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New rail links in Italy, Spain and France


Not quite the Potemkin Steps! Renfe returns to Marseille in July 2023 with a direct train from Madrid (photo © Ahavelaar / dreamstime.comI).

Not quite the Potemkin Steps! Renfe returns to Marseille in July 2023 with a direct train from Madrid (photo © Ahavelaar / dreamstime.comI).

This month sees the launch of several new train services in Europe. Today marks the debut run of the new direct TGV train from Bordeaux to Frankfurt about which we reported in an article earlier this week.

Bari to Naples

It has been many a year since the southern Italian cities of Bari and Naples enjoyed a direct link. That changes on Tuesday when Trenitalia launches a new Intercity train between the two cities. This isn’t a seasonal summer service, but a year-round addition to the timetable. The service runs up the coast from Bari to Foggia, where the train reverses and then runs through the hills to Caserta where it turns south to reach Naples. This new service leaves Bari each morning at 07.05, with the evening return run from Naples departing at 18.55.

Barcelona to Lyon

Thursday 13 July marks the happy return of Renfe high-speed trains to France, when the Spanish operator launches a direct high-speed service from Barcelona to Lyon and back.

Renfe AVEs have not ventured beyond Spain’s borders since the collapse late last year of the Elipsos operation (under which Renfe and SNCF cooperated on cross-border high-speed services between France and Spain). Since then the only fast trains across the French-Spanish border have been the twice-daily Paris to Barcelona TGVs. From today, SNCF adds a third daily TGV from Paris to Bareclona and back; this additional train is a seasonal service to boost capacity during the summer. It runs daily in each direction from 8 July to 3 September.

Renfe’s Barcelona to Lyon service debuts on 13 July and then runs four times a week in each direction. That initial run on 13 July is unusual in being on a Thursday. This summer there will normally be departures from Barcelona and Lyon on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The idea is to shift to daily operation in each direction in September.

It’s a five hour journey from Barcelona to Lyon with departures from Barcelona at 08.22 and from Lyon at 14.35. One-way fares between the two cities start at €29. This new service also brings some stiff competition to SNCF on some inner-French journeys like Perpignan to Valence or Lyon to Narbonne. Fares for short hops within France start at just €9.

Marseille to Madrid

Spanish operator Renfe lobs another challenge to its French rival later this month with the launch of a direct service from Marseille to Madrid which will also provide domestic French connections, eg. from Marseille to Perpignan and Aix-en-Provence TGV to Narbonne. In fact, these are both city pairs where SNCF offers no direct service, so the new Renfe offer will be especially welcome. 

The Marseille to Madrid train will initially run four times each week (Fridays to Mondays inclusive), increasing to daily in October 2023. Departure from Marseille is at 08.03 and arrival in Madrid at 15.45, thus allowing onward same-day connections to cities in Andalucía. In the northbound direction departure is at 13.25 from Madrid Atocha to give arrival at Marseille St Charles at 21.30.

Changes to French Night Trains

Today sees the start of France’s summer season timetables with some tweaks in the pattern of night train services. As last summer, there will be an overnight train from Paris to Hendaye in France’s Basque region and right by the border with Spain. Departure times from Paris vary from day-to-day (only SNCF manage to make things complicated like this) but arrival in Hendaye is usually as 10.24. This seasonal train will run every night until 3 September.

The overnight train from Paris to Cerbère on the Côte Vermeille also runs daily from 8 July until 3 September, then reverts to just twice weekly with departures from Paris on Friday evenings and Sunday evenings.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
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About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book was published in 2022 and reprinted in July 2023. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.

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