hidden europe 59

Marking Time: New Train Services for 2020

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Vienna is the best connected European capital when it comes to train travel (photo © SlavkoSereda / dreamstime.com).


The hidden europe award for ingenuity in creating new European rail travel opportunities is awarded to Austria's state rail operator, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB). We look at what ÖBB will offer anew for 2020, and examine too what's new on the rails in Russia, Germany and elsewhere across Europe.

Rail operators across Europe have been unveiling their 2020 timetables over recent weeks, with the switchover date to the new schedules taking place in the early hours of Sunday 15 December. But that doesn’t mean that all the new services will start on that day. Some are eased into the timetables either a little in advance of that date — or sometimes only rather later.

So travellers eager to try out the new twice-weekly night train from Brussels to Vienna will have to wait until January 2020. The new train will leave Brussels at 18.04, reaching the Austrian capital at 08.27 next morning. By the end of 2020, this new Nightjet link will be running every night and will also be conveying through carriages from Amsterdam to Austria. As with all Nightjet services, there’s a choice of seats, couchettes or sleeping car accommodation. It’s a very welcome innovation, one which will please passengers from Britain heading to Austria and beyond. There’s a generous two-hour connection in each direction at Brussels Midi between the Eurostar (to and from London) and the new night train.

New Railjet services

Austria is very much the focus for a number of interesting new services. Starting 15 December 2019, there will be a new daily Railjet service from Vienna via Salzburg and Innsbruck to Bolzano. This will be the first time that ÖBB’s posh red Railjet trains have run on regular scheduled services over the Brenner Pass into Italy. Departure from Vienna is at 15.30, with the train stabling overnight in Bolzano and setting off on the return journey at 07.45 next morning. The travel time between the two cities is a shade under seven hours. The new service gives a welcome new daytime link between the largely German speaking Südtirol region of Italy and the Austrian capital. The only other direct train service from Bolzano to Vienna is a weekly overnight service, composed entirely of sleeping cars, operated by RZD Russian Railways.

Another interesting new Railjet service will be introduced in early May 2020 with the launch of a daily train from Graz via Vienna and Prague to Dresden and Berlin. This will be the first time that Railjet stock is scheduled to run regularly into eastern Germany with the happy reinstatement of direct trains between Saxony and Austria. This new train is additional to the two Berlin to Vienna trains introduced in 2018, both of which take quite different routes from the Railjet — the night train running via Wrocław and Ostrava, and the daytime service via Erfurt and Regensburg.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 59.
Related note

Armadale to Ardrossan – the slow way

Here is the answer to the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge we posted in the hidden europe Notes section on 19 February. The heart of the challenge was to tell us the latest possible date on which it would be possible to leave Skye in order to arrive at Ardrossan at or before noon on May Day.

Related article

Rail timetable reborn

The renaissance of the European Rail Timetable (ERT) is good news for rail travellers across the continent. The decision last year by Thomas Cook to scrap the title was a bitter blow. But, thanks to a new company set up by the team that compiled the timetable in Thomas Cook days, the ERT is back.

Related article

The Bus to Imber

Bus route 23A in Wiltshire (England) is a rarity. Buses on this route, serving the village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, run on just one day each year. This year your chance to ride the Imberbus is on Saturday 15 August.