
New rail timetables for the former Soviet Union come into effect later this month. There remains some uncertainty about some services, but for travellers heading east, here are a few thoughts on what to expect: the return of the Berlin to Kaliningrad night train, a new link from Riga to Minsk, a direct daily train from Berlin to Ukraine and more.
published on 10 April 2011
A few days ago I travelled by train from the Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde to Ewell in England, just south of London. In total I paid €55 for the entire 15-hour train journey of 1393 km. Looking at the different fare components, I see that I travelled across Germany for less than one cent per kilometre.
published on 25 March 2011
"April is the cruellest month," wrote TS Eliot. Not so in southern Sweden, where March can be much crueller than April. This is the season when winter's icy hold on forests and lakes is challenged by slowly rising temperatures. Thick lake ice turns to milky cream, while the thaw makes forests utterly impenetrable.
published on 19 March 2011
Domodossola has sleek trains aplenty. There are great expresses that purr north through the Simplon Tunnel into Switzerland or slide south towards Milan, hugging the west side of Lago Maggiore along the way. But lovers of great scenery and unusual trains head down into the concrete zone, there in the subterranean depths of Domodossola railway station to board the little train that rattles east across the valley and climbs into the hills beyond.
published on 28 February 2011
Chernivtsi's distinctive green-domed railway station gives a hint of the city it serves. It is a stylish station, one that well befits what is a gem among Ukrainian cities. Of course, for many travellers Chernivtsi is merely a place to change trains. There are connections far and wide. But the most interesting train of the day from Chernivtsi is the morning train to Moldova.
published on 8 February 2011
Looking back at rail journeys we made in 2010, we would say a December journey with UK operator Wrexham and Shropshire really was one of the highlights. We travelled north from London's Marylebone station on one of W&S' sleek silver and grey trains, sliding through rime-clad Chiltern countryside. So we were perturbed to find that late last month, Wrexham & Shropshire ceased operations.
published on 1 February 2011
It takes less than four hours to cross Macedonia by train. It is just 250 km from the border with Serbia at Tabanovce to the Greek frontier at Gevgelija. Of course Macedonia deserves more than merely four hours, but that short train journey affords a few insights into one of Europe's least known countries.
published on 10 January 2011
There are a few changes on Eurostar this week with the introduction of a new Standard Premier class on services linking London with Brussels and Paris. Standard Premier replaces Leisure Select as the middle tier of the three class service on Eurostar's capital city services.
published on 6 January 2011
If you like three dimensional landscapes, then Germany's most northerly state of Schleswig-Holstein is probably not for you. The hills are there, but you have to look hard to see them. We took a local train across Schleswig-Holstein last Sunday on a route that happily included the Rendsburg bridge.
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