Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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.

article summary —

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 also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 59.

About the authors

hidden europe

and 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. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 59.