large bullet pointArchived news items from 2001 to 2018.  For current items, see the news page...

large bullet pointDecember 2018

Annual European timetable change on 9 December

As always, the new timetable period across Europe starts at midnight on the 2nd Saturday in December.  Booking horizons shorten at this time of year.  Bookings for German trains for dates 9 December to early January will open on 16 October.  Bookings for French trains will open on 11 October.  Czech Railways (CD) will open bookings on 1 November.  Some Austrian (ÖBB) routes are already on sale for dates after 9 December.  Known changes in the new timetable include:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2018

Tangier to Casablanca by high-speed train...

The new high-speed line from Tangier to Casablanca has begun operation in Morocco.  Journey time is cut from 4h45 to just 2h10 thanks to Africa's first true high-speed trains.

Interrail & Eurail 'After 19:00' rule to change for 2019...

The long-standing rule where overnight trains leaving after 19:00 count as the following day for the purposes of Eurail & Interrail flexi passes is to be changed for next year.  In future, any overnight train can be used as long as you don't change trains after midnight, and it will count as the day of departure.  For details, see the Eurail or Interrail pages.  Lithuania also becomes a participant - although with such cheap fares it hardly makes sense to use up an Interrail or Eurail pass day making train trips in Lithuania!

Annual European timetable change on 9 December

As always, the new timetable period across Europe starts at midnight on the 2nd Saturday in December.  Booking horizons shorten at this time of year.  Bookings for German trains for dates 9 December to early January will open on 16 October.  Bookings for French trains will open on 11 October.  Czech Railways (CD) will open bookings on 1 November.  Some Austrian (ÖBB) routes are already on sale for dates after 9 December.  Known changes in the new timetable include:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointSeptember & October 2018

Fast link Tel Aviv - Jerusalem opens...

The fast line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem finally opened on 25 September.  Initially only one of the two tracks is operational and trains are running every 30 minutes between Ben Gurion Airport & Jerusalem taking 20 minutes.  If you want to go to or from central Tel Aviv you must change trains at the airport.  The service has started as a free service, although places must be booked, with trains running at up to 120km/h.  Direct trains between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over this new fast link will start in due course, running at up to 160 km/h (100 mph) and taking 28 minutes.

Trieste-Ljubljana trains are go from 9 Sept..!

I'm delighted that after a break of several years, trains between Trieste and Ljubljana resumed on 9 September, twice per day in each direction.  I have fully updated the Venice to Ljubljana page to reflect this.  An interesting journey!  See the Venice to Ljubljana & Zagreb page.

Hong Kong to Beijing/Shanghai high-speed trains are go from 23 Sept!

The new high-speed rail link between mainland China and Hong Kong opens on 23 September, and direct high-speed trains will cover the 2,441 km (1,516 miles) from Hong Kong to Beijing in 8h58.  There will also be daily high-speed trains from Hong Kong to Shanghai and to Kunming.  Details are now on the new Hong Kong page,

large bullet pointAugust 2018

Save 10% on London-Amsterdam SailRail fares...

SailRail fares start at £55 from London or Any Greater Anglia station to Amsterdam or Any Dutch Station,  GET 10% OFF WITH VOUCHER CODE MS61...  That code gets you 10% off the basic fare if you book before 31 October 2018, for travel before 6 January 2019.  Exclusive to the Man in Seat 61..!  For details and tickets see www.stenaline.co.uk/ferry-to-holland/offers/ms61.

Cambodia's Phnom Penh - Poipet line now open...

Cambodia reopened the railway between Phnom Penh and the Thai border at Poipet, with a train every second day.  Details now on the Cambodia page.  They are working with the Thai government to establish a Phnom Penh to Bangkok train service, but no details yet.

Eurostar plans new cocktail bar in London business lounge...

Following the success of the cocktail bar in their Paris Gare du Nord Business Lounge, Eurostar plan a similar one in London.  They'll need to clone Florent, the incomparable Paris barman!

New Zealand's Coastal Pacific to resume from 1 December...

KiwiRail's (Wellington-) Picton to Christchurch Coastal Pacific train, suspended since the earthquake, will finally resume from 1 December after a two year suspension.  See the New Zealand page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2018

Leo Express starts new Prague-Krakow train...

Open access operator Leo Express started its new Prague-Krakow train on 20 July.  Initially running twice a week, it will become daily in due course.  See the Prague to Krakow page.  I have said this is an under-rated route for years, as so many visitors want transport between these cities.  PKP has been negligent in not enabling online booking for the conventional rail services, now Leo Express's train will be easily bookable online in both directions - a major improvement.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJune 2018

Belgrade station closing from 1 July...

Belgrade's original historic station, opened in 1884 and used by the Orient Express, well-located walking distance from the old town, will close permanently from 1 July 2018.  All trains will then use Belgrade Centar station, apart from the international trains to/from Montenegro which are already using Belgrade Topcider station to the south of the city centre, see stations location & city map.  It's not an improvement at all...

Trainline now connects to ÖBB Austrian Railways...

European train booking site www.thetrainline.com has now connected directly to ÖBB (Austrian Railways) ticketing system to sell tickets to, from and within Austria, including international routes such as Vienna-Prague, Vienna-Budapest and Vienna-Venice.  They launched the connection a month or two ago but only added the ability to do seat reservations and Nightjet sleeper trains from 25 June.  I find many people don't get on with the Austrian Railways website oebb.at and I have had a few payment card rejection reports from overseas users, so this is a really useful development.  Thetrainline.com already connects to SNCF (French Railways), Renfe (Spanish Railways), Trenitalia, Italo and DB (German Railways).  It also connects to private Austrian operator Westbahn so both operators' trains can now be seen and prices compared on one booking system.

Turkey-Iran trains to resume this month...

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMay 2018

Russian Railways abandons 'Moscow Time'...

RZD (Russian Railways) has announced that for travel dates from 1 August onwards it will abandon the long-standing practice of using Moscow Time for trains throughout Russia.  It will finally switch to using local time, with the difference from Moscow Time in brackets, for example (MCK +5), in its timetables and on its website.  Phew!

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2018

Sud Express to Lisbon to start from Hendaye not Irun...

For a hundred years, as far as I know, interchange between French and Spanish trains has been asymmetric:  Southbound interchange has always been made at Irun on the Spanish side of the border, northbound interchange is always at Hendaye on the French side.  It's enshrined in a long-standing Franco-Spanish treaty, I believe.  This worked fine until the new TGV Duplex trains found themselves unable to go beyond Hendaye to Irun, one stop into Spain.  The reason is either track enhancements planned but not yet made, or the new TGV Duplex Océanes not been certified to run in Spain, depending who you believe.  That created a problem for Paris-Lisbon passengers, as the Sud Express sleeper train starts at Irun, and for the last year or so international passengers turfed off the TGV from Paris at Hendaye have been frantically jumping into taxis or using the Euskotren local service to get to Irun to connect with the Sud Express to Lisbon.  There's now been an outbreak of sanity, and from 25 April 2018 the Sud Express has been extended to start from Hendaye rather than Irun - the obvious solution, breaking 100 years of tradition!  See the Portuguese Railways website:  www.cp.pt/passageiros/.../avisos/sud-expresso.

The London-Amsterdam Eurostars are go...

On 4 April Eurostar started its new direct trains from London to Rotterdam & Amsterdam, morning and late afternoon on weekdays, morning on Saturdays & late afternoon on Sundays, in each direction.  I was invited on the first public run (after having experienced a test run in March) and I've been able to update some of the photos & info on the new seat61 London to Amsterdam by Eurostar page.

Rail strike in France continues, 2 days in every 5...

The French are at it again, striking on 2 days in every 5 until June or someone sorts it out.  Roughly 2 in 5 trains still run even on strike days, and Eurostar is minimally affected with a few cancellations on strike days, passengers rebooked on earlier or later trains.  Strike dates here:  www.cestlagreve.fr/greve/sncf-avril-2018/ and more info here:  help.Raileurope.com/.../2015-france-strike-action-2018.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2018

Thetrainline.com connects to ÖBB's ticketing system...

Train ticket retailer www.thetrainline.com has just added a connection to the ticketing system of another major national operator, Austria's ÖBB.  Trainline already connects the 'Big Four', France's SNCF, Germany's DB, Italy's Trenitalia and Spain's Renfe, as well as Austrian private operator Westbahn, Italian private operator Italo and others.

Connection to ÖBB enables it to sell not just domestic Austrian tickets but international trains to & from Austria, the railway crossroads of central Europe.  Vienna to/from Budapest from €19, Vienna to/from Venice from €29, Salzburg to/from Venice from €29, Zurich to/from Salzburg from €29, Prague to/from Vienna from €14, to name just a few.

www.thetrainline.com now sells these fares at the same price as ÖBB's own website www.oebb.at with the same convenient print-at-home tickets and the same lack of any booking fee.  The ability to add seat reservations will be added shortly, and the sale of ÖBB's Nightjet sleeper trains will be added in a few weeks.

This is a great step forward.  ÖBB's own site has divided opinion since its revamp a year or two ago, with some users finding it fiddly to use and I've come across some overseas users who have had their credit card rejected.  Not only is it useful to have an alternative that's easier & quicker to use, www.thetrainline.com is capable of combining cheap fares sourced from ÖBB with cheap fares sourced from other operators to book through journeys, for example Salzburg to Naples or Vienna to Florence or Innsbruck to Lyon as one seamless transaction.  This is capability ÖBB's own site doesn't have.

Rail strike in France 2 days in every 5...

The French are at it again, striking on 2 days in every 5 until June or someone sorts it out.  Roughly 2 in 5 trains still run even on strike days, and Eurostar is minimally affected with a few cancellations on strike days, passengers rebooked on earlier or later trains.  Strike dates here:  www.cestlagreve.fr/greve/sncf-avril-2018/ and more info here:  help.Raileurope.com/article/2015-france-strike-action-2018.

New direct Eurostar to Amsterdam from 4 April...

I rode a test train from London to Amsterdam at Eurostar's invitation on 14 March, and have been able to add more information to the London to Amsterdam by Eurostar page.  Public service starts on 4 April.  The same trip allowed me to add more photos & information to the Amsterdam Centraal station page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2018

Leo Express plans new services to/from Prague...

Private open-access operator Leo Express plans to start a daily Prague-Krakow train from April 2018, initially 3 times a week, becoming daily from August.  From December, 6 daily Berlin-Prague train pairs are planned, in competition with German & Czech Railways EuroCity trains.  I will add details to this site as soon as I have them.

Greece cut off again, off-season...

The Belgrade-Thessaloniki train is cancelled again from 1 April to 1 June 2018.  Engineering work according to some sources, 'small interest of passengers' according to one response from Serbian Railways, it means Greece is once again cut off from the rest of the European rail network until the summer.

Eurostar announces new service to Amsterdam...

On Friday 9 February, Eurostar announced it's long-awaited direct service from London to Amsterdam, which will start on 4 April with tickets on sale from 20 Feb.  Details are on the new seat61 London to Amsterdam by Eurostar page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2018

Jakarta airport rail link opens...

I've added details to the Indonesia page.

European timetable update for 2018 complete...

I've completed the massive task of updating seat61 for the December to June timetable period.  Do please feed back any issues or errors you spot.  You'll find a summary of the main changes in the December news below.

New Ethiopian Railway starts operation...

The new railway linking Addis Abeba with Djibouti started operation this month.  Fares, but not times are known, see the Ethiopia pageUpdate:  I now have an approximate timetable, but it is not confirmed.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2017

Trans-Siberian changes...

European timetable changes in December...

The annual timetable change takes place across Europe on 10 December.  So far, planned changes are:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2017

Trenitalia changes the concept of 'Base' price...

Trenitalia is changing the concept of their full-price full-flex 'base' fare: It'll no longer be one fixed price for a given journey on a given type of train, for Frecciarossa & Frecciargento services it'll now vary slightly by day of the week & popularity of specific trains.  If you buy a 'base' fare ticket and change your booking you'll now pay any difference in price.

New operator GWTR to take over the branch line to Cesky Krumlov.

The contract to run the branch line from Ceske Budejovice (on the Prague-Linz main line, more familiar by its former German name, Budweis) to Cesky Krumlov (the most-visited place in the Czech Republic after Prague) has been won by private operator GWTR.  CD Czech Railways has lost the contract.  This means the end of through ticketing between CK and Prague except for CD's once-a-day through train and it also means Interrail and Eurail passes will no longer get you to the Czech Republic's second most-visited location unless you use that once-a-day CD through train.  Such things should have been included in the contract specification!

14 European operators agree 'missed connection' assistance...

I have only just learnt that back in July, 14 European national train operators signed an agreement called the Agreement for Journey Continuation (AJC) - but seemingly haven't told anyone!  This is great news, I have been saying this was needed for years and it should be applauded - although it needs to be better publicised.

Basically, if a train is late and you miss an onward connection, you will be allowed to continue your journey by a later train at no extra charge, even if you have a train-specific no-refunds, no changes ticket.  Common sense, in the rail industry's overall best interest.

In itself this isn't a new concept - in theory it's already a passenger right enshrined in the CIV, the international conditions of carriage which sets out your legal rights as a passenger when you travel internationally in Europe by train. But here's the problem:  The CIV connectional protection is only a cast-iron right if both the trains in question are covered by one ticket and so form part of a single contract for transportation.  And these days, that seldom happens!

Through tickets are becoming a rarity and most multi-leg journeys now have to be made using a different ticket for each train, often bought from different websites or at least, sourced from different operator ticketing systems.  Even if you make what appears to be a through booking at a website such as Raileurope.com or Thetrainline.com, that site may well give you a separate ticket for each operator.  You then have one contract with the retailer for the purchase, but a separate contract with each operator for transportation.

For example, Munich to Milan?  You will get one ticket for the Munich-Verona EuroCity train sourced from DB's system, then another ticket for Verona-Milan sourced from Trenitalia's system.  Paris to Florence?  One ticket Paris to Turin by TGV sourced from SNCF's system, then another ticket from Turin to Florence sourced from Trenitalia's system.  If the first train is late and you miss the onward train, maybe the operators will help you out but maybe they won't, arguing that CIV passenger rights don't apply where you switch tickets and that SNCF's or DB's delay is nothing to do with Trenitalia.  You might find yourself having to buy an expensive new onward ticket at on-the-day full-flex rates!

And that is what has changed.  The AJC is effectively an agreement to apply the CIV missed connection provision even if you hold separate tickets and even if the trains are run by different operators.  It is a major step forward.

Note that AJC only applies to international journeys, not domestic ones.  Both trains have to be run by signatories to the agreement.  You must have allowed reasonable period of time between trains, meaning at least the minimum applied by official journey planners.  You may need to get proof of the delay (which the delayed operator is obliged to give you).  Onward travel has to be on the same operator on the same route - so if you miss a connection with the last DB-run ICE train of the day, you can't ask to be put on a ÖBB-run Nightjet sleeper train but will have to wait until tomorrow to take the next available DB-run ICE.

The signatories are:  SNCF (France), DB (Germany), ÖBB (Austria), Trenitalia (Italy), Renfe (Spain), SBB (Switzerland), BLS (Bern-Lotschberg-Simplon), CD (Czech Republic), SNCB (Belgium), NS (Netherlands), CFL (Luxembourg), DSB (Denmark), SZ (Slovenia), ZSSK (Slovakia).

Note that stand-alone companies such as Eurostar, Thalys, Thello aren't necessarily covered even though they are wholly-owned subsidiaries of an operator who has signed the AJC.  The AJC also doesn't cover open-access operators such as Italo, Westbahn, Regiojet (which incidentally makes booking TGV+Trenitalia from Paris to Florence a safer bet than booking TGV+Italo, even though SNCF owns a stake in Italo!).

And remember that AJC is a commercial agreement, not a passenger right you can demand.  Although (EU are you listening?) I think it should be.

Incidentally, although I have seen and read a copy of the AJC, the only copy I can find on the internet is password-protected.  I can find no public copy.

Black Friday:  £5 off a Family & Friends or 16-25 railcard...

large bullet pointOctober 2017

IndRail passes are being discontinued this month...

At fist I didn't believe it - no mention in the press, no warning.  But SD Enterprises, the UK IndRail pass agency have told me that Indian Railways are discontinuing their IndRail pass from this month.  It means all itineraries will have to be made on point to point tickets either sourced with a mark-up from an agency or booked online, a somewhat tortuous process of registration then purchase.

Thalys & TGV-Lyria switch to 3 classes...

First Thalys (Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam) and now TGV-Lyria (Paris-Switzerland) have announced that they will abandon the usual 1st & 2nd class and switch to a 3-class system from the timetable change on 10 December.  The trains will physically still have 1st & 2nd class seats, but there will be two kinds of 1st class, one with food and drink included and flexible refundable tickets, the other with cheaper tickets but no food and drink.  See the Thalys and TGV-Lyria pages for details.

large bullet pointSeptember 2017

China resumes 350 km/h (217 mph) running...

China resumed running its high-speed trains at up to 350 km/h on 21 September, after several years of restricting operations to 300 km/h.  Several of the best G-category trains between Beijing and Shanghai now complete the 819-mile run in just 4h28 or 4h34, making them the world's fastest passenger trains.  I have updated the timetable on the Beijing-Shanghai page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2017

New Madrid - Lisbon daytime train from 29 August...

For some years the only train between Madrid and Lisbon has been the overnight Trenhotel Lusitania sleeper train.  As of 29 August a new international train started operating between Badajoz in Spain and Entroncamento in Portugal.  It's now possible to travel between Madrid and Lisbon by daytime trains in either direction at least 6 days a week with changes at Badajoz and Entroncamento for €40.75 + €12.15 + around €12 even if bought at the station on the day.

Details of Madrid to Lisbon trains Details of Lisbon to Madrid trains.

Bucharest & Belgrade to Istanbul

I've just been reliably informed that the Romanians have discontinued their sleeping-car from the Bucharest-Istanbul train, leaving just the (fortunately rather swish) Turkish 4-berth couchette car.  Unusual to do so half way through a timetable period, but the reason is apparently low loadings when they could fill an extra sleeping-car on more popular routes.

Meanwhile, the Serbians have discontinued the summer-only through couchette-car between Belgrade and Istanbul for rather different reasons.  Delays on the Belgrade-Sofia route mean that the Belgrade-Sofia train due to arrive 20:10 often arrives an hour or two late (or more), missing its connection with the onward overnight train to Istanbul due to leave at 20:40.  In the return direction the connection is not such an issue, though of course it can't just run in one direction!  So you now need to change at Sofia in both directions, and I've added a note that you'd better build in (or plan for!) a 24-hour stopover in Sofia when travelling eastbound.

Revised Indonesia page & new videos...

If you've been watching my Twitter feed you'll have seen that I spent 3 weeks exploring Java & Bali by train & ferry in late July/early August, doing research for seat61.  I wish I'd visited years ago, as it was a fantastic country and remarkably safe, easy and friendly to travel around, with some great trains.  I have now completly overhauled the Train Travel in Indonesia page and added two new videos showcasing train (and ferry) travel in Java and Bali.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2017

Travel to Moscow via Belarus...

large bullet pointJune 2017

New timetable period starts 11 June...

The European railways all change their timetables at midnight on the second Saturday in June and the second Saturday in December.  The June change is usually the less drastic of the two, with many trains continuing unchanged.  Changes happening from 11 June include:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMay 2017

Brussels short cut reopens..

The couloir sud short-cut at Brussels Midi from an arriving Eurostar to the other platforms for onward connections will reopen from Monday 8 May.  It has been closed for security reasons since November 2015 and I had almost given up hope of it ever reopening.  This is great news for people connecting between Eurostar and a Thalys or ICE to Amsterdam or Cologne, as it saves several crucial minutes compared to shuffling round through the main Eurostar exit with all the other Eurostar passengers.

Two-thirds of seat61 now mobile-responsive...

I have made great progress with making pages mobile-responsive so they can be accessed on smartphones.  Two-thirds of the site is now done, including almost all the UK and European pages.  Do please report any errors or problems.  I'm sure I will leave in references in the text to 'see the photo on the right' where the right-floating photo is necessarily not displayed in the mobile version!

Sud Express to Lisbon from 2 July

It seems that amongst all the celebration at hour-quicker TGV journeys to South West France, there is one problem.  The morning and lunchtime TGVs will no longer go beyond Hendaye from 2 July, whilst the Sud Express to Lisbon starts from the other side of the border at Irun.  Typical SNCF!  I need to come up with a solution, I'll probably suggest taking a morning TGV to Hendaye and Euskotren to San Sebastian, having an early dinner and a wander there, then picking up the Sud.

Temporary bus replacement on the Hoek van Holland line...

Buses now temporarily replace trains between Hoek van Holland and Schiedam Centrum, for onward trains to Rotterdam Centraal or Amsterdam Centraal.  This is until 31 August, the new metro trains are due to start running from 1 September.  I have updated the Netherlands page and others.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2017

Seat61 goes mobile...

Half the pages on this site have now been made mobile-responsive so they can be read on smartphones, which now account for a good 25% of seat61 traffic.  Most of the European pages, and the Southeast Asia pages have now been done, and the rest will follow in due course.  The mobile version is of course a compromise, but it works, I have found a sideways-scrolling solution for blocks of photos and large timetables, and a solution that fits videos onto the width of a smartphone.  Feedback on the mobile version would be appreciated!

New station information pages...

I've added station information pages for Paris Nord, Paris Est & Brussels Midi in addition to existing pages about Paris Gare de Lyon, Prague Hlavni, Vienna Hbf & Budapest Keleti.  As always, feedback appreciated, but do bear in mind that these pages are not intended to be an exhaustive 50,000 word essay, just to prepare, reassure and orientate.  And perhaps give a few ideas for somewhere for a meal, coffee or beer that might turn an hour or two before a train into something more pleasant than a wait on the station concourse or a bare-bones waiting room!

iDTGV brand to disappear

SNCF  plans to discontinue its iDTGV services by the end of 2017, absorbing the 30-odd iDTGV services into their mainstream TGV service, to make things simpler.  Overall a good thing, I think, as some booking systems showed iDTGV some couldn't, now all systems will show all TGVs.  The confusion of some systems showing two TGVs with different prices leaving at the same time will also end.  More details at ww.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/idtgv-brand-to-disappear.html.

Eurostar to Amsterdam, more details...

Eurostar's planned London-Amsterdam timetable was revealed last year (see last year's news here) and it's now becoming clear how security checks are likely to work in the London-bound direction for the new service, likely to start this coming December - although Eurostar tell me it's still work in progress.

Passengers will indeed check in at their starting stations in the Netherlands, with X-ray & passport checks performed before boarding at Amsterdam Centraal, Schiphol and Rotterdam, so no need to get off before London.  In London you'll just walk off the train as you do now.  Domestic Benelux passengers will be able to use the train from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Brussels, they will not need to go through any security or passport checks, but will board half the 900-seat e320 Eurostar set aside for them.  Doors between the London-bound and Benelux domestic halves of the train will be locked shut.  When the Benelux domestic passengers alight at Brussels, their half of the train will be security-swept before Brussels to London passengers are allowed on.  This is the reason behind the 20 minute station stop at Brussels in the inwards direction, which did indeed seem longer than necessary if nothing were being done, but much too short for the equivalent of the 'Lille shuffle' on the Marseille to London Eurostar, where passengers have to alight, go through check-in and re-board.

I have to say this seems an eminently sensible solution, allowing Eurostar to provide a seamless Amsterdam to London service with no need to alight for passport and security checks en route, as some people had feared.  It also allows them to provide much-needed capacity between Amsterdam & Brussels given the failure of the Fyra project a few years ago, and to allocate sufficient space to Brussels-London passengers.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2017

Sofia - Istanbul sleeper train resumes...

Starting today, 20 February, the Sofia-Istanbul sleeper train resumes.  It is speeded up and has both a couchette car and sleeping-car.  It runs to Halkali station, a suburban station some 25km west of Istanbul Sirkeci, as the track is still being reconstructed in the Istanbul suburban area.  We are promised direct Bucharest-Istanbul sleepers & couchettes June-September, and a Belgrade-Istanbul couchette car from June too.  See the London to Turkey page or Sofia to Istanbul section or Istanbul to Sofia section for full details.

New page added:  When do train bookings open?

I've added a new page summarising how far ahead you can book various European train routes, which varies from 45 to 180 days ahead, and then these aren't always maintained when there's the June or December timetable change in the offing.  It seemed sensible to have it all on one page which I will progressively link to relevant sections, rather than have to repeat snippets (and update them!) sprinkled everywhere on the site.

Belgrade - Sofia cancelled until further notice...

Serbian Railways seems to be too penniless to hire in the necessary diesel locomotive from its own freight subsidiary Srbija Kargo to keep the Belgrade-Sofia train running across the un-electrified section into Bulgaria.  Until further notice this train will run Belgrade-Nis and Dimitrovgrad-Sofia but not Nis-Dimitrovgrad, with no alternative transport provided.  It is not clear how temporary this is.  The route into Bulgaria via Bucharest is unaffected. 

It's still possible to travel by train between Belgrade & Sofia as follows:  Take the 06:20 from Belgrade, change at Nis (arrive 10:38, depart 11:15) and Dimitrovgrad (arrive 14:47, depart 17:18) arriving Sofia at 20:10.  In the other direction, Sofia depart 09:40, change Dimitrovgrad (arrive 10:30, depart 11:23) & Nis (arrive 14:39 depart 16:57) arriving Belgrade Centar (note Belgrade Centar not main station!) 20:35. www.srbvoz.rs/en/timetable & www.drehscheibe-online.de/foren/read.php?030,8079331

UPDATE:  This situation may now only last until 28 February, normal service may resume after that.  Nope, latest reports say it could go on until at least June...

large bullet pointJanuary 2017

Eurostar now accepts Interrail & Eurail passes..!

Eurostar joined the Interrail & Eurail schemes as from 1 January 2017.  Previously, they were only associate benefit providers, the benefit being a relatively expensive & pointless passholder fare over £90 that (1) was more expensive than regular fares if you booked well in advance and (2) was usually sold out at short notice so if you wanted one you had to book it well in advance - in which case I refer you back to point (1).  The new passholder fares of €30 in standard & €38 in standard premier for 1st class passholders are great value, and I'm assured that they'll be widely available in advance and reasonably well available even o the day of travel, even if not on busy trains.  And your pass only needs to be valid in the country where the Eurostar journey starts or ends, so even a Benelux Interrail pass would allow you to buy a London-Brussels Eurostar ticket for €30.  This is a huge step forward, and I welcome it with open arms.  For more details, see the Eurostar passholder information here.

Other Eurail & Interrail changes...

The age limit for youth passes has been raised, from under 26 to under 28.  First class Interrail pass prices have been cut by 15%.  Eurail & Interrail passes now cover the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB), meaning they'll now get you to Zermatt, and the full length of the Glacier Express route.

Turkey changes...

I've added details of the Istanbul Halkali - Edirne - Kapikule train which is now running for domestic travel, as international passengers are still bussed between Istanbul Sirkeci and Kapikule on the Bulgarian border.  Several trains serving Izmir have switched from using Alsancak back to using Izmir Basmane, so I've updated that.  And I've even had to update Turkey's time zone, as Turkey has now decided to drop daylight saving time, or rather, remain on it at GMT+3 all year.

Fare updates...

After the slog of the timetable update on all European pages (do please report anything I've missed or any typos I've made!) in January I start looking at all the European fares.  I have already updated most UK & Irish fares.  SailRail fares to Ireland have gone up by £1, and the lead-in fares in Italy have (after some years at €19, €29, €39) jumped to €19.90, €29.90, €39.90.  Yield-managed fares are usually easier to keep updated, as price rises come in the form of subtle adjustments to the availability quota for each price bucket rather than increases in the headline 'From €19' fare, but after a few years I suppose the actual price has to change!

Odds & ends this months...

large bullet pointDecember 2016

New Poland-Lviv-Kiev daytime train starts...

A new Ukrainian international train has just started between Przemysl in Poland and Lviv and Kiev in Ukraine.  Using a modern air-conditioned electric train, it allows fast daytime journeys between Krakow, Lviv and Kiev.  I have added it to the trains from Krakow page, and to the London to Ukraine page as a new option.

Nightjets are go...

Amid leaked reports that German City Night Line trains had significantly rising passenger numbers and significantly decreasing net losses before they were discontinued by DB this month, Austrian Railways has launched its Nightjet sleepers.  ÖBB has bought all 42 modern 2005/6-built Comfortline sleepers to equip not only the routes it has taken over from City Night Line, but to replace its own older sleepers on it own routes.  Almost all Nightjet trains now use the comfortline sleepers, apart from two which use ÖBB's double-deck sleepers and one using an older car.  I have created a new Nightjet page, and (I think) successfully expunged all references to City Night Line and the Jan Kiepura from the site.

German Railways extends booking horizon to 6 months

DB has extended their booking horizon from 92 days to 6 months, initially just for domestic tickets, to be progressively extended to international tickets.  It remains to be seen whether they will maintain this when the June or December timetable changes intervene.  Sparpreis tickets will also remain available until the train leaves, rather than disappearing the day before as previously.

Also a welcome change, you can now book certain cross-Germany journeys, notably Amsterdam to Copenhagen, Switzerland, Prague or Vienna, and Brussels to Copenhagen, at bahn.de without having to split the booking at a station in Germany as you used to.  It means it's now easier to book these journeys, and one ticket means you're 100% legally protected in case of any delays and missed connections.

Seat61 updated for the new timetable across Europe...

I'm pleased to say that the European pages on seat61 have now largely been updated for the Dec 2016 to June 2017 timetable.  It's a massive task, especially with major changes like City Night Line sleepers going and new Austrian Nightjets starting, and my eyes have now glazed over.  If you spot any errors in my typing or the times (as I'm sure you will) please do drop me an email!

Bosnia cut off?

It's reported that without warning, the daily train from Zagreb to Sarajevo has been discontinued.  It's not yet confirmed, but likely to be the case.  This was the last train linking Bosnia to the outside world.  It's not yet clear why this has happened or whether it's temporary, there were hopes that a new Talgo train would be introduced on this route next year, cutting journey times and dramatically improving comfort.  It's been suggested that talks between the Bosnians and Croatians may resume in January, there could be hope yet...

Raileurope.com goes multi-currency and widens its appeal...

Raileurope.com is one of the clearest and easiest European rail booking systems, and I have been a keen supporter of their mission to make booking trains as easy a booking a flight.  Until now, Raileurope.com has had less appeal for overseas users as prices have been in pounds - meaning a double conversion for an American or Australian traveller. But from 6 December, Raileurope.com allows you to buy European train tickets in either £ or €.

In most cases, it's simple.  if you select EUR you'll see the actual train operator fares in €, and when you select GBP you'll see exactly the same fare converted into pounds at a decent current rate.  That's how it works for fares sourced from Raileurope.com's direct connections with Trenitalia, Renfe, Italo & Deutsche Bahn. 

With France it's a bit different - isn't it always?  French Railways (SNCF) has until now insisted that Raileurope.com source their French tickets through a connection to their UK subsidiary, uk.voyages-sncf, the former Raileurope.com, which connects to a system called Euronet with prices in pounds aimed at the UK market.  It has an indirect connection to SNCF's own Resarail system.  So Raileurope.com set up a company in France, and then as a French company were allowed to make a direct connection to SNCF's Resarail system, so they can now source exactly the same fares in euros as you'd find on SNCF's own French-language website plus some other products such as Forfait Bambin which they can't get through the UK.voyages-sncf connection.  This has allowed them to go multi-currency, with fares for any route available in euros.

It's worth realising that when you use Raileurope.com to, from or within France with GBP selected, you are still looking at fares sourced from UK Voyages-sncf via their Euronet system and you'll see some fares which only exist in GBP form.  When you select EUR you're looking at SNCFs Resarail system, with fares in euros, which could be different from those sourced in pounds from UK Voyages-sncf.  For example, if you run an enquiry for London to Lyon, you might see a £99 French Connection fare with GBP selected, but with EUR selected the same enquiry for the same trains might give a €69 London-Paris fare added to a €20 each way Prems fare.  One could be cheaper than the other!

So if your own back account is in pounds it's worth checking Raileurope.com with both GBP and EUR selected!

European timetable change from 11 December...

A new timetable period starts all over Europe on 11 December.  It brings its usual crop of changes and alterations.  The most significant is German Railways withdrawing its City Night Line sleeper trains, partly mitigated by ÖBB Austrian Railways taking over many routes under the new brand name NightJet.

Other notable changes with the new December timetable...

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2016

Improved seat61 Train travel in Japan page...

Following my recent trip around Japan, the Train travel in Japan page has been completely overhauled, updated and expanded.  Comments welcome, as always...

European train bookings for 11 December...

The new European rail timetable period begins on 11 December.  The usual 60/90/120 day booking horizon is never maintained properly over such a change, and this year is no exception.

European timetable change from 11 December...

The new timetable across Europe from 11 December will bring its usual crop of changes and alterations.  Biggest is DB German Railways withdrawing its City Night Line sleeper trains, mitigated by ÖBB Austrian Railways taking over many routes under the new brand name NightJet.

Other notable changes with the new December timetable...

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointOctober 2016

First glimpse at Eurostar's London-Amsterdam timetable...

OV Magazine has published details of Eurostar's proposed London-Amsterdam service, expected to start in December 2017, www.ovmagazine.nl/2016/10/antwerpen-mist-aansluiting-naar-londen-1328 - in Dutch, just use Google translate.  There will be two trains each way on Mon-Fri, one or two trains each way on Saturdays & Sundays.  Journey time from London to Amsterdam just 3h50, although it's slightly longer in the other direction as trains will spend half an hour being checked at Brussels.  These trains will also call at Rotterdam and Schiphol, and (in the outward direction only) Antwerp.

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointSeptember 2016

Captaintrain.com is now Thetrainline.com...

The excellent ticket retailing website founded by three young French entrepreneurs to sell French train tickets better than SNCF themselves has now been acquired by UK's Trainline.  This evening, on 6 September, it switched to its new name and URL, Thetrainline.com.  It's still the same site, there is still no booking fee, and it's still separate from the UK domestic site trainline.com.  But I expect we'll see some big changes in the future!

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2016

New videos...

I've added several videos to the site after recent trips, including Belfast to London by ferry & train, Dublin to Belfast on the newly-refurbished (and excellent) Enterprise, Berlin to Prague and Prague to Munich.  They appear on the relevant pages, or see them all on the seat61 YouTube channel.

Online sale of tickets to London International CIV to cease...

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2016

Anniversary of the Somme - a personal anecdote, sort of...

The big push on the Western Front happened 100 years ago.  20,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day.  Fast-forwarding to London in the early 1990s, I had just taken over as Station Manager for Charing Cross, a patch which also covered Waterloo East.  All the litter bins had been removed during the IRA campaign and those at Waterloo East had been placed in The Morgue.  This was (and presumably still is) a glory hole underneath the footbridge ramp onto platform B/C.  The door is at track level in the ballast at the Charing Cross end.  Whenever we needed to make something disappear, we'd 'Stick it in The Morgue'.  I must have had other things on my mind, it was months before I finally asked the bleedin' obvious question.  "Why do we call it The Morgue?".  I was duly told.  The WW1 ambulance trains came up from Dover and offloaded at Waterloo East for St Thomas Hospital, before running empty into Charing Cross.  Some of the wounded didn't make it.  No prizes for guessing where their bodies were put.  And it's still called The Morgue today.  You see, railwaymen never forget.  And nor should we...

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJune 2016

Normal train service resumes in Vietnam...

A bridge was damaged by a barge on 20 March, and passengers have been bussed around it since then.  The bridge has now been repaired and normal Reunification Line train service resumed on 25 June.

Warsaw to Vilnius by train:  Possible again, at least at weekends...

A weekends-only Bialystok-Kaunas train started on 17 June, over the first section of newly-constructed standard gauge Rail Baltica line which will ultimately link Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga & Tallinn.  Using this, it's again possible to travel from Warsaw to Lithuania by modern air-conditioned train, see the Lithuania page.

Private rail cars not so special in Vietnam?

It's been reported by several people now that the private cars operated by the likes of Fansipan & Livitrans between Hanoi & Lao Cai (for Sapa) and Hanoi & Hue are no longer specially-remodelled specially-branded cars superior internally to the regular DSVN (Vietnamese Railways) sleepers.  Instead, they appear to be using leased DSVN sleepers, identical internally & externally to the regular DSVN sleepers next door, just with a 'Fansipan' sticker in the window, their own staff and a few hand-out toiletries & snacks.  Yet they are still charging $40 rather than the regular DSVN soft sleeper fare of $14.

More engineering work in Turkey, Ankara station closing from July...

It seems that from 10 July, Ankara station will be closed for 18 months for reconstruction work in connection with the high-speed lines.  Trains to/from the East will start/terminate at Kayas, east of Ankara, while all trains to/from the west will start/terminate at a suburban station called Sincan.  If they can't do the work less disruptively, I begin to wonder why they don't just shut the whole network down for 10 years and reopen it when they are good and ready to run it properly!  For more details see https://railturkey.org/2016/06/02/last-train-to-ankara-station-on-10th-of-july.

Gotthard Base Tunnel opens...

Sort of.  More correctly, it has been completed and handed over from the builders to the Swiss Government.  After 5 months of testing, most passenger trains currently using the Gotthard route will be diverted through the tunnel from the timetable change on 11 December, including the Zurich-Milan EuroCity trains.  Unfortunately, this means the most scenic of all the mainline Alpine routes with curves, spirals and snow-capped mountain views will be buried underground, for the sake of saving half an hour.  Local trains will still go over the top, but that's little consolation to Zurich-Milan international passengers.

European timetable change on 12 June...

large bullet pointMay 2016

Eurostar at short notice from £25:  Eurostar Snap...

Eurostar has made it possible to buy tickets from just £25 7-30 days before travel, using a new Eurostar Snap mini-site,  see full details on the Eurostar page.

Timetable change on 12 June:  Some trains still not open for booking...

A few European trains still aren't loaded and open for booking for dates after the 12 June timetable change - as happens every year.  The last trains still not loaded are Trenitalia regional trains plus a few odd long-distance InterCity and sleeper trains, and most trains on the Czech (www.cd.cz), Hungarian (www.mavcsoport.hu), Polish (www.intercity.pl) systems - no surprises there!  In some cases, judging from previous years, trains will only open for booking in late May or even at the beginning of June.

large bullet pointApril 2016

Direct Eurostars London-Amsterdam from 'late 2017'...

Eurostar CEO Nicolas Petrovic has said that test-running of their new e320 trains between London and Amsterdam is likely to start next month, with public service from 'late 2017'.  He said passport and security formalities will definitely take place at Amsterdam on the London-bound run, with no need to detrain at Lille.

Thessaloniki-Belgrade cancelled until June...

The Thessaloniki-Belgrade train has been cancelled until June - and is likely to be cancelled again in the winter months while major trackwork takes place in Serbia south of Nis.  No, it's not the refugee situation! this time!

New low-cost Izy trains, Paris-Brussels...

Following the success of Ougo in France, Thalys has created a low cost subsidiary called Izy to offer fares from €10 between Paris and Brussels, with a couple of trains per day, see www.izy.com.  They'll use the classic non-high-speed line within France, so take 2h10 rather than the regular Thalys 1h22, and have airline-style baggage restrictions so read the small print carefully.  I haven't quite decided if Thalys is trying to compete with itself before someone else does - like Baldrick of Blackadder feeling safer if he owns the bullet with his name on it - or trying hard not to compete with itself, by imposing unattractive journey times and baggage restrictions on Izy that will put off all but the hardiest passengers used to long-distance buses.

Odds & Ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2016

Train service resumes in Botswana after 6 years...

Captaintrain merges with Trainline.com...

Vietnam:  Barge demolishes bridge between Nha Trang & Saigon

Trial train service revival in Cambodia - a start, at least...

Odds & Ends this month...

 

large bullet pointFebruary 2016

All but 3 SNCF sleeper trains to disappear from July...

With the Germans planning to pull the plug on their City Night Line sleeper trains from December this year, the French have announced they will do the same for their intercités de nuit as from 1 July 2016.  The sole remaining intercités de nuit will be Paris-Briancon, Paris-Rodez and Paris-Latour de Carol, as these three routes are deemed socially necessary.

Changes to Malaysian intercity trains postponed again...

Trains 1/2 and 20/21 JB Sentral-KL-Butterworth have been living on borrowed time, as KTM plans to switch over to all-electric ETS trains on its modernised Gemas-KL-Butterworth-Padang Besar main line, with just a diesel shuttle JB Sentral-Gemas to connect.  The big changeover was due on 1 March, but as these trains are now open for booking beyond that date it looks as it their demise has been postponed again.  It may also be that train 35/36 (Butterworth-Bangkok) will continue even after these changes, if so that's very good news.  But as ever with KTM, everything is as clear as mud.

In Malaysia, Jungle Line reopened...

It seems that the flood damage to the Gemas-Tumpat Jungle Line has been repaired sooner than expected, and at least according to the online booking system, an intercity sleeper train has been restored from JB Sentral all the way to Tumpat near Khota Bahru.  See the Malaysia page.

SJ to restore direct Copenhagen-Stockholm trains from 1 March...

Some good news at last from Sweden.  Swedish Railways (SJ) will restore direct trains between Copenhagen and Stockholm from 1 March 2016, having cut them back to running just Stockholm-Malmo when Sweden imposed border controls on 4 January.  SJ has arranged to have a dedicated platform set aside at Copenhagen so that passport control can be done before passengers board.  SJ asks passengers to arrive at Copenhagen 30 minutes before departure.

Austrian Railways' (ÖBB) confusing changes to online sales...

It's been a confusing time for those of us trying to book Austrian train tickets, or international tickets to or from Austria.  ÖBB's cheap sparschiene fares mysteriously disappeared from their normal online tickets system, leaving only expensive standard fares.  An easy-to-miss note at the top of the tickets page https://ticketing.oebb.at/inet/pub/en/ticket tells people that Sparschiene tickets are now only available at their new site https://tickets.oebb.at/en/ticket, shown as still in Beta.  It's just bad luck if you don't know that Sparschiene means the cheap advance-purchase tickets that are probably the ones you want - or just miss the note and carry on using their regular online tickets system as you have done in the past!  Sparschiene may be an intuitive word in German (it means saver ticket), but for English speakers the failure to translate it into 'advance-purchase tickets' has probably lost business for ÖBB.  The situation is temporary, I'm sure, while they switch to the new system, but a simple change to the wording would make things to much easier.

I have updated  booking instructions for using oebb.at on the most relevant pages of seat61.com, but as the situation is temporary and likely to change further, I will only do a complete overhaul of oebb.at booking instructions when the dust settles...

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2016

TGV-Est Phase 2 now opening 3 July...

The final section of the TGV-Est line was due to open on 3 April, but this was postponed after a test train crashed in November.  The new opening date has now been confirmed as 3 July 2016.  It will knock another 30 minutes off the journey time from Paris to Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart & Munich.  In spite of the test train accident - caused by overspeed on a curve not yet fitted with overspeed protection - TGV retains an enviable safety record, with not a single passenger killed in any TGV accident since the first TGV line opened in the 1980s.

Eurostar fares revised again...

Eurostar has revised it's fares again.  The starting price has increased from £41 to £45 one-way on any day of the week, but the return fare has decreased from £72 to £69.  But before you get too excited, this cheapest £69 return price level will in future only be found on off-peak trains, meaning trains leaving between midday on Monday and Thursday midnight, or between midday Saturday and midnight Saturday night.  At other times, the cheapest fare rises to £79 return.  It's an odd move - I'm not sure I can see the point in having peak & off-peak fares when Eurostar is fully-yield-managed and they can control the price on any individual train.  Nor is it something passengers need to know - like choosing a budget flight, they just see the price on each train and click accordingly.  We already know it'll be cheaper avoiding busy Fridays or Sundays...

Regina Line's attempt to restart UK-Denmark ferry postponed again...

They have already postponed the start of service once, from 2015 to 11 March 2016, but now it seems problems getting hold of the ship they had planned to charter have caused the start to be postponed again, with no set date.  A great shame.

Temporary glitch with London Spezials...

Due to a glitch, London Spezial (cheap fares from London to anywhere in Germany from €59) can't be booked either online or by phone with DB.  It's being worked on, DB say they expect to fix it by 15 January.  Update 15 January:  It's now fixed westbound, but still not working eastbound - a report suggests these will now be fixed by 19 January.  Update:  Now all fixed as at 19 January.

Border controls in Scandinavia...

Sweden re-imposed border control on 4 January, with a (hopefully not permanent) cessation of through Copenhagen-Stockholm trains by SJ Swedish Railways until further notice.  Denmark is likely to follow, which could screw up Hamburg-Copenhagen trains plus others.  I have tried to put updates on the relevant pages, but the situation is pretty fluid.

Changes afoot in Malaysia & Thailand...

Also fluid is the situation in Malaysia.  KTM is shortly (15 February?) to introduce a new all-electric ETS train timetable over the now-modernised Gemas-KL-Butterworth-Padang Besar section, with diesel-hauled intercity trains no longer allowed to operate over this section.  When this happens, trains 1/2, 20/21 & 35/36 will be discontinued.  Instead, in the south a diesel-hauled Intercity connection will be provided between JB Sentral and Gemas, connecting with ETS trains.  In the north, a twice-daily State Railways of Thailand diesel shuttle will link Padang Besar with Hat Yai, connecting with the ETS trains - indeed, this started on 22 December.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2015

New & revised pages:  Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by train

Following a recent trip to the Holy Land, I've been able to revise and expand the Train Travel in Israel page, complete with an account of the train ride from Tel Aviv to Haifa & Akko, and create a new Tel Aviv to Jerusalem page about taking the historic Jaffa-Jerusalem Railways from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  All constructive comments gratefully received!

City Night Line trains to be discontinued from December 2016...

It's now official.  German Railways (DB) will discontinue all City Night Line sleeper & couchette trains from the timetable change in December 2016.  Austrian Railways may take over some (e.g. Munich-Florence-Rome) and DB say they will co-operate with other railways that want to run sleeper trains into Germany.  Details -as far as is currently known- at www.railjournal.com/index.php/main-line/db-to-withdraw-all-remaining-sleeper-trains.html.

Now for Swedish train nightmare as Schengen collapses in Sweden...

All advance ticket sales for the Oresund trains Copenhagen-Malmo and SJ's Copenhagen-Stockholm trains has been stopped for dates after 4 January due to the likely start of border checks between Denmark & Sweden brought about by the refugee situation.  Passengers are being advised to turn up and buy tickets on the day.  See www.oresundstag.se/en/faq/infosidor/traveling-from-denmark/.

Major changes to Malaysian trains likely in January...

KTM (Malaysian Railways) say that all trains over their core electrified section Gemas-KL-Butterworth-Padang Besar will be fast new electric ETS trains from January, no more diesel locomotive-hauled Intercity trains.  Of course, they haven't provided an actual timetable, or said what this means for sleeper trains.  It's understood the KL-Hat Yai train 20/21 & Butterworth-Bangkok train 35/36 will be discontinued, but connections will be provided at Padang Besar.  Watch this space...

Changes to European train times from 13 December...

Highlights & lowlights of the new timetable starting on 13 December include:

  • The direct Lille-Geneva TGV-Lyria is discontinued, see the news item from October.  Passenger loadings have sadly not met with expectations.

  • There remain 4 direct TGV trains a day between Paris & Barcelona in summer, but the departures which run all year round change from (southbound) 07:15 & 14:07 to 10:07 & 14:07 and (northbound) from 09:25 & 16:25 to 09:25 & 13:20.  Bunched up only 4h apart!

  • The Russian Railways Paris-Berlin-Moscow express will be increased from once or twice a week to 3 times a week all year round.

  • A direct high-quality air-conditioned Russian sleeping-car is reinstated between Moscow, Budapest, Belgrade & Sofia, although via Belarus rather than Kiev.  It now forms an excellent top-quality daily sleeper service between Budapest, Belgrade & Sofia which can be booked online at the Russian Railways website.  I have added this useful option to the relevant sections on the site.

  • The direct Budapest-Sofia train Serdica has its timetable radically altered, from an evening departure and evening arrival next day, to a morning departure (sadly  far too early for connections from Vienna or Munich even by sleeper train) and early morning arrival.  But the new daily Russian sleeping-car forms a better quality option with more convenient timings!

  • The Belgrade to Sofia daytime train makes a welcome return after a break of several years.  This conveys the Moscow-Budapest-Sofia Russian sleeping-car, which can even be booked for this daytime sector, as a modern air-conditioned alternative to elderly Bulgarian or Serbian carriages!

  • The final section of TGV-Est high-speed line opens in the new timetable period, but in April rather than with the timetable change in December.  This will cut 30 minutes of the time from Paris to Strasbourg, Stuttgart & Munich.

  • A Warsaw to Lithuania train was due to start running, using the first section of new standard-gauge Rail Baltica link, but this has been postponed.   It could still happen in the first quarter of 2016.

  • The Warsaw-Moscow Polonez will become run by the Russians every day, using their brand-new sleepers, rather than Russian coaches one day and Polish cars the next.

  • A daily  all year-Ljubljana-Pula train service is reinstated, through finally co-ordinating the times of the three local trains involved.

  • The Alleo Paris-Frankfurt/Stuttgart/Munich high-speed ICE & TGV trains will no longer offer free snack/meal boxes in 1st class, but the lead-in 1st class fare will be cut from 'from €69' to 'from €49'.

  • From the timetable change, all Milan-Switzerland EuroCity trains will be operated by the newer and very swish bullet-nosed ETR610 trains.  The older and less reliable ETR470 trains previously deployed on the Zurich-Milan route will no longer be used.

  • Another 11 minutes is cut off the Vienna-Prague Railjet train journey, thanks to improved speeds between Prague & Brno.  The journey has already been cut from 4h45 to 4h10, and is now cut again to 3h59.

  • Vienna's new Hauptbahnhof becomes fully operational and all international trains will now use it - the Westbahnhof is relegated to handling mere regional trains, the Munich/Zurich-Salzburg-Vienna-Budapest trains will no longer reverse at the Westbahnhof, saving 30 minutes. 

  • There's a new direct overnight sleeping-car between Warsaw & Lviv, making it easier to get to this great Ukrainian city.

Odds & ends this month...

  • The Auckland-Wellington Northern Explorer will switch from using the modern, central Britomart Transport Centre to using a special KiwiRail Scenic platform at the old derelict 1930 Strand Station, 1km away.  See the Northern Explorer page.

large bullet pointNovember 2015

Eurostar launches e320...

On 20 November, Eurostar put the first of its excellent new e320 trains into public service on a couple of London-Paris runs.

Rail Europe travel centre in Piccadilly closing down...

Voyages-sncf UK (the former Rail Europe) are closing down their London travel centre at 193 Piccadilly as from Saturday 21 November.  Tickets will have to be booked online or by phone (or at the TrainsEurope desk at St Pancras).  UK Voyages-sncf are also planning to close their longstanding UK-based telesales centre at West Malling.  Calls to a UK number will be handled by a call centre located in France.

Poor timetabling for the Paris-Barcelona TGVs from 13 December...

Under the new 2016 timetable there remain 4 direct TGV trains between Paris & Barcelona in summer, nicely spaced at 07:15, 10:07, 14:07 & 16:07 southbound and at 06:10, 09:25, 13:20 & 16:25 northbound.  If they all ran all year round, there'd be no problem.  However, only two departures run all year, and unfortunately Renfe-SNCF have changed their minds and decided to make these the 10:07 & 14:07 southbound (previously 07:15 & 14:07), and the 09:25 & 13:20 northbound (previously 09:25 & 16:25).  Bunched up in the middle of the day just 4h apart.  And whilst the third train ran April-August in 2015, it's cut back to run just June-August this year.

So for 9 months of the year the earliest arrival in Barcelona will be 16:34, with no departure from Paris later than 14:07.  Nor is any departure possible from Barcelona later than 13:20.  Parisians can no longer take the 07:15 south on a Saturday and 16:25 back on Sunday.  Residents of Barcelona can no longer take the 16:25 train on Friday night for a weekend in Paris.  For longer-distance non-fliers, the 10:07 is too late to connect with the afternoon train to Cordoba, Seville & Malaga, which leaves Barcelona at 15:50.  Similarly, the 13:20 northbound leaves too early to connect off the morning train from Seville, Malaga & Cordoba arriving Barcelona at 14:25.  So same-day journeys between Paris & Andalucía will no longer be possible, except in high summer.

So if the new timetable is poorly-timed for short breaks, either in Barcelona for Parisians or in Paris for the Spanish, and connections are broken for longer distance travellers between Paris and Andalusia, a major tourist area of Spain - what market are Renfe-SNCF trying to attract?  Did they think through the changes at all?  Is it being operationally-led instead of customer-driven?  I'd like to think they are responding to those who'd like a more leisurely breakfast before their journey south, or an arrival back in Paris northbound that's not quite as late - but does this really override the need for schedules which allow time-effective short breaks without losing half the day?  And even if that was the reason, wouldn't 09:07 & 15:07 southbound, 09:25 & 15:25 northbound fit the bill better?  Shouldn't there really be early, lunchtime and late trains (at least) all year?

There are also problems with the shorter-distance service between Barcelona and Perpignan.  Until April, the first TGV train of the day from France arrives in Barcelona at a ridiculously late 12:38.  And the last TGV back from  Barcelona to anywhere in France leaves ridiculously early at 16:45, arriving Perpignan at 18:06.  Far too early for anyone with an all-day meeting or even just an all-day visit.  A part-time service run by part-time management?  I'm convinced the France-Spain TGVs have massive potential if properly timed and priced - but I remain unconvinced that this potential is being realised. 

The overnight couchette trains between Paris & Barcelona - either via Perpignan or via Latour de Carol - are suddenly looking very appealing to make the most of that short break, see details of overnight options here.  Perhaps the direct Elipsos sleeper trains should be brought back!

Eurostar relents & reverses its change in bike policy...

I'm delighted to say that Eurostar has listened to cyclists and has reversed its decision to cease carrying bikes unless they are semi-dismantled and placed in a bike box - see previous news item.  You can continue to book your fully-assembled bike onto the same Eurostar as yourself between London and Paris, Brussels or Lille for £30 each way.  I have updated the bikes by train page accordingly.

City Night Line:  4-berth & 6-berth couchettes to become all 5-berth...

German sleeper trains run by City Night Line will cease offering 4-berth couchettes from 13 December, only 6-berth.  Which it claims will only ever be filled to 5 people.  So a family of 4 will need to book 5 berths in a 6-berth to get a 4-berth (eh?).  See (in German) www.bahn.de/p/view/angebot/fernverkehrsmittel/city-night-line/liegewagen.shtml.  Update:  I'm now told that the online system will be updated from 13 Dec to show 5-berth explicitly, with an easier option for those who want exclusive use for less than 5 people.  I will update the site once the new system is in.

Rocky Mountaineer in Canada 2016...

I've updated the Rocky Mountaineer page for 2016.  The cheapest £500-a-pop Red Leaf service has been replaced with £800-a-pop Silver Leaf on all routes, so a Rocky Mountaineer just got 60% more expensive.  Also a shame is that the useful affordable 5-days-a-week Vancouver-Whistler train is discontinued from 2016 in favour of extending the main Whistler-Quesnel-Jasper train to/from Vancouver for the megabucks long distance tourists, no locals travellers allowed!

European train bookings for dates after 12 December......

As happens every year, the timetable changes on the second Sunday of December all across Europe.  And as every year, train operators totally fail to maintain the usual 90 day booking horizon and bookings open late.  Right before Christmas, when passengers want to book further ahead, not closer to departure!

  • Bookings for Eurostar are already open.  How do Eurostar do it, when others can't?  Good for them!

  • Bookings for German trains for travel from 13 December onwards will open on 13 October.  Update:  A temporary glitch means London Spezials to/from Germany and a few other international routes to/from Germany won't open until this Friday 16 October, or perhaps early next week.

  • Bookings for French trains for travel 13 December to 4 February will open 15 October.

  • Bookings for some Italian trains are already open, including the Paris-Venice Thello sleeper, others won't open until around 5 November including the Thello day trains to Nice..

  • Spanish trains will probably open early November or even later - Tip for any private open-access operators entering the Spanish market:  You can easily take 90% of Renfe's market share within a matter of weeks, simply by opening bookings... well, simply by opening bookings.

  • Eastern European bookings may not open until early December!  Hungarian bookings should open late November.

Odds & ends this month...

  • I've updated the section about how to use Renfe.com to recognise Renfe's totally revised website & booking process. If anything, it's less easy to see what the choice of class and fare is now, than under the old system!

large bullet pointOctober 2015

Eurostar's direct south of France service proves a success...

Eurostar are very pleased with bookings on their direct train from London to Lyon, Avignon & Marseille (see the Eurostar to Marseille page for details).  From its launch on 1 May until October the train carried 110,000 passengers, exceeding their expectations, with the unknown quantity - Marseille as a short break destination - proving surprisingly popular with us Brits.  That's no surprise to me, it's a great city.  Even so, the direct Eurostar will be tricky to keep filled in the depths of winter - the train now won't run on 5 particularly low-volume winter Saturdays, and I have amended the timetable accordingly.

Paris-Moscow train 3 times a week from December...

Russian Railways (RZD) will increase it's once or twice a week Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Moscow train to 3 times a week all year round from the timetable change on 13 December.  Clearly, the change from a day-night-day operation to a night-day-night timing has provided successful, providing a Paris-Berlin sleeper option.  See the Paris-Moscow Express page.

End of Lille-Geneva Lyria TGV...

It was a great idea.  London-Lille-Geneva in 6h18, with just one easy change and no need to cross Paris.  Unfortunately, the Lille-Geneva TGV didn't meet Lyria's commercial aspirations and it is being discontinued as from the timetable change in December 2015.  A great shame...

Eurostar changes its bike policy......

Eurostar sorted out its bike policy in 2012, finding a successful bike-friendly policy to much applause.  It's great when a company gets something right!  So of course, it's now time to scrap all that.  You now can't take bikes on Eurostar without semi-dismantling them and boxing them up - yet you still have to pay £30 each way.

But hang on, if you semi-dismantle your bike and bag it up, shouldn't it then go free of charge as regular luggage, as was the case on Eurostar pre-2012, and as still is the case on just about all European trains, including TGV, Thalys, TGV-Lyria, in fact all services operated by Eurostar's own parent company French Railways SNCF?  Eurostar say they'll provide a bike box for you for free, but it still isn't clear to what extent the baggage people will help you dismantle your bike, and to what extent you now need to be a mechanic and carry a toolbox.  The revised official Eurostar bike page is incredibly vague, and I'm guessing it's a work in progress.  It's not clear what you have to do with your bike, it's not clear if you need to pre-book or not. It's not even specific about the price, wavering between £10 and £30.  The bike page refers you to the registered luggage page which then talks about luggage only being available within 24 hours of arrival.  Does this rule out everyone with same-day onward connections? 

I have updated the bikes by train page as best I can, given vagueness of the Eurostar site and its inconsistency with news snippets from cycling organisations, I'll update it further as more accurate details emerge as to what Eurostar want you to do with your bike- other than take it by ferry instead.

You may wish to find alternative ways to France, using train and ferry - I've added more info about the ferry alternatives on my bikes by train into Europe page - an overnight London-Paris journey via Portsmouth-Le Havre looks very appealing!

European train bookings for dates after 12 December......

As every year, the timetable changes on the second Sunday of December all across Europe.  And as every year, train operators totally fail to maintain the usual 90 day booking horizon and bookings open late.  Right before Christmas, when passengers want to book further ahead, not closer to departure!

  • Bookings for Eurostar are already open.  How do Eurostar do it, when others can't?  Good for them!

  • Bookings for German trains for travel from 13 December onwards will open on 13 October.  Update:  A temporary glitch means London Spezials to/from Germany and a few other international routes to/from Germany won't open until this Friday 16 October, or perhaps early next week.

  • Bookings for French trains for travel 13 December to 4 February will open 15 October.

  • Bookings for some Italian trains are already open, others won't open until early November I expect.

  • Spanish trains will probably open early November or even later - Tip for any private open-access operators entering the Spanish market:  You can easily take 90% of Renfe's market share within a matter of weeks, simply by opening bookings... well, simply by opening bookings.

  • Eastern European bookings may not open until early December!

Odds & ends this month...

  • I've given the London-Montenegro information its own page, rather than including it on the London-Belgrade page.  I've also expanded the Belgrade-Bar information into its own page, as this is one of the most scenic trains rides in Europe.

  • Stena Line Harwich-Hoek free WiFi:  This is no longer available in the cabins, only in the public areas on deck 9.  I've updated the Netherlands page accordingly.

  • The Vietnamese Railways online booking site now has an English version, Vietnam page updated accordingly.  But it still only accepts Vietnamese credit cards as far as I can tell!

  • Mongdratzerl restaurant in Munich Hbf closes...  It seems this Bavarian restaurant will be replaced with a pizza and pasta chain, just what you want in Bavaria.  If anyone has any new restaurant recommendations for eating near the Hauptbahnhof between trains, I'd be very happy to hear!

large bullet pointSeptember 2015

Renfe-SNCF try discriminatory pricing for Paris-Barcelona TGVs...

Latest update:  People power has won:  Press release from Renfe-SNCF, evening of 24 September: "Following a technical problem detected today in the booking systems available to its retailers, Renfe-SNCF notes that incorrect tariffs have been offered for journeys between France and Spain.  Renfe-SNCF, which runs these trains, is taking immediate measures to correct this unusual situation and a return to normal is expected by next Tuesday, 29 September, at the latest."  You may think it was all an "error", I couldn't possibly comment...  But the important thing is that the situation is resolved.  Correct pricing for the France-Spain TGV trains will apply again from next week on all retailers.  Now we can get back to the key task of promoting train not plane between France and Spain....

For the record, here is what I wrote on the morning of 24 September, obviously now fortunately rescinded...

1. €59 fare available through a French retailer, in this case Captaintrain.com: Correct price.

2. €100:  Passengers overcharged by €41 at non-French retailers, in this case voyages-sncf.be

What's happened?  Fares for the Paris to Barcelona TGV trains start at €59.  Prices vary like air fares with limited availability at each price level.  But as from September 2015, it seems that Renfe-SNCF (the joint Spanish & French management of the France-Spain TGV service) have imposed discriminatory pricing.  From now on, only French or Spanish train ticket retailers will be allowed to sell the complete and correct fare range from €59 upwards.  Ticket retailers based anywhere else are no longer permitted to sell any fares below €100, even when a €59 ticket is available.  This means that many consumers will be overcharged by up to €41, unless they switch to buying from a French-based retailer - or are simply dissuaded from using these trains by the unnecessarily high prices. 

Described by one retailer as 'outrageous', it brings Renfe-SNCF into disrepute.  I suspect it could well be illegal under EU law.

Illegal under EU law?  Unbelievably. this discrimination even extends to different versions of French Railways own site (voyages-sncf.com) serving other EU member states.  As I write this, a €59 fare is available on the 07:15 Paris-Barcelona on 12 December on www.voyages-sncf.com, SNCF's main French-language site, and on private French-based retailer www.thetrainline.com.  But if you innocently click the flag on the top right of voyages-sncf.com to switch it to English, German, Dutch and so on, you are switched to uk.voyages-sncf.com for the UK, voyages-sncf.de for Germany, voyages-sncf.nl for the Netherlands (etc.) and on these versions of their site it's a whopping €100 for exactly the same train - or £76 on UK-based uk.voyages-sncf or Raileurope.com.  Are there any lawyers or EU commissioners awake out there?

So for the first time, the price on French Railways own website www.voyages-sncf.com may be significantly cheaper than on their own UK subsidiary's website, uk.voyages-sncf

What does this mean for consumers?   Well, it should be obvious.  To avoid being overcharged you must now buy your Paris-Barcelona tickets (and Toulouse, Perpignan or Lyon to Barcelona tickets) from a French-based retailer such as www.thetrainline.com which has the correct prices from €59, has an English-language version, accepts worldwide credit cards and provides a print-at-home e-ticket.  Whether you are British, Belgian, German, Dutch, American, Canadian or Australian, wherever you live, www.thetrainline.com is now pretty much the only remaining correctly-priced option to book these trains unless you want to be overcharged, or are happy to use voyages-sncf in French, tip-toeing through the minefield of its Machiavellian redirects to its more expensive subsidiary sites.  Or want to grapple with www.renfe.com's strange English translations and fussy credit card acceptance.  Using any retailer based outside France or Spain means you may be overcharged.

I feel particularly sorry for the excellent Raileurope.com, who have spent time and money integrating with UK, French and Spanish ticketing systems, allowing you to buy your train ticket to London, your Eurostar ticket to Paris, Paris-Barcelona TGV ticket and onward Spanish tickets all in one place.  Now through no fault of their own they can't sell the cheaper tickets for the Paris-Barcelona sector so you'll need to check that there isn't a cheaper fare available on Captaintrain. 

An example of private enterprise integrating European rail ticketing, only to have it dis-integrated again by a misguided train operator.  As usual, the train operators are their own worst enemy.

The Man in Seat 61 says:  "I have not seen discrimination on this scale by any European train operator before, and against other EU member states, too.  From the start, I don't think the pricing on the relatively new Paris-Barcelona TGV route has been properly managed.  Fares appear set with total disregard for those of competing airlines and indeed it's often significantly cheaper to buy two separate train tickets, Paris-Perpignan and Perpignan-Barcelona for the same train.  After this latest example of mismanagement, it's my professional opinion that  Renfe-SNCF seriously needs to replace their Elipsos pricing manager, and soon.  The Paris-Barcelona TGVs need fresh eyes and competitive, dynamic pricing worthy of the 21st century.  Not desperate Machiavellian tactics worthy of the 16th."

Note that currently this problem is confined to the direct France-Spain TGV/AVE trains run by the joint Renfe-SNCF management.  But it needs to be stopped now, before the practice spreads.

Ljubljana - Sezana (- Trieste - Venice) line finally reopened...

They've been bustituting all or part of the line between Ljubljana and the Italian border at Sezana/Villa Opicina for almost two years now after a bad winter damaged the overhead electric wiring.  I'm glad to say it's now fixed, and train+tram+train is once again a great way to travel between Ljubljana & Venice, see the Ljubljana-Venice page.

Capitainetrain becomes Captaintrain

The French website Capitainetrain, started by three young French entrepreneurs originally just to sell SNCF train tickets faster and more easily than SNCF themselves has been renamed Captaintrain.  It's a sign of how international that site has become, after being started with just the French domestic market in mind - it's now a better way to buy French train tickets than many overseas agencies as all the cheapest prices are shown, all SNCF's products including the likes of Forfait Bambin and Espace Privatif are available.  https://blog.captaintrain.com/en/.

The refugee crisis:  A traveller's first hand report...

It's one thing to watch it on the TV.  Traveller Tim M came face to face with the migrant/refugee crisis on a train to Munich and posted this on my Facebook page.  It's a gritty account.  He uses the 'f' word a lot.  I don't blame him.  Language notwithstanding, it's probably the most moving account of the human issues I've read...

"Language not to everyone's taste, but a few notes on what happened this week leaving Vienna.  3 hours later and I'm now part of it.  My connection in Salzburg has been cancelled.  Clueless as to why, but the atmosphere tells me something's afoot.  The constant stream of people being ushered from my train, and others, down one elevator, before hanging a sharp right up to the next platform now includes me.  FFS, this is surreal.  I'm English, not a f***g migrant.  Why can I never remember a truly 'British' put down when I need one?  Something David Niven-esque.  But f**** rude.  It sounds like I'm in a souk, not Salzburg.  There's the little scrotes trying to shove their way around when, to be fair, everybody else is queuing patiently.  The family who were opposite me on the last train are so again on this.  The 4yr old daughter has had her eyes on my sandwiches n crisps for long enough, so they are keeping her quiet for now.  Her mum is making sure I'm near to ask me questions, and to make sure they get to Frankfurt. Frankfurt??  Yeah right.  You're asking a Yorkshireman to make sure you get to Frankfurt?  I'm not Bradshaw or Baedecker, I'm on f**** holiday...  It's kinda hard not to agree though, whilst trying to be all nonchalant, like, otherwise I'll really be in the shit.  Yup, told yer, now there's a queue of blokes asking me to ring numbers back home on my fone to let families know, numerous 'how do I get to so n so' questions.  Poor bastards think I'm a local, something tells me the bastard locals had a tip off...  Regardless, had to throw my hands in the air on that one, I'm neither Rothschild nor the fucking Red Cross.  So I'm going to Munich whether I like it or not.  Along with a few hundred others who don't care, they just want to feel safe.  And hopefully they'll want a bath, cos the place hums already.  Standing room only for any poor bewildered who gets on at the forthcoming stops (not that they did, funnily enough!) and there's kids all over the place. Noise? F*** sake.  At the last stop local guys ran on with bottles of water to share out.  Gratis.  Free.  Because they cared. Imagine that happening in the UK?  A non punter allowed on the platform to run onto trains giving out free stuff?  Funnily enough I didn't qualify for a bottle...  Although I'd feel guilty drinking it somehow.  Depending on the state of Munich hauptbahnhof I might just f*** this leg off and find other means on towards Frankfurt cos this ain't no holiday, soldier. The family who've befriended me/trusting me to make sure they get to Frankfurt etc (times are hard, yeah?) have removed any escape plans tho.  For one, turns out she's a single mum.  Cue radar- cheeky bitch playing that card on me?  Talking, she says she wants to go the Rhineland as it looks so pretty. Now, that's awkward. That's where I'm going.  Same town. Mainz. Hmm, as coincidences go, I'm getting kinda pissed off here.  Turns out her husband died fighting in June. In the army, so I'm not sure whether that makes him good or bad to be honest, but I switched the radar off. Anyway, Syria is f***ed folks, straight from the horses mouth. Done. Flat. No water, no leccy. No homes, no medical supplies, jobs, services or infrastructure. It's taken her and her daughter a month to get this far. A f***ing month of not really knowing what the hells going on. Makes the fact it's unlikely there'll be any hotels left when I get to Mainz seem kinda minor. Ok, I relented at that point and let her use my fone.  Call to America! FFS, but nothing surprises me anymore. Her brother in L.A. can speak English, unlike the one meeting her in Frankfurt, so between the 4 of us, and no doubt a pending written warning about roaming from Vodafone, everyone learns a bit more.  Polizei are lining the platform in Rosenheim. All armed and square chinned. Sounds eerily like a history lesson - bunch of Germans waiting for a train to rock up.  They all certainly need a bloody shower. Surely this is f*** all compared to what must be down the road at the last stop?  No one got off. No one got on. Plenty folk saw the contents of the train from the platform and decided that maybe, well, you know, f*** it, I'll be late today. It's gone 3pm.  Munich Hbf.  Thank f***. Laid out like kings cross so much as in some trains stop due to it literally being the end of the line.  A natural border between the railway and outside. Freedom, even. The food concessions there knock the shite we get sold by BR clean out the park btw.  Worth a trip just to feed yourself. Anyway. Everyone barges to get off the train first.  F*** knows why, even I'd worked out what the welcoming committee would be.  Angela Merkel waving a bratwhurst it was not.  No one getting giddy, just yet another train full hoping it's all over and 50 coppers reminding them it ain't.  Oh, and by the way, stay ze f*** there til the next train, for you, arrives.  So Mia and her daughter?  Twigging I'd be waved thru police lines, I dropped my email address into her bag hoping that I'll maybe hear a happy ending sometime, wished her luck, made the little one laugh again and then got the f*ck out whilst grabbing a pic of whatever the hell it was I'd just spent half a day in.  Now I'm sat in the bar of the ICE train, hour or so from Frankfurt and an entire world away from all that.  Best trains are in Germany, unless you go to Japan.  But these have bars, food made to order, reasonable prices and, lo and behold, are on time!  Job done.  No idea what to make of today.  No idea at all."

Post-script:  "She was taken to Düsseldorf in the end, after a week or so there being fed and checked up etc, she and her daughter are free to go wherever.  She says Syria has gone and as such she won't ever go back."

And by the way, I've been raising money for UNICEF's Syria appeal, I've already raised £10k and have set out to raise another £10k.  If seat61 helps you, please consider contributing a pound or a dollar, whatever you can spare: www.justgiving.com/seatsixtyone

Eurostar takes action on disruption at Calais...

Eurostar's CEO Nicolas Petrovic has said:  "You will have undoubtedly seen media coverage about disruption near to the Channel Tunnel in recent months, which until last week has primarily impacted Eurotunnel's lorry shuttle and freight operations. Unfortunately, on the evening of the 1st September, Eurostar services were also affected as trespassers led to the temporary closure of the high speed line in the Calais Fréthun area. Six Eurostar services were heavily delayed whilst the authorities ensured the safe removal of people from the tracks and in turn secured the infrastructure to allow the safe passage of our trains.  Following this incident, we have been working very closely with our infrastructure partners to ensure that immediate measures are put in place to protect our services. These include:

  • SNCF and French police increasing their resources in the area of the high speed tracks we use

  • Having a fast track response process if trespassers are seen in the area of our tracks;

  • Undergrowth cleared from around our tracks making it more difficult for trespassers to hide - this work has already been undertaken;

  • Additional fencing being built by Eurotunnel to protect the high speed lines in this area. 

Together these measures significantly reduce the risk of future disruption, and improve the speed of response should this kind of incident happen again."

Migrants close Budapest station for a while, and affect Germany-Denmark trains...

Large numbers of refugees closed Budapest station - forcing controlled access to be implemented where only passport holders could get into the station - and for several days international trains to/from western Europe had to be curtailed to start/terminate at the Hungarian border.  However, things are getting back to normal now.  The TV news is not a good place for real-time accurate travel information, I'd recommend checking Hungarian Railways www.mav-start.hu.  Migrants have also affected Germany-Denmark trains around 9 & 10 September, check this route at www.bahn.de/en.

Odds & ends this month...

  • Caledonian Sleeper increased its berth supplements for passengers holding regular tickets or passes from £44 in 2nd class & £50 in 1st class to £75 in both classes.  The sleeper solo supplement seems to have been abolished although you can still book a Sleeper Solo fare.

  • The scenic Huancayo to Huancavelica line in Peru is back in action after several years, reports by traveller Thomas Gisler.  See the Peru page.

large bullet pointAugust 2015

Interviewed on BBC Breakfast, BBC1 TV...

I was interviewed on Saturday morning 29 August about security on European trains in the wake of the foiled Thalys attack.  You can see some of the feedback on Twitter (@seatsixtyone) and the seat61 Facebook page.

Melbourne-Adelaide Overland saved...

For a while it has looked as if the Overland would be withdrawn permanently from December 2015, leaving no civilised transport between these two major cities - just 11 hours in a bus seat or the need to schlepp to an airport just to go a few hundred miles.  It now looks as if funding has been agreed with South Australia, although talks are still in progress with Victoria.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-27/overland-deal-worth-1m-secures-jobs-for-adelaide/6730184

Migrants force bus replacement for Greek part of Belgrade-Thessaloniki journey...

Until further notice - meaning days, weeks or months, who knows - the Belgrade-Thessaloniki train will be bustituted between Gevgelija on the Greek/Macedonian border and Thessaloniki due to so many migrants trying to use the train to nip across the border.  A warning has been placed on the London to Greece page and on the International journeys from Athens & Greece page,

New KTM timetable in Malaysia.  Again...

Train times in Malaysia will change for the third time in as many months from 1 September.  Highlight of the new timetable is combining the afternoon Johor Bahru to KL train with the KL-Hat Yai overnight train, to form one train direct from southern Malaysia to Northern Malaysia.  Unfortunately, going north it now passes through KL at 1am and doesn't call at Butterworth (for Penang) at all, so no longer provides a convenient sleeper service between the two big cities of KL and Penang, and arrives very late if you're travelling from Singapore or JB to KL.  Crazy!  But then, I expect they'll chnage it back next month...

Cuba update...

It's reported that trains 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 will not be reinstated.  Trains 11 & 12 are now using the Tren Frances ex-Trans-Europe Express cars, but the air-con systems are being removed and opening windows fitted.  Havana Estación Central closed on 24 June for renovations lasting until summer 2018 and most trains are now using the nearby Havana La Coubre station instead, with those to Cienfuegos and Pinar del Rio using Havana's 19 Noviembre station.  The Cuba page has now been updated with the new details, as much as is possible!

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2015

Hanoi-Nanning restored to running daily...

Having been reduced to twice a week in December 2014, it seems the Hanoi-Nanning sleeper is running every day again, and twice-weekly through sleeping-car to Beijing has been restored.  Details here.

London-Paris by overnight 'sleeper' ferry?

Inspired by an article in the New York Times (oddly enough) I've added London to Paris via Portsmouth-Le Havre to the London to Paris by train and ferry page.  It allows you to leave central London around 18:30, have a full 8 hours sleep in a comfortable en suite cabin (and if you stay up late, a lovely exit from Portsmouth Ferry Terminal past HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Spinnaker Tower), and be in central Paris at 12:10 next day.  If you need to avoid the Tunnel for some reason, it's not a bad option.  I've no photos until I can check out the route myself, but all feedback gratefully received!

Two more new videos...

I've added two new short videos showcasing (a) the Paris-Moscow Express (click here) and (b) Trenitalia's new Frecciarossa (click here).

New page & videos:  The Deerstalker & Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness...

The Best Train in Britain, the London-Fort William Caledonian Sleeper unofficially known as The Deerstalker, finally has its own page after a hugely enjoyable trip last week.  Make sure you watch the video too!  I have also completely revamped the Caledonian Sleeper page to reflect the new franchise on-board service, with new photos & video guide.

Upcoming trips to follow on Twitter:  Scotias old & new...

I'll be taking the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Inverness on Sunday night 12 July, returning Ft William to London on the 13th.  Let's see how the new franchise performs.... 

On 2 August I'll be in Canada, taking VIA Rail's new business class from Toronto to Montreal then the Renaissance sleeping-cars of the Ocean from Montreal to Halifax Nova Scotia.  Follow my journeys on Twitter.

New timetable in Thailand from 1 July...

The Thailand page has now been updated.  No major changes, but several main Bangkok-Chiang Mai trains have been speeded up by up to an hour.

Russia Railways steps in to restart Tallinn-Moscow train...

RZD will restart at Tallinn-Moscow sleeper train from 11 July.  It will run via St Petersburg, so also linking Tallinn with St P.  Details now on the Estonia page, although complete booking and price info will have to wait until this is loaded onto rzd.ru.

large bullet pointJune 2015

New timetable Singapore-KL...

In Malaysia, KTM are introducing a new timetable from 1 July.  All intercity trains will start/terminate at Johor Bahru Sentral, and will no longer extend to start/terminate at Woodlands on the Singapore side of the causeway.  Instead, an infrequent shuttle train will run between JB Sentral & Woodlands, although not connecting very well with the intercity trains.  The new timetable is now shown on the Malaysia page.

Fancy a vicarious train ride to Spain? Follow my journey on Twitter, 14-17 June

I'm speaking at the rail industry's Amadeus Conference in Barcelona on 16 June, so naturally I'll be hopping on a train from London to Spain...  I'll be travelling from London to San Sebastian by Eurostar & TGV on 14/15 June and spending an afternoon and a night there.  It's supposed to be a lovely city - will it live up to its glowing reputation?  On the morning of the 16th I'll hop on a fast air-conditioned Alvia train from San Sebastian to Barcelona with an afternoon spare to wander along La Rambla before my after-dinner talk.  And on the 17th, I'll return from Barcelona to London in a single day, this time checking out the Barcelona-Lyon-Lille-London TGV & Eurostar route which avoids having to cross Paris.  You can follow my journey on Twitter.

SJ's planned Oslo-Stockholm service thwarted...  But now sorted...

Incredibly, when an operator actually does plan a significant improvement in cross-border trains, this happens.  Norway's infrastructure operator decide to re-wire the line for 2 years and thwart the plans.  Do Europe's railways have a death wish?  They certainly seem to be their own worst enemy.  Update:  I'm glad sanity has prevailed - Norway has postponed the work to allow the new improved service to go ahead.  Thank goodness!

New Jo'burg-Mafikeng-Kimberly train...

Shosholoza Meyl are introducing a new Jo'burg-Mafikeng-Kimberley train from 5 June, see the South Africa page,

large bullet pointMay 2015

Trains return to Durres-Tiranë - almost...

For the first time since 2012, trains are running again on the Durrës to Tiranë line, though only as far as Kashar, 7.6km short of Tiranë, from where city buses run the last bit.  The Albania page has been updated with the new service.

New direct Eurostar to Lyon, Avignon & Marseille:  See the new page!

I was delighted to be invited on the first direct Eurostar from London & Ashford to Lyon, Avignon & Marseille on 1 May.  It's the first every direct scheduled passenger train in history from the Thames to the Mediterranean, and also the longest distance regular scheduled passenger train serving the UK, as London to Marseille is 769 miles which the train does start to stop in 6h27.

The previous London-Avignon train only ran in summer, and only once a week.  This new service serves three destinations and will run all year round, weekly on Saturdays in winter, up to 5 times a week in summer.

On 1 May, the staff wore straw hats and Lyon, Avignon, Marseille polo shirts and seemed as excited as the passengers about this new service.  There was a holiday atmosphere on board, and excellent service in Standard Premier:  You get a light breakfast soon after departure, then a hot cooked lunch with wine later in the journey.  We arrived in Marseille just 8 seconds late.

I returned on 2 May to check out the northbound journey, on which passengers must alight with their bags at Lille, go through check-in and re-board the train.  It's a pragmatic solution to the twin issues of UK border controls and Channel Tunnel security - even if the UK home office could be persuaded to do passport checks on board the train or at least on arrival in London, this doesn't solve the security issue and it's simply not practical to seal off and security-clear a whole platform at three of French Railways' busiest stations, or provide staff and equipment for one train a week.

I'm glad to say the Lille shuffle worked well.  Announcements were made as we approached Lille, and passengers all seemed to know what to do.  The operation felt relaxed and organised.  There were plenty of staff on hand at the ticket gates, at the passport checks and the security checks.  I was off the train and up the escalators in a few minutes, and through check-in into the lounge in 10-15 minutes.  The lounge at Lille has been improved and enlarged, with carpet and plenty of seating, vending machines, plug sockets for phone recharging and even a kiddies corner.  There's no catering outlet yet, so Eurostar staff provided free tea, coffee and chocolate cake for all passengers.

The train had arrived in Lille 55 minutes late due to earlier problems on the high-speed line in France, but all passengers were checked-in quickly and we soon went down the escalator again back onto the train.  The train left only 35 minutes late, actually making up 20 minutes during the stop in Lille.  And unlike changing from a TGV to Eurostar at Lille, with this direct Eurostar there were no worries about a missed connection!

So overall, the Lille shuffle was not a huge deal.  Imperfect, perhaps, but no huge deal.  And of course, doing the check-in at Lille means there is no check-in at Marseille or Avignon or Lyon, you just board the train any time before the doors close, just like any other train.  You still only check-in once!

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2015

Eurostar un-simplifies fares...

Last year, Eurostar simplified its fares, a really excellent move.  There's now only one fare type, all changeable but non-refundable, and tickets went sensibly single-leg where a round trip is simply two one-ways.  Competing airlines and most European trains all quote single-leg fares as in 'from £34.99 each way' and this brought Eurostar into line with the way trains and planes are usually ticketed and fares quoted in  the 21st century.  For passengers, single-leg ticketing makes everything simple:  You can go outward via Paris but back via Lille or Brussels.  If your return date isn't open for booking yet, no problem, just book your outward and book the return later when booking opens.  The 2014 fares were £34.50 one-way, twice this at £69 for a round trip.  In March 2015 the fares went up to £36 one-way, £72 return, no big deal.  But last week (a mere month later) the one-way was raised to £41 without changing the return fare at £72, upsetting the whole single-leg concept.  In Standard premier (1st class) the round trip has actually reduced so it's now £110 one-way but £159 return, an even bigger penalty for those who cannot book a straight out and back return journey to a single destination all at the same time.  Unfortunately, it's the one-way fares which are the headline price in today's competitive world.  I hope they reconsider and restore a simple single-leg fare structure.  And before you ask, yes, the UK fares structure needs to go single-leg too.  In my opinion it's the biggest single problem with UK inter-city rail fares.  But that's another story...

Autoslaaptrein (Dutch Motorail) folds...

Shocking news is that EETC - better known as Autoslaaptrein or Dutch Motorail, www.autoslaaptrein.nl - have thrown in the towel and ceased trading.  Instead of cleaning up with all the extra passengers following their competitors DB Autozug discontinuing virtually all motorail service last year, it seems EETC has been hot by massive increases in track access fees, haulage charges and of course the rise in the Swiss Franc.  From two competing motorail providers from northern Europe to Italy last year, there are now none.  European motorail is now virtually dead.  When will the EU act to ensure a proper track access charging regime which reflects the true marginality of running an extra train on existing tracks?  It now seems that a Dusseldorf to Verona Motorail train has been saved, and will operate in summer 2015 with the Autoslaaptrein rolling stock, see www.treinreiswinkel.nl/autotrein/italie/dusseldorf-bolzano.

GoRail to end all Estonia-Russia train service...

GoRail, Estonia's long-distance train operator, is to end all train service between Tallinn and Moscow and Tallinn & St Petersburg as from mid-May 2015.  They cite political tensions, the falling rouble and a drop in tourism.  This leaves Estonia increasingly poorly-connected to its neighbours.  A fast ferry to Helsinki (1h30) and the excellent Allegro train to St Petersburg (3h36) or the equally excellent overnight sleeper train Tolstoi to Moscow may now be the best options, unless you like spending whole days strapped to a bus seat.  See www.railjournal.com/index.php/europe/estonia-%E2%80%93-russia-gorail-services-to-cease.html?channel=537.  There's now a rumour that RZD (Russian Railways) will take over the Tallinn-Moscow train.

Pamukkale Express becomes a daytime train...

In Turkey, the Istanbul-Denizli Pamukkale Express was reintroduced in January as a sleeper train but from April becomes a daytime train.  It seems the sleeper format wasn't a success - I doubt they gave it long enough, resuming after a break of several years.  The daytime format allows it to serve smaller places along the way.

Odds and ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2015

Jo'burg - Komatipoort reinstated...

At last some good news from South Africa.  Shosholoza Meyl have reinstated the Jo'burg-Pretoria-Komatipoort train, allowing train travel from Johannesburg to Mozambique once more.  And there are tourist sleepers as well as economy seats.  See the Mozambique page.

Upcoming trips in April & May which you can follow on Twitter...

I've a couple of trips planned in the next few weeks, and you can follow my progress on Twitter if you like.  On 11 April I'll be riding the Russian Railways Paris-Moscow train between Paris & Strasbourg.  I've booked my tickets using the Russian Railways website rzd.ru, somewhat fiddly but it worked and happily accepted my UK credit card.  On 1 May I'll be riding the first direct Eurostar from London (07:22) to Lyon, Avignon & Marseille, returning from Marseille on 2 May after (I hope) checking out the infamous Chateau d'If - think Count of Monte Cristo.  The return journey involves the controversial hour in Lille detraining, going through security and border control and getting back on.  How problematic is this really, in reality?  The only way I'll know is to do it myself...  Look out for more detailed information about these two trains appearing on seat61 in due course...

New pages:  How to use the Hungarian, Czech & Russian websites...

I've added several new pages, centralising and expanding the tips for using the Hungarian, Czech & Russian Railways websites.  As always, all comments gratefully received!

Raileurope.com adds connectivity to Trenitalia from 3 March...

This is a major step forward!  Train booking site Raileurope.com launched direct connectivity to Trenitalia's ticketing system on 3 March, allowing them to sell all of Trenitalia's cheap advance-purchase prices and issue e-tickets for all Trenitalia's trains.  This comes on top of Raileurope.com's direct connectivity to UK National Rail, SNCF in France, DB in Germany and Renfe in Spain.  Although other ticketing agencies such as uk.voyages-sncf can sell tickets for Italy, Spain & Germany, they can often only sell expensive 'TCV' full-price tickets which have to be sent to you by post at extra cost, they can't access the relevant operator's cheap advance-purchase fares or issue print-at-home e-tickets.  Using Raileurope.com you'll now be able to buy all your tickets from any station in Britain to any station in Italy, at the cheapest prices, with print-at-home or collect-at-station ticket delivery for every part of the trip, all in one place as one transaction.  Until now, I have recommended booking only as far as Milan or Turin using Raileurope.com, then switching to Trenitalia.com or Italiarail.com to buy a cheap advance-purchase e-ticket for the final leg from Milan or Turin to Florence, Venice, Rome or wherever.  Connection to Trenitalia completes Raileurope.com's connection to the 'Big Four', France, Germany, Italy & Spain.  Raileurope.com is not yet a complete one-stop shop for all European train tickets (you still need to use www.oebb.at for cheap tickets from Vienna to Prague or Budapest, www.sj.se for cheap tickets from Copenhagen to Stockholm, www.cd.cz/eshop for cheap tickets from Munich to Prague, etc etc.) but It gives them 73% coverage of western Europe train ticketing and this is as close as anyone has yet coming to being one.  And no, they're not a big Expedia-style corporation.  The two British entrepreneurs who have started Raileurope.com are regular train travellers just like us, who knew that train travel needs to become as easy as booking a flight!

Odds and ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2015

Belgrade-Bar line finally reopened after 2014 flood damage

Flood damage has been blocking the northern part of the Belgrade-Bar line since May 2014, with the daytime train cancelled and the overnight train leaving earlier and diverted via Lapovo.  I'm glad to say that as of 5 March 2015 the line seems to have been reopened and normal service has resumed, with both the daytime train and the overnight sleeper train now running as normal from Belgrade & Bar.

More bad news from the Baltics...

Major cutbacks in Latvia mean that the last 30km of the Riga-Valga rail route are replaced by a bus.  In the Tallinn to Riga direction, the bus now leaves minutes before the train from Tallinn arrives.  It's now impossible to travel between Riga and Tallinn by train.  Is joining the EU the kiss of death to cross-border transport?  I have added an update to the Latvia and Estonia pages.

Should Wroclaw be stripped of its 2016 European City of Culture status?

First the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow sleeper train got cut.  Then the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow daytime EuroCity train Wawel got cut back to Berlin-Wroclaw.  Then it disappeared completely in December 2014, a civilised train replaced by 5 hours strapped to a bus seat, as if Wroclaw was not a major city, but a remote village far distant from the European rail network.  In a month or two, all Dresden-Wroclaw regional trains will be cut, unbelievably (a) leaving a 2km gap across the border between rail services on either side and (b) leaving Wroclaw with no direct trains whatsoever to or from Germany & the West.  Can such a remote and inaccessible village possibly be European City of Culture 2016?  Perhaps the title should be reallocated to a city people can actually get to...  Wroclaw needs to wake up and reassert its need for proper links to the rest of Europe.

Paris-Moscow Express cut to weekly April-June, then 3 per week...

With the fall in the ruble and fewer travellers between Russia and the West, RZD has cut its flagship Paris-Moscow Express from 3-per-week winter, 5-per-week summer down to once a week April-June, then 3 times a week through the summer.  The 3-times-a-week Moscow-Prague and Moscow-Vienna train has been knocked back to once a week April-June too.

Major cutbacks to Sicily train ferries from June?  Update:  Cuts now rescinded!

It's looking as if the Italian government will impose massive cuts in the train ferry across the Straits of Messina linking mainland Italy with Sicily.  Both of the daytime InterCity trains between Rome, Naples & Palermo/Catania/Siracuse are likely to be discontinued, leaving just one overnight sleeper train running direct to and from Sicily via the train ferry.  Very sad...

Update:  Good news at last - it seems that this decision was rescinded yesterday, 17 February, and these trains have been saved.  They'll continue to run!

Odds and ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2015

New Russian sleeping-cars...

New Austrian-built sleeping-cars with 4-berth compartments went into service on the Paris-Moscow Express from 25 January (in addition to other cars) and the Warsaw-Moscow Polonez is exclusively made up of these new cars on the alternate days when it's the Russian's who provide the stock.  See panorama photo inside one of these modern sleepers.  I have updated the London to Moscow page and various other pages accordingly.  The booking arrangements are interesting, as reported by excellent Polish booking agency www.polrail.com:  Eastbound, these 4-bed sleepers only exist on the Polish reservations system as 2nd class 4-berth, so if you want dual or single occupancy you have to buy up multiple berths in one compartment.  Westbound there's no problem, as the Russian reservations system is configured book these compartments as 1st class single, 1st class double or 2nd class 4-berth.

Sud Express engineering work on Sat & Sun until further notice...

The Sud Express from the French border to Lisbon is replaced by a bus between Irun and Medina del Campo on Saturday & Sunday nights westbound, Sunday and Monday mornings eastbound, due to work on the North of Spain high-speed line.  Avoid those nights if you can!  The Madrid-Lisbon Lusitania is unaffected.  I have added a note to the London-Portugal page and sundry other pages.

The Pamukkale Express is back!

After having been suspended several years ago due to construction of the Istanbul-Ankara high-speed line, the Pamukkale Express is back from 19 January, running Eskisehir to Denizli (for the famous Pamukkale springs) overnight with sleeping-car with a high-speed connection from Istanbul.  See the Train Travel in Turkey page,

Raileurope.com now selling Spanish train tickets online.  Better than Renfe.com?

European train booking site Raileurope.com has now connected to Spanish Railways (Renfe) to sell Renfe trains at the same prices (give or take conversion into pounds) with the same print-at-home tickets as Renfe themselves, but in plain English without www.renfe.com's confusing English translations and its annoying habit of rejecting overseas credit cards.  Not only does this mean it's now easier to buy Spanish train tickets for travel wholly within Spain, it means that you can now book from any station in the UK to almost any station in Spain at the cheapest prices, all in one place.  It also means that journeys such as Paris to Malaga or Amsterdam to Alicante can also be booked as one transaction in one place, thanks to Raileurope.com also connecting to the UK, French and German ticketing systems and its ability to combine tickets sourced from each system.  Previously, you had to book different parts of the journey in different places if you wanted the cheapest prices for each leg.  I have updated most of the booking advice on the UK to Spain page, Train travel in Spain page, and on the 'International trains from...' pages for Barcelona & Spain, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne and so on.  Now, if they'd just connect to Trenitalia...

Thello adding two more Milan-Genoa-Nice trains from 12 April...

Thello launched a Milan-Nice-Marseille train in December, the times for their two additional Milan-Nice trains from 12 April are now available, so I have updated the 'trains from...' pages for Nice, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome & Naples.

New Jubilee Express train in Zambia...

A new weekly express train with sleepers has been introduced between Livingstone, Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi and Kitwe, see the Zambia page for times, fares & photos.

Tazara international trains restored...

Direct Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi international trains are running once more, as of 30 December.  The change of train at the border implemented in August is now thankfully just a short-lived failed experiment.  They system then ground to a halt with a strike, but as of 18 January the route is now open and running again.

Odds and ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2014

South Africa cuts:  No more trains to Messina or Komatipoort

There have been two more casualties in the round of cuts in Shosholoza Meyl trains in South Africa.  All remaining trains between Jo'burg & Komatipoort (for Maputo in Mozambique) and Messina (for the Zimbabwe border) have been cut.  When is the best time for a visit to South Africa?  Thirty years ago, when it all worked!

New:  Two daily Istanbul-Konya high-speed trains...

From 18 December 2014, two daily high-speed YHT trains started running from Istanbul (which until the engineering work is completed, means Pendik, some 25km east of Haydarpasa) direct to Konya in 4h15.  Istanbul to Konya used to mean a lengthy overnight sleeper train journey - it can now be done in just over 4 hours, as a day trip from Istanbul!  Details are now on the Turkey page.

Hanoi - Beijing changes...

It seems the twice-weekly Beijing-Dong Dang through train with its Vietnamese metre-gauge connection to Hanoi has been discontinued, in favour of putting passengers on the main Beijing-Nanning domestic train then letting them use the Nanning-Hanoi sleeper train, which seems to have reduced from daily to twice a week.  Details now available on the Vietnam page.

Russia cancels train to/from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan...

Have a look at this report from TASS:  http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/765766 .  Although it now seems Kiev-Moscow trains will remain, run with Ukrainian rolling stock, and only unprofitable trains will be discontinued on other routes, with Moscow-Kazakhstan direct trains unlikely to be affected and some through cars between Moscow and Azerbaijan still provided.

Online booking for Vietnamese trains...

DSVN have launched online booking for trains in Vietnam.  It's currently only in Vietnamese, but looks easy enough to use with a little help from Google Translations.  It's not yet proven that it will accept overseas cards, feedback would be appreciated!

Timetable change across Europe, 14 December...

As every year, the timetable changes on the second Sunday in December.  Bookings for dates after the change for German trains opened 14 Oct, bookings for French trains will open 16 Oct, many Italian high-speed trains are already open but other Italian trains and many eastern European trains may not open until early November.  Highlights (and lowlights) of the new timetable include:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2014

Eurostar simplifies fares & cuts the one-way fare to £34.50...

Eurostar has simplified its fares.  London to Paris or Brussels is no longer £69 return, but £39 one-way.  Now the one-way fare is sensibly half of the round trip fare, at £34.50.  And there are no longer two fares for every class, one cheap but no refunds, no changes, the other expensive but refundable.  Now there's just one fare for each class on any given train, all fares can be changed for a fee plus any difference in price, and all fares (as with many budget airline fares) are non-refundable.  Overall, I think this is a great step forward.

Train cutbacks in South Africa...

The excellent Premier Classe trains between J'burg and Port Elizabeth, and Jo'burg and Durban, have been discontinued, leaving just the Cape Town - Jo'burg route.  Shosholoza Meyl tourist sleeper trains have been cut back to just twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, on those routes as well.  I do wonder what they're up to - in SA, it does seem as if the lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

That's all Folks!  End of sleeper trains to Copenhagen...

No more City Night Line sleeper trains between Copenhagen and Cologne, Amsterdam, Switzerland or Prague.  It seems Denmark isn't important any more - DFDS withdrew the ferry from the UK to Denmark in September, after almost 140 years of operation.  Journeys from London to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo and so on all now require an overnight hotel stop somewhere like Hamburg.  Journey times are extended, and the price goes up.  I've edited the site as best I can to remove all references to these withdrawn sleepers, but do tell me if I've left in a reference to the sleepers to Copenhagen somewhere.  After being an integral part of all long-haul overland travel to Scandinavia for so long, it's difficult to disentangle all the information for the brave new stopover-in-Hamburg world.  And if you still haven't heard, the sleeper train between Paris and Berlin, Munich & Hamburg will disappear into history from the timetable change in mid-December.  What's Europe coming to?

Timetable change across Europe, 14 December...

As every year, the timetable changes on the second Sunday in December.  Bookings for dates after the change for German trains opened 14 Oct, bookings for French trains will open 16 Oct, many Italian high-speed trains are already open but other Italian trains and many eastern European trains may not open until early November.  Highlights (and lowlights) of the new timetable include:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointOctober 2014

Venice Simplon Orient Express!

I'm delighted that thanks to a press trip from London to Paris on the VSOE arranged by www.railbookers.com last week, I've been able to dramatically improve, re-write and extend the Venice Simplon Orient Express page with new photos and information about this classic train. 

Problems with trains from Moscow to Belgrade, Sofia, Budapest...

News just in, RZD (Russian Railways) has halted all trains to the Balkans.  Details here:  www.europebyrail.eu/russia-suspends-direct-rail-services-to-balkan-region.

Sri Lanka opens line all the way to Jaffna......

The line to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka reopened this week.  Times now shown on the Sri Lanka page.

New high-speed trains link Beijing with Guilin & Nanning in a single day.

The opening of the Hengyang - Liuzhou high-speed line has allowed two direct high-speed G-category trains to link Beijing with Guilin & Nanning in a single day for the first time ever.  The classic sleeper trains take over 24 hours!  Details on the China page.

Odds 'n ends this month...

large bullet pointSeptember 2014

New page:  Paris to Nice by train...

I've added a Paris to Nice by train page, as this is a popular route, with much airline competition and I thought it was overdue for its own page!  As ever, comments welcome.

End of the DFDS Harwich-Esbjerg ferry after 140 years...

As previously reported, after 140 years, DFDS ended all ferry service between the UK and Denmark on 29 September, see the Denmark page.  Ironically, the EU's new low-sulphur fuel laws for ferries have helped kill it, part of their apparent shift2air policy.  A sad loss.  Incredibly, there are now no passenger ferries at all between the UK and anywhere in Scandinavia.

Bookings for dates after the European timetable change on 14 Dec...

A new timetable starts all across Europe from 14 December. As usual, the 90-day booking horizon will be squeezed to as little as 60 days.  Bookings for dates after 14 Dec for trains to, from or within France are expected to open 16 October, for trains to, from or within Germany probably 14 October.  80% of Italian high-speed trains are already open until January (isn't it amazing what a little competition from Italo can do!) but the rest (based on previous years) probably won't open until early November.

Russia switching from GMT+4 to GMT+3 in October...

Russia abolished Daylight Saving Time on 2011 and switched to GMT+4 all year.  They have now changed their minds as they don't like the dark mornings, and will switch again, to GMT+3 all year, as from 26 October.

New Thello Milan-Nice-Marseille train from 14 December...

At last some good news.  Thello (a consortium of Trenitalia and whoever Veolia are calling themselves this week) will start a daily direct Milan-Genoa-San Remo - Monte Carlo - Nice - Cannes - Marseille train using Frecciabianca stock from the timetable change on 14 December.  It offers a connection out of Eurostar's planned London-Marseille train.  London to Monte Carlo, San Remo or Genoa with 1 change and no need to cross Paris, anyone?

Eurostar's new direct London-Lyon-Avignon-Marseille service from May 2015...

Provisional details of the days of running and timings for Eurostar's new London-Marseille service are now shown here.

New video tutorials...

You'll start seeing various video tutorials around the site, helping people use booking sites such as Renfe, Raileurope.com, Trenitalia and Bahn.de/en to buy tickets.  You can see the full set on the Seat61 YouTube Channel.  I was undecided whether these were helpful reassurance, or an unnecessary sledgehammer to crack a nut.  However, feedback so far suggests people find them a useful reassurance.

New video:  Beijing to Shanghai by high-speed sleeper train

The second of two new videos from China is now live on the Beijing to Shanghai page.

Latest on major City Night Line cutbacks planned for Nov/Dec...

It still looks certain that all German City Night Line sleepers trains to and from Copenhagen will cease from 1 November.  The Paris to Berlin/Hamburg/Munich sleeper train will also be cut from December, and the Amsterdam to Prague and Warsaw sleeper will be cut back to run Cologne-Warsaw/Prague only, with separate connections from Amsterdam.  Amsterdam to Munich/Zurich will remain, as will other CNL sleeper trains between Germany and Switzerland & Italy.

Odds 'n ends this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2014

New video:  Shanghai to Beijing, 824 miles in 4h55

As promised, the first of two videos is now live on the new Beijing to Shanghai page.

New page:  Beijing to Shanghai by train

I've added a page explaining the train times, prices, classes, boarding procedures of the Beijing-Shanghai train journey, both by sleeper and high-speed train.  Videos will follow...  I've also updated and extended the general Train Travel in China page considerably.

Reprieve for Tazara - sort of...

They are still going to cut the Tazara service in half, but there will no longer be a 121km gap between Tanzanian and Zambian trains.  Both trains will at least now connect at Nakondé.  Details in the Tazara section.

Major City Night Line cutbacks planned for November/December...

It now looks certain that all German City Night Line sleepers trains to and from Copenhagen will cease from the timetable change in mid-December (update - now probably 1 November).  The Paris to Berlin/Hamburg/Munich sleeper train will also be cut from December, and the Amsterdam to Prague and Warsaw sleeper will be cut back to run Cologne-Warsaw/Prague only, with separate connections from Amsterdam.

A seat61 trip to China...

I visited Beijing and Shanghai in early August, so watch out for an improved China page and videos of the Beijing-Shanghai sleeper journey and a Shanghai to Beijing journey by G-category high-speed train.  819 miles in 4h55!

Odds 'n ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2014

Istanbul-Ankara high-speed trains from 26 July...

They said 29 May, but cable theft delayed things.  Then it seemed high-speed trains may start running from Pendik, 25km east of Istanbul, to Ankara from 5 July.  But now it's been delayed again until 11 July, due to the Minister's ill health, or so they say.  NOW it looks as if the formal opening will be 25 July, with public service of 6 trains a day each way starting next day.  Details of this proposed service are now posted on the Train Travel in Turkey page.

Tazara train service to be cut in two? 

In a press release issued on 4 July 2014, Tazara officials appear to announce that Tazara's Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi passenger service will be cut in two either side of the Tanzania/Zambia border, with one service operating between Dar es Salaam & Mbeya and a separate Zambian service running between Nakonde & Kapiri Mposhi, with a trainless gap of some 121 km between them across the border where passengers will have to find alternative transport.  Further details are not yet available, but the Tanzania & Zambia page will be updated when the situation becomes clearer.

Alcohol restriction on Thai stations and trains from 11 July....

A beer in the restaurant car or bought from a vendor on a 3rd class train from the Cambodian border - another of life's small pleasures gone.  State Railways of Thailand have banned the sale & consumption of alcohol from 11 July as a knee-jerk reaction to a specific incident.  A private 1st class sleeper and locked door may be the answer!

The Trieste tram is back in action!

The wonderful historic tram from Trieste to Villa Opicina on the Slovenian border is back in action after a long period of closure for refurbishment.  The formal reopening was on the 11 July, with public service due to resume some days later.  It's the only tram in the world to become a funicular as it climbs the steep escarpment out of Trieste.  It forms part of an excellent way to get from Venice & Trieste to Ljubljana and Zagreb without using a bus, see this page for details & photos of the tram.  It's just unfortunate that the Sezana-Ljubljana line in Slovenia is currently STILL bus-replaced following extensive damage to the line and its overhead wires last winter.

Kazakhstan visa-free for trial period, 15 July 2014 to 15 July 2015...

Kazakhstan no longer requires UK nationals to get a visa for stays of up to 15 days, at least for a trial period from 15 July 2014 to 15 July 2015.

Mongolia goes visa-free for UK citizens, at least until Dec 2015.

UK & many EU citizens can now enter Mongolia visa-free for up to 30 days for business or tourism from now until 31 December 2015, under a trial arrangement agreed by the Mongolian government.

Odds 'n ends this month...

 

large bullet pointJune 2014

New video:  Vienna to London by train in a single day...

Well, the title says it all - check out the new video here.  Taken on my return from the Amadeus Rail conference in Vienna.  More videos have now been added as well, see my YouTube channel...

End of City Night Line sleepers to Copenhagen in December?

It now looks almost certain that all CNL sleeper trains between Copenhagen and Amsterdam/Cologne, Basel & Prague will cease from the timetable change in mid-December.  Coupled with the end of the century-old Harwich-Esbjerg DFDS ferry in September, Scandinavia will become (like Madrid & Andalusia last December) a place you can only reach with an overnight stop, negating the saving of the Channel Tunnel and high-speed rail.

Odds 'n ends this month...

 

large bullet pointMay 2014

Eurostar to offer all-year direct train London-Lyon-Avignon-Marseille from 2015...

It's reported that after a successful trial in 2013, Eurostar will expand their long-standing summer-Saturdays London-Avignon train, offering an all-year-round direct Eurostar from London to Lyon, Avignon & Marseilles.  Timings are likely to allow a weekend away in Lyon or even Avignon.

New Caledonian Sleeper franchise:  New carriages, new classes...

Serco has been awarded the 15-year franchise to run and revitalise the Caledonian Sleeper franchise, running sleeper trains between London and Scotland.  They will order 72 new cars from CAF to equip the two nightly 16-car trains in each direction from summer 2018, and the new trains will include business class sleepers with en suite toilet and shower, flatbed pods, and cradle seats.  One report refers in passing to standard sleepers without the en suite.  There will also be a 'brasserie-style' lounge car.  See www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-27599963.

Flooding in Bosnia & Serbia

Floods have damaged the routes between Belgrade & Bar, Zagreb & Sarajevo, Belgrade and Nis/Sofia /Thessaloniki.  I expect the Zegreb-Sarajevo line will be out of action for some time, as Bosnian Railways have appealed for help to fix it, they haven't the resources to do it on their own.  Last week, Belgrade-Bar trains were getting through, but diverted via Lapovo, taking several hours longer!  As always, it's easy to find news that flooding has happened, less easy to find news of what's currently happening and difficult to find news that the flooding is over, as this isn't considered news.  I won't try and keep up with 'real time' issues on seat61, but check on the relevant railway operator websites if you're heading that way.

International trains to Greece are back!

All international trains to and from Greece were cancelled in February 2011 due to the Greek government's dire financial straits.  I'm pleased to say that from today, 10 May, two international trains resume, and overnight one from Belgrade to Thessaloniki and a daytime one between Sofia and Thessaloniki.  The London & Paris to Greece page has details as do the trains from Greece, trains from Sofia and trains from Belgrade pages.

End of the DFDS Harwich-Esbjerg ferry after 140 years...

After 140 years, DFDS have announced that all ferry service between the UK and Denmark will end in September, see the Denmark page.  Ironically, environmental laws for ferries have helped kill it.  A sad loss.

Odds 'n ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2014

Save money on British train fares by split-ticketing...

Independent UK train ticket retailer www.raileasy.com has created a new journey planner to see if buying multiple tickets will save you money over buying one through ticket ('split-ticketing) - just click 'split ticketing' top right.  The system shows what the saving is, and allows you to click and buy all the suggested tickets as one transaction, just as easily as buying one ticket.  It works very well with off-peak and anytime fares, ideal to save money over expensive long-distance train fares if you have to travel at short notice, although it doesn't seem to show up as many split-ticket options with cheaper advance-purchase fares.  Give it a go!  See the 'Split-ticketing' section on the Train Travel in Britain page.

Ankara-Istanbul high-speed trains from 29 May?

It's possible that YHT high-speed trains will finally start running between Ankara and Pendik, a suburban station 25km east of Istanbul, from 29 May.

Cheaper locals-rate train fares in Burma?

It's reported by several travellers - but not, it seems, confirmed anywhere online - that the Burmese government has stopped charging higher US dollar train fares to foreigners.  Visitors can now pay the same rate as locals, and in local currency (in other words, kyat).  A Rangoon-Mandalay ticket which was $30 might now be the local-currency equivalent of $17.  Feedback would be appreciated if you're heading to Burma!

Update on restored trains to/from Greece...

The Greek government ended all international rail service to or from Greece in 2011.  However, it's now looking as if two trains will be restored from 10 May 2014, an overnight Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki and a Sofia-Thessaloniki, both with train connections to/from Athens.  Proposed fares and times are on the relevant parts of the London-Greece page and the International trains from Sofia, Belgrade and Athens pages.  See this news report (you can translate from Greek using Google Chrome): www.imerisia.gr/article.asp?catid=26510&subid=2&pubid=113250552.

Restored European Rail Timetable sells out in its first month...

It seems that copies of the first edition of the reborn ex-Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable sold out in March, its first month.  Order your April edition now!  www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

Odds 'n ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2014

Problems with online booking, SailRail tickets via Stena Line's Belfast-Birkenhead ferry...

Stena Line used to offer online booking for the excellent SailRail tickets between Belfast and cities such as London, Birmingham & Manchester, using their own ferry reservation system on their own website, where it was easy to add the necessary cabin reservation.  I booked my family & I from Belfast to London that way myself last year.  But now, if you go to www.stenaline.co.uk/ferries-to-ireland/rail-sail it tries to farm you out to thetrainline.com, a rail industry retailer without access to the Stena Line reservation system and unable to reserve the necessary cabin.  Several seat61 correspondents have tried to call Stena Line after buying a ticket at thetrainline.com to add a cabin, but it seems Stena cannot add a cabin to a booking which has been made on the rail industry reservations system to which they don't have access.  One traveller complained, and to their credit Stena's customer car department did eventually sort him out with a cabin.  Since most people want a cabin on this route, certainly on the overnight crossing, this has effectively rendered online sales useless for the overnight Belfast-Birkenhead route.  Worse, the phone number given on that page of the Stena Line website is thetrainline's number, which is equally useless for booking a SailRail ticket with a cabin on this route.  The solution is to ignore what the Stena Line website says and call Stena Line's 'real' SailRail telesales number instead (08445 762 762) which is not mentioned on that page of their site at all, but on which the helpful Stena Line staff will sort you out with a great value SailRail ticket between Belfast and London or any other rail station in Britain via their Belfast-Liverpool (Birkenhead) ferry, complete with that mission-critical cabin reservation!  This up to date advice about booking this route is now at www.seat61.com/train-and-ferry-to-belfast.htm#How_to_buy_tickets.

Greece to be reconnected to mainland Europe at Easter?

If it happens, it's wonderful news.  The Greek government discontinued all international trains to and from Greece back in 2011, leaving Greece cut off.  But there are now credible rumours that a Belgrade-Thessaloniki train will resume, at least June-September or possibly daily all year from 25 April onwards.  The recently-discontinued Budapest-Sarajevo train and two Zagreb-Belgrade trains may also resume from the timetable change in December 2014.  I'll keep this post updated, as well as showing details on the London to Greece page.

Thomas Cook Timetable reborn...

The first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable is now on sale, www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

Odds & ends this month...

  • Channel Islands:  I've had a report that combined train & ferry tickets from any station in Britain to the Channel islands are no longer available.  The fares are still in the rail ticketing system, according to station staff, but Condor Ferries are allegedly refusing to continue making reservations.  I am investigating...

  • France pulled out of being one of the Eurail Selectpass countries in January 2013 (so France couldn't be one of the 2 or 3 chosen countries on a Eurail Selectpass, even though it remained included in the Europe-wide Eurail Global Pass) but it'll once more be a Selectpass option country from April 2014.

  • No more bistro cars on City Night Line sleeper trains from 1 April  CNL will cease providing bistro cars on those relatively few trains that still have them, from 1 April 2014.  The sleeper train from Paris to Berlin & Munich swapped its bistro car for an extra sleeping-car and couchette car to reinstate a Paris-Hamburg connection a couple of years ago.  From memory the only sleeper train on an ex-UK route that had a bistro car (and then only on the Hamburg-Copenhagen section) was the one to and from Copenhagen.  I have not yet seen this report confirmed, but I'm 90% sure it's true, and have removed reference to the bistro car on the Amsterdam/Cologne - Copenhagen sleeper.

  • Warsaw-Vilnius:  Looks like the trackwork which is blocking this route could go on until July 2015, in spite of hopes that trains would resume in April 2014.  Updates will be posted on the Lithuania page.

  • Bikes & London-Amsterdam Dutch Flyer:  Stena Line will no longer let people using Dutch Flyer combined train & ferry tickets add a bike to the booking, neither online nor in a phone call - allegedly, train companies complained about too many people taking bikes.  You now need to buy separate ferry and train tickets, instructions for taking your bike on the Dutch Flyer service are now updated here.

 

large bullet pointFebruary 2014

Barcelona-Granada trenhotel to continue running...

Bookings for this train suddenly stopped in late February, and it was assumed this sleeper train was being discontinued.  Bookings have now suddenly opened until late April.  A reprieve, or wasn't it really threatened in the first place, just Renfe being appalling at opening reservations far enough in advance?  Who knows?  However, with an earlier 20:00 rather than 22:00 departure from Barcelona, it no longer connects off the afternoon TGV from Paris.

Voucher code:  10% off Eurostar fares from 31 Jan to 28 Feb...

I have access to a voucher code that'll get you 10% off any class of Eurostar ticket booked between 31 January and 28 February 2014 at the Belgian Railways site www.b-europe.co.uk.  For details see the Seat 61 Eurostar page.

Eurostar starts selling through tickets to 6 German cities...

At www.eurostar.com you can now buy through tickets from London to Aachen, Cologne, Bonn or Dusseldorf from £49.50, London to Frankfurt from £79.50 and London to Munich from £97.50.  Tickets are valid on the specific Eurostar you book, but are then valid on any onward ICE train from Brussels to Germany that same day.  Seat reservation is not possible on the ICE if you book with Eurostar this way, but on the plus side you can stop off in Brussels and simply take a later ICE if you like, sitting in any empty unreserved seat.  I'd still recommend checking prices for London Spezials at www.bahn.de (which can in theory get you to Frankfurt or Munich from €59) but when there are no cheap Spezials available these new Eurostar through fares could be just the ticket.

Paris-Barcelona TGVs from 31 March onwards...

Booking is now open for Paris-Barcelona TGVs from 31 March onwards, at least on Raileurope.com & Renfe as at 17 Feb, it should open on captaintrain & voyages-sncf.com on 25 Feb.  It was hoped that the two daily services would increase to four from 31 March, but it now seems that it will become just 3 per day at this stage, as shown on the Paris to Barcelona TGV page.

large bullet pointDecember 2013

New video!  Intercités de Nuit

I've now added a video guide to French overnight couchette trains, see the Intercités de Nuit page.

New video!  Barcelona to Paris by TGV

I've now added a video to showcase the Barcelona-Paris journey by high-speed train, past the Pyrenees, along the Mediterranean and up the Rhone Valley, see the video on the Paris to Barcelona TGV page.

New info & photos on the London to Spain page!  Revamped French overnight train page.

I travelled from Barcelona to Paris on the new direct TGV Duplex service on Monday 16 December, only the second day of operation.  Spanish TV news crews were everywhere at Barcelona Sants!  It was a remarkably interesting journey, arriving in Paris 3 minutes ahead of schedule.  I've now improved the London  to Spain page and the Paris-Barcelona TGV page with photos of the journey, showing what there is to see.  I travelled out by Intercité de Nuit couchette train on the scenic route via Latour de Carol.  Full details of overnight alternatives have now been added to the London  to Spain page with photo of the scenic Latour route.  It's also allowed a significant revamp of the Intercités de Nuit French overnight trains page.

Raileurope.com re-brands as uk.voyages-sncf.com

Rail Europe Ltd (the UK Rail Europe, not to be confused with Rail Europe Inc in North America or Rail Europe 4A operating in Australia, Asia, Africa & S America) has re-branded as Voyages-sncf.com, uk.voyages-sncf.com.  Is it now the same as www.voyages-sncf.com?  Erm, no, not exactly.  Although uk.voyages-sncf.com and www.voyages-sncf.com now appear identical (other than prices on the former being in pounds, of course), uk.voyages-sncf.com is powered by the original raileurope.com booking engine, not by the main voyages-sncf.com engine.  That means that there are small but significant functionality differences between them, although in theory prices are the same.  For example www.voyages-sncf.com allows you to specify a 'via' station, very useful for finding journeys via Lille rather than Paris, it gives you a range of seating options including upper or lower deck on a TGV Duplex, table for four or table for two, and so on, and it sells the cheaper iDTGV trains on certain routes in France, whereas uk.voyages-sncf.com does not, it assigns your seat and you get what you're given.  Click here for a comparison of features of each site selling French train tickets.  If you want to use the main SNCF voyages-sncf.com website with prices in euros, you need to follow the advice here.

Direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs are GO from 15 December, with 4 trains per day from March!

It's now definite.  The two daily Paris-Figueres TGVs will be extended to/from Barcelona as from 15 December, with fares from €59 each way.  Southbound departures from Paris at 07:15 & 14:07 from 15 December to 30 March, from 31 March there will be 4 per day, at 07:15, 10:07, 14:07 & 16:07, see the Paris to Barcelona TGV page.  Northbound departures from Barcelona will initially be 09:20 and 16:20, saving a few minutes over the current time.  From 31 March there will be four departures from Barcelona to Paris, at 06:15, 09:20, 13:20 & 16:20.  The new trains will go on sale by the end of November, for travel from 15 December onwards.  The Elipsos trenhotels now seem certain to cease running from 15 December.

Timetable change on 15 December:  The significant changes...

Major changes from 15 December include:

  • At last, a direct Vienna-Venice daytime train has been reinstated, via the direct and highly-scenic Semmering route, without the need to switch to an ÖBB-run bus at Villach.  It will be a comfortable Austrian EuroCity train, although won't have a restaurant, just a minibar.

  • Direct TGVs have finally started between Paris and Barcelona, see the news item above.  Direct AVEs between Barcelona and Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse have also started.  More TGVs/AVEs are due to begin running from 31 March, including a direct TGV from Barcelona to Geneva.

  • Russian Railways have withdrawn direct sleeping-cars between Western Europe and Moscow, including Basel-Frankfurt-Moscow, leaving them to concentrate on their complete trains Paris-Berlin-Moscow and Nice-Moscow.  Warsaw-Moscow is not affected.  Vienna-Moscow & Prague-Moscow remain, and are speeded up, but reduced from daily to 3 times a week.

  • Thello Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper has been discontinued.  The Paris-Milan-Verona-Venice sleeper remains, with connections at Milan for Florence & Rome.

  • Paris-Bern direct TGV-Lyria is diverted via Basel, saving 15 minutes. But Neuchatel loses it's direct train to Paris.

  • The Paris-Berlin/Munich/Hamburg City Night Line sleeper train has been re-routed via Strasbourg instead of Metz, not that this makes much difference.

  • Amsterdam/Cologne/Basel to Warsaw Jan Kiepura EuroNight sleeper train is now attached to a Berlin-Warsaw Express between Berlin  and Warsaw, instead of running as a separate train. This means an hour or more later arrival in Warsaw eastbound, an hour earlier departure westbound, but at least it keeps it running.

Odds and ends this month...

  • Thalys have introduced luggage limits.  Very generous ones, it's true, but the thin end of the wedge?  Trains simply don't need such limits, they don't have to take off, no-one will weigh or measure your bags, and as access to the train is free, you just need to dodge the staff to take what you like.  Why do they feel the need to do it??  Have they appointed a manager from the airline industry who really doesn't understand trains?

  • New section on facilities at Barcelona Sants station added to the London  to Spain page, given that with the elimination of the Elipsos trainhotels and introduction of direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs, the whole axis for London-Spain or Paris-Spain journeys has shifted from via Madrid to via Barcelona, even when travelling to Seville or Malaga or Granada.

  • Turkey has announced that e-visas will become compulsory from April 2014.  You'll no longer be able to buy a visa at the border.

large bullet pointNovember 2013

Sud Express & Lusitania lose their restaurant cars?

According to www.cp.pt, the Madrid-Lisbon and Irun-Lisbon trainhotels will lose their restaurant cars, relying on a cafe bar only.  Preferente and Gran Clase fares will be reduced, and will no longer include dinner or breakfast.

Ice axes now OK on Eurostar.

In a welcome policy change, Eurostar now officially (as well as unofficially) allows ice axes on its trains:  https://www.thebmc.co.uk/eurostar-confirms-change-of-policy-on-ice-axes

Details of new high-speed service to/from Barcelona now emerging...

It now seems that the France-Barcelona high-speed service will indeed start in earnest on 15 December.  It now seems that the initial two trains a day between Paris & Barcelona will become 4 from the end of March 2014, see the newly-updated Paris to Barcelona by train page, and that the Spanish AVE high-speed trains between Barcelona and French cities will indeed also start running.  From 15 December 2013, departures from Barcelona will look like this:

09:20 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 15:53.

10:28 Perpignan, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Toulouse 13:31

16:20 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 22:45

17:33 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Lyon 22:24

18:32 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Marseille 22:58

From 31 March 2014:

06:15 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 12:45.

07:29 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Lyon 12:24

09:20 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 15:53

10:28 Perpignan, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Toulouse 13:31, with portion for Montpelier, Marseille 14:50, change for Nice.

13:29 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 19:53

14:29 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Geneva 21:16, change for Bern, Zurich 00:33.

16:20 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Paris 22:45

17:33 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Lyon 22:24

18:32 Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpelier, Marseille 22:58, portion for Carcassonne, Toulouse.

Seat61.com now faster to load...

I've enabled Gzip compression (no, I didn't know what that was either, until a week ago) which compresses large html files for download by web browsers, I've switched various page components to asynchronous loading (so they don't hold up the loading of the main page info), I've removed a couple of slow-loading javascript items from every page.  The result should be a website that's significantly faster to load, handy when many pages are necessarily larger than the average site.  Will anyone notice other than subconsciously?  I think I can tell the difference, but do let me know if you notice anything..

Raileurope.com adds 'any British station' booking...  Read about it on BBC News

Raileurope.com have achieved a major step forward for train booking from the UK into Europe.  On 12 November, they enabled booking from any British rail station, not just London.  You can now book from any local British station to most European cities as one transaction.  Their website combines a ticket to London International CIV (the type of ticket described here) with an onward ticket from London to western European destinations booked through the French or German ticketing systems.  All your train times are worked out, with sufficient time to connect across London.  And if your UK train is delayed, you're covered by the CIV International Conditions of Carriage, and are entitled to be carried forward on later train at no extra cost to you.

New Spirit of Queensland train starts, Brisbane-Cairns...

A new 100mph tilt train with innovative 'railbed' flatbed seats started running in Queensland from 28 October, see here for details & photos.  It will replace the long-serving Sunlander from early in 2014.

Thomas Cook confirms agreement for European Timetable to continue...

See the Thomas Cook press release at www.thomascook.com/press-centre/thomas-cook-european-rail-timetable-lives-on.  The first edition of the reborn European Rail Timetable is likely to be out in February 2014.  The space to watch is www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

large bullet pointOctober 2013

New page:  Train travel in Germany...

I've added a new Train Travel in Germany page to pull together the various bits of advice, including a central place for info on the various special regional train tickets such as the Schone-wockenende ticket and Lander tickets.

Raileurope.com to be re-branded voyages-sncf.com in November...

In November, Rail Europe Limited (the UK Rail Europe, raileurope.com) will be rebranded as voyages-sncf.com and amalgamated with the other European versions of voyages-sncf.com.  However, at least initially it will be a re-branding rather than anything more.  The UK version of voyages-sncf.com will still feature the same booking engine, and you'll need to use another version of voyages-sncf.com if you want to pay in euros and be offered seating options.

Expanding the site:  European train info for non-UK journeys...

When I started seat61 10 years ago, I was primarily trying to fill the information gap for train journeys between the UK and mainland Europe.  I've now decided to improve coverage of train travel between major European cities not involving the UK, for example, Amsterdam to key European cities, Paris to key European cities, Vienna to key European cities, and so on.  I've now launched these new pages, and revised the site structure accordingly - see the new site map, and the revised Train Travel in Europe general page.  Just bear with me, as the new city-by-city pages themselves are still a work in progress.  You'll get an idea of what each should look like in the end by looking at the train departures from Amsterdam page which I think I've already got to a reasonable stage of completeness.  On these pages, I won't be spoon-feeding detailed train times as I do on the UK-based pages, as the update workload would be too much, but I'll outline train service with approximate times, and explain where to check current exact times and buy tickets.  Which is really what's needed, I think.

Direct TGVs Paris-Barcelona at last, from 15 December???

If you run an enquiry on the French version of voyages-sncf.com, you'll see direct TGVs between Paris and Barcelona have been loaded on dates after the timetable change on 15 December, although they are not yet bookable.  Assuming this isn't some test or glitch, it looks as if that's the date when these services will finally start.  Fastest journey seems to be just 6h16 - compared to a total of 4 hours or more by air.  It's not yet known what will happen to Elipsos after 15 December.

Paris-Florence-Rome Thello sleeper train withdrawn from December...

Thello have announced that with only 30% occupancy, they will withdraw their Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper from the December timetable change.  I'm sure if they hadn't mis-managed it so badly, it wouldn't have got such bad reviews, and more people would have used it.  They will instead offer integrated ticketing with high-speed daytime train connections to and from Milan - but do you really want to get up for a 05:38 arrival?  The daytime Paris to Milan TGV trains get far better reviews (in fact, almost always very good ones!).

Timetable change on 15 December:  When will booking open?

The winter timetable starts on 15 December 2013.  Bookings for French trains for 15 Dec 2013 until 16 January 2014 opened on 17 October.  Bookings for German trains appear to have opened on 14 October.  Italian & Spanish trains probably won't open until late October or early November.  The Jan Kiepura to Warsaw is always a problem train when timetable changes are concerned, as are Spanish trains.  Just sit tight!

large bullet pointSeptember 2013

Eurostar London to Amsterdam direct from Dec 2016...

Great news is that Eurostar is taking the plunge and will start 2 daily London-Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam trains from December 2016.  Arrangements for border controls have not yet been decided, but the basic agreement with NS (Dutch Railways) has been signed and Eurostar will use its new e320 trains on this run.  If DB start their three around the same time, there could be 5 trains daily.  Journey time could be as little as 3 hours 55 minutes, centre to centre with a 30-minute check-in.

Elipsos & direct TGVs Paris-Barcelona, latest update....

Elipsos trains and the Paris-Figueres TGVs are now only open for sale up until 17 November, and indeed it's now confirmed that Elipsos sleeper trains to Madrid 7 Barcelona will run 3 times a week at least up to the 14 December timetable change.  No, there's no more news on when exactly direct TGVs will start between Paris and Barcelona (and the direct Spanish AVEs between Barcelona and Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse), however, a report in this month's Today's Railways magazine suggests the delay could be as much political as technical, and direct TGVs may not now start until 2014.  I'll post and tweet any news when I get it!

www.thetrainline.com versus voyages-sncf.com

Regular visitors will notice I've switched to recommending Captaintrain instead of French Railways own site voyages-sncf.com. www.thetrainline.com is a private website that has been allowed to connect to SNCF's ticketing system after SNCF lost an (unrelated) court case about anti-competitive behaviour.  They sell the same tickets at the same prices as voyages-sncf, with the same lack of any fee and the same seating options.  Captaintrain has started gaining popularity in France, but until recently their site was only in French.  It's now been translated into English (indeed, I've helped them a bit with the translation!) and they've even started an affiliate scheme.  As Captaintrain has no Machiavellian redirects to the various Rail Europes, and as voyages-sncf has started generating a string of 'it's rejected my credit card' emails from Americans and Australians, I've simply switched to Captaintrain - same prices as voyages-sncf, same e-tickets, same lack of any fee, no redirects, no need to select your country, no credit card problems, at least none so far except for iDTGV which is a separate issue.  You need to register before using Captaintrain, but once registered it's faster to use than voyages-sncf.  You'll find a table assessing the features and fees on each of the possible websites for booking French train tickets here.

Anyone for a T-shirt?  Click here...

I've teamed up with local quality T-shirt retailer More T Vicar to offer a range of seat61 T-shirts, see the initial range here.  I'm donating commissions to the Unicef Syria appeal, www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/Emergencies/syrian-arab-republic-syria.

"Are budget airlines bad?"  A 5-minute interview at The Guardian...

A 5-minute interview between me and transport correspondent Gwyn Topham of The Guardian:  www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video

Odds & ends this month...

  • Munich to Prague:  I've added a Munich to Prague by train page not so much because this is a major branded train service, but because so (a) many people want to use this route yet (b) the information online is so poor, with many sites pushing people towards the competing (nastier but admittedly a bit faster) long-distance bus.  DB's website won't sell the cheap Munich-Prague fares from €19, you need the Czech website for this (but of course it doesn't tell you this!) and it tries to put you on the Munich-Prague bus it runs in conjunction with Student Agency.  So I thought I would try and do something about it.

  • Spain:  I've made the Brittany Ferries section into a separate page, by cruise ferry to Spain.  This will make it easier to find in searches and it will make the Spain page faster to load.

  • South Africa:  Good news, it's reported that the Johannesburg-Komatipoort (-Maputo, Mozambique) and Johannesburg-Messina (Zim border) Shosholoza Meyl economy sitter trains have regained a sleeping-car, sleeper fare R250, see the South Africa train travel page.

  • Thailand:  Trains replaced by buses between Uttaradit (485km from Bangkok) and Chiang Mai (751km from Bangkok) from 16 September to 31 October while 2.8bn baht of track improvement work is carried out.  This will prevent any further derailments.  Warning placed on the Thailand page.

  • Albania:  It seems Tirana's rail station has been closed, and buses are temporarily replacing trains between Vorë and Tiranë, possibly until November or maybe longer, who knows?  A new multi-modal station is being built, but so far no-one knows where...  I've placed a warning on the Albania page.  Feedback would be appreciated!  Unbelievably the Albanian Railways website is now working again, www.hsh.com.al but obviously no current info on this situation, that would be far too much to hope for!

  • Trans-Siberian:  I have been revamping the Trans-Siberian page, with extra photos of train 19/20, train 362, dining-car food, the Eastern Dream ferry from Vladivostok to Korea and Japan and more, thanks to seat61 correspondent David Smith.  I have simplified and combined the how to book eastbound and how to book westbound sections into one how to buy tickets section, to reduce duplication.

  • China:  I've been able to improve info about boarding trains in Beijing, thanks to seat61 correspondent Sunil Mehta - see the China page.

  • Portugal:  Sud Express to Lisbon...  In spite of it being a news item in the editorial of the Thomas Cook Timetable, and mentioned as a change in forums, and verified by timetable data at both renfe.com and bahn.de, feedback from travellers means I'm almost 99% certain that the Sud Express Irun to Lisbon was not in fact extended to start back in Hendaye, and so connect with the 12:27 TGV from Paris.  However, it seems the 12:27 has been extended to Irun, so still making this connection, at least on dates when this 12:27 runs.  The latest situation will be shown on the London to Portugal page.

  • Liechtenstein:  A long-standing omission has been rectified, a Liechtenstein section has been added to the Switzerland page.

  • Ukraine:  The London to Ukraine and Train Travel in Ukraine pages have been merged.

large bullet pointAugust 2013

New video!  Belfast to London overnight!

I've now added a video guide to the Belfast-London overnight journey via Stena Line's Belfast-Liverpool ferry, on the Northern Ireland page.

New videos!  London to Dublin, the civilised way...

After a recent trip I've added a video guide to the London to Dublin SailRail journey, on the London to Ireland page.

I've also added a video guide to the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train, on the Northern Ireland page.

New timetable in Vietnam...

The Vietnam page now shows the new timetable which came in in June.  The best SE1/2/3/4 trains are little changed, although good news is that the SE1/2 now calls at Binh Thuan, the mainline station for hopping in a taxi to/from the resorts of Mui Ne and Phan Thiet.  The secondary trains SE5/6 and 7/8 have changed their times significantly.

Diré-Dawa to Djibouti train resumes?

It's reported that the Djibouti-Diré Dawa train has resumed running in the last few days, having been suspended since August 2010.  Still no trains to/from Addis Ababa, though.

New page:  Train travel in Cameroon...

Thanks to information supplied by traveller Iain Bisset, I've been able to add a Cameroon page. As ever, all feedback gratefully received!

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2013

Flood aftermath causing re-timings & diversions for trains to Berlin...

If you're heading to or via Berlin, specifically on the Paris-Berlin City Night Line sleeper, Cologne-Berlin ICEs or Amsterdam-Berlin ICs, check times online at bahn.de/en.  The City Night Line sleeper appears to be leaving Paris earlier, at 18:44 on weekdays (which obviously also  affects carriages on the same train to Hamburg and Munich), and it seems to be diverted until further notice to Berlin Gesundbrunnen.  I can't keep up with short-notice changes on this site, so do please check online before booking critical connections.

Seat61 recommended on US breakfast TV, CBS This Morning...

I was delighted that CBS This Morning recommended seat61.com all across America on US breakfast TV, see http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50150832n.

Paris-Barcelona direct TGVs in October, and end of the Elipsos trainhotels?

This report - http://www.altavelocidad.org/index.php/alta-velocidad/item/1466-renfe-y-sncf-pactan-un-nuevo-calendario-para-el-despliegue-de-los-servicios-internacionales - suggests that Renfe and SNCF have set a new date at the end of October for the start of direct high-speed trains between Paris and Barcelona, and the new trains between Barcelona and Lyon and Toulouse.  It also suggests that both the Paris-Barcelona and Paris-Madrid sleeper trains will disappear at that time.

End of the Thomas Cook European Timetable...  Or not?

It's devastating news for regular European train travellers and booking agents.  Thomas Cook are closing down their entire timetable and guidebook publishing division, which means the closure of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, which recently celebrated 140 years of publication since its first edition in 1873.  The August 2013 edition will be the last.  Can any other publishing house take it over?  I hear the Timetable covered its costs, so this is presumably a 'strategic' 'business' decision, to heck with people.  Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do...  Can anyone out there take this august publication over?

Update 12 July:  I hear this morning that the timetable compilers are trying to set up a private venture to take it over.  I wish them every success!

Interactive maps...

I have added 'image maps' to the existing route maps on various European pages such as Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal and the Canada page - in other words, you can now click on a destination or route on the map and be taken directly to the relevant section for train times and information for that destination or route.  Please do email me with any comments about how the maps work, and do let me know if I have made any errors!

New Timetable in Malaysia from 1 July...

The Malaysia page now shows the new timetable for Malaysia from 1 July.  Journey times are eased out, allegedly to improve punctuality.

Sudan:  Wadi Halfa - Khartoum train resumes!

Thanks to a report from an ex-pat in the Sudan, it's reported that the Wadi Halfa to Khartoum train has resumed, with changed operating days.  The Sudan page is now being updated.

Where to buy Dutch train tickets?  At the Belgian website www.b-europe.com, of course!

An annoying problem for visitors to the Netherlands is that Dutch ticket offices and ticket machines, and indeed the Dutch Railways website www.ns.nl, generally don't accept any normal credit card, only strange Dutch bank cards that only Dutch people have.  The ticket machines don't even accept banknotes, only coins!  I'm pleased to say that there's now a solution, because the Belgian railways website www.b-europe.com has resumed selling Dutch domestic train tickets, at the same prices as NS, but happily accepting Visa and MasterCard.  You simply buy online and print your own ticket.

Odds & ends this month...

  • How to use voyages-sncf.com:  I've completely overhauled the instructions for using the French Railways website, both to make it easier and reduce duplication between the Train Travel in France page and the page I use to warn people how to avoid diversion to Rail Europe when using voyages-sncf.com.  There's now one page on How to use voyages-sncf.com.

  • How to buy train tickets online and by phone.  I've re-written the general tips for buying European train tickets to make this clearer, and to reduce duplication.  I've separated the agency phone numbers section into a separate page, How to buy train tickets by phone.

  • Indonesia:  Has the Indonesian railway website been changed so it no longer accepts non-Indonesian credit cards?  Two reports suggest so, further feedback would be appreciated.

  • Russia:  Have spotted that www.raileurope.com will now book Paris-Moscow and Warsaw-Moscow trains online, so booking instructions amended accordingly.

large bullet pointJune 2013

Direct Vienna-Venice daytime Railjet from December?

Sanity at last...  Some years ago, the Italians pulled out of running the two daily daytime EuroCity trains between Vienna and Venice via Villach and Udine.  That left just the overnight sleeper train between Vienna and Venice.  Austrian Railways laid on buses (ugh!) between Villach and Venice in connection with their trains to and from Vienna, parallel with a perfectly serviceable railway.  I'm delighted to say that sanity has broken out, and from the timetable change in December a direct daytime train will link Vienna and Venice Santa Lucia once again, with a second round trip due to be added from December 2014.  Initially it's likely to be a conventional Austrian InterCity train, but it's planned to introduce smart modern Railjets complete with restaurant car and those lovely cradling business class leather seats (my favourite!).  Rumours suggest the train is likely to leave Vienna bright and early at 06:37, so it would reach Venice around 13:40, with a return train from Venice around 16:15 arriving Vienna at 23:47.  It's just a shame that the wonderful Semmering scenery will be in darkness on the northbound run, and in darkness in winter southbound.

Vigo-Porto improvements......

And more sanity... Two fast trains will be introduced between Vigo in Spain and Porto in Portugal, a first step towards a 90-minute electric service which the two countries hope to introduce by 2016.  Already, the daft arrangement where you had to buy two tickets, one as far as the border, then another one after you crossed the border, have been replaced with proper through tickets which you can buy for the whole trip at either end.

Sud Express to Lisbon extended to start in Hendaye......

And yet more sanity?  With French Railways refusing to extend their 12:27 Paris-Hendaye TGV to Irun (on the Spanish side of the Franco-Spanish border) to connect with the re-timed Sud Express, the Spanish have done the decent thing, and extended the Sud to start in Hendaye.  That's a complete break from the arrangement that's been in place for 100 years, with interchange between French and Spanish trains at Irun in Spain going south, Hendaye in France going north.  But it now means an easier, faster connection between TGV and Sud Express, and it means easy same-day connections are once again possible from London, see the Portugal page.

Rail link to Tangier Med Port opens......

It's reported that the new station at Tangier Med Port opened on 15 June 2013, with local electric trains linking Tangier Ville with Tangier Med Port in 50-60 minutes.  The trains aren't shown in the main journey planner on www.oncf.ma (indeed, Tanger Med Port isn't listed as a station!), but there's a timetable with connections to Casablanca, Marrakesh at http://www.oncf.ma/InfosPratiques/Documents.  This only shows 4 trains per day, although this could be a temporary/start-up or partial timetable as another reference on the ONCF website refers to a train running every 2 hours.  Feedback would be appreciated!

New videos...

You'll find new videos of the Danube Express, Vienna-Cologne sleeper train, Zurich-Zagreb sleeper train, and the London to Istanbul train journey, at the seat61 YouTube channel.

New Danube Express page...

After a recent jaunt from London to Istanbul and back by train (naturally!), I've added a page to showcase the excellent Danube Express hotel train.

New Timetable in Europe from 9 June...

All Seat61 European pages should now be up to date for the new Europe-wide timetable starting 9 June.  If you find any typos or errors, do let me know.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMay 2013

Latest updates on Twitter:  Follow my trip to Istanbul from 21 May...

Just a reminder that I'm on Twitter as @seatsixtyone, and will be tweeting updates and notable news as it happens, as well as updates as and when I travel... I shall be travelling from London to Istanbul from 21 May, tweeting on the way, to make a press trip on the Danube Express from Istanbul to Budapest via Bulgaria & Transylvania.  These will be the 5th and 6th train journeys between London & Istanbul that I have made since 1995!

Crazy! Deutsche Bahn to stop selling Thalys tickets.

News just in, DB in Germany is to stop selling Thalys tickets, prior to withdrawing from its minority stake in Thalys.  That means that if you call DB, you'll be told there are only 4 trains per day between Germany and Brussels!  This may or may not affect DB's UK office.

European timetable change on 8 June...

All European railways change their timetables on the 2nd Sunday in June & December.  Reservations are often late opening for booking for dates after the timetable change, and Spain and Italy are key culprits.  I'm pleased to say that French Railways actually extended their booking period over the summer.  I'm not expecting any major changes after 9 June, so use the information on this site on the assumption that little will change.

Latest on international trains to/from Istanbul...

As of 6 May, it's reported that the Bucharest/Sofia to Istanbul train will be terminating at Cerkezköy, 115km short of Istanbul, with a replacement bus laid on to Istanbul Sirkeci.  This comes after a period when the train was running as far as Halkali, 27km short of Istanbul, with passengers travelling by scheduled bus into Istanbul, but it's better than the situation from March to December 2012, when the train terminated at the Bulgarian/Turkish border at Kapikule at 01:25 for a bus all the way to Istanbul.  With a scheduled arrival in Cerkezköy of 05:44 (plus an inevitable delay, no doubt) you'll at least get some sleep in your couchette or sleeper!

New page, new video:  Tito's deluxe private train, click here.

Following a trip last month on Tito's private train from Belgrade to Bar, the first of 6 trips being organised this year by Montenegro Holidays, I've added a page about this unique train, complete with video guide - see the new Tito page.

New video:  Bar to Belgrade by train, click here.

One of Europe's most scenic routes linking Montenegro on the Adriatic with the Serbian capital Belgrade, I've been able to improve the Serbia & Montenegro page and add a video guide to this remarkable journey.  The video features an unfortunate incident at 00:02:40, when the train hit and killed a horse (in fact, two horses if you look closely) which a local man was leading across the line.  See the Serbia & Montenegro page.

Direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs put off until Autumn?

Problems with certifying the TGV Duplex sets to run into Barcelona Sants seem to have postponed the start of direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs until later this year, see www.railjournal.com/index.php/high-speed/technical-problems-delay-paris-%E2%80%93-barcelona-tgv-launch.html.  In the meantime, bookings for the current Paris-Figueres service have opened for the summer.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2013

Latest updates on Twitter...

Just a reminder that I'm on Twitter as @seatsixtyone, and will be tweeting updates and notable news as it happens, as well as updates as and when I travel...

Operation Tito 17-23 April...

Follow the Man in Seat 61 on a train journey from London to Montenegro 17-23 April, follow on https://twitter.com/seatsixtyone.

Amsterdam-Warsaw Jan Kiepura reprieved!

It looked almost certain that the Amsterdam/Cologne to Warsaw Jan Kiepura would be discontinued at the end of June, knocking a big hole in east-west rail travel via Poland.  The good news is that is seems to have been reprieved.

New Zealand closed for business between May & October?

New Zealand appears to be closing for business in winter, as it's just sadly been announced that the Coastal Pacific (linking the ferry from Wellington with Christchurch) will not run at all from 7 May 2013 until early October, leaving no civilised transport link at all between Wellington and Christchurch in a supposedly developed country.  This follows a drop in visitor numbers after the Earthquake.  You may wish to postpone your visit until things sort themselves out!

High-speed trains start Eskisehir-Konya in Turkey...

Ankara-Konya & Eskisehir-Ankara high-speed trains are already operating at up to 250km/h.  A new curve linking these two lines has now allowed two daily Eskisehir to Konya trains to start.  Regular trains take 7 hours, buses take 5, these new trains take just 2 hours.  Ultimately, by perhaps 2015, these high-speed trains witll link Istanbul & Ankara, Istanbul and Konya, revolutionising train travel in Turkey.  See the Train Travel in Turkey page.

Latest update on start of direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs...

The high-speed Perpignan-Barcelona line is complete, and documents leaked to the Spanish press suggested that the two daily Paris-Figueres TGV Duplexes were going to be extended to Barcelona as from 28 April.  This seemed confirmed by the fact that bookings for the existing Paris-Figueres service were only open up to 27 April.  Unfortunately, it looks as if this date has slipped, as bookings for the existing service terminating at Figueres (with Spanish connection to Barcelona) were subsequently opened as far as 10 May, and now until 29 May.  An unconfirmed source within SNCF did indeed suggest that direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs will not now run before the end of May 2013.  See the London to Spain page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2013

SailRail fares now available via Liverpool, London to Belfast from £57...

Stena Line have now launched combined train & ferry SailRail tickets from any rail station in Britain to Belfast via their Liverpool-Belfast ferry route.  The time-effective overnight service means you can leave central London after 5pm, Birmingham or Manchester after 6pm, sleep in a comfortable private cabin with shower & toilet on the luxurious ferry and arrive in Belfast 06:30!  This makes eco-friendly business trips or weekends away feasible without the pain of the plane.  At this stage, they can only be bought from Stena Line, not rail stations or train company websites.  See the Northern Ireland page.

Win a 6-day escorted holiday for two to Belgrade & Montenegro...

In April, I'm travelling aboard Tito's luxurious special train on its inaugural departure from Belgrade.  The Belgrade-Montenegro line is renowned for its spectacular mountain scenery, and I've jumped at the chance to travel this route in comfort on such a historic train.  Now you've a chance to come along too (or on one of their other April or May departures if you prefer), as www.montenegroholidays.com are kindly giving away a holiday for two as the prize in Seat61.com's first-ever competition.

The end of the Jan Kiepura from 1 July...

It now looks almost certain that the Amsterdam/Cologne to Warsaw Jan Kiepura will be discontinued from 1 July 2013, the last in a series of cuts by Polish Railways.  This makes a hole in the journeys to Poland, Ukraine and Russia, especially as it may also affect the Frankfurt to Moscow sleeping-car run by the Russian Railways.  I've put a warning on the relevant pages, and will work out alternatives in due course.  The Jan Kipeura's last westbound departure from Warsaw will be 29 June, it's last eastbound from Amsterdam will be 30 June.

Direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs to start from 28 April?  Or the end of May?

It now looks likely (but not yet officially confirmed) that the first direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs will start running from 28 April.  These will be an extension of the current two daily Paris-Figueres TGV Duplexes, so departure from Paris will still be at 07:15 & 14:07 daily southbound, 09:29 and 16:29 northbound from Barcelona as shown on the London to Spain page.  In fact, it now looks as if there will be a third daily departure on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays northbound, Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays northbound.  Reservations for the new service will open in due course, but nobody yet knows exactly when.

Latest news 29 March:  Bookings for the existing Paris-Figueres TGVs have just opened until 10 May.  That clearly means direct TGVs won't now start on 28 April.  Maybe 11 May?  I now believe a report originating within SNCF that suggests direct Paris-Barcelona TGVVs won't start until the end of May.

Just remember that back in January, tickets for the new Madrid-Barcelona-Figueres trains only went on sale 7 days (not the usual 92 days, just 7 days!!) before the first train ran, so just sit tight, stay calm, keep an eye each day on the booking websites, when booking opens and you can actually see trains, then you can book.

Summer train bookings with French Railways...

Just a heads-up!  SNCF is extending its summer booking horizon, and travel dates 4 July to 25 August will open on 4 April, travel dates from 26 August to 2nd September will open on 14 May.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2013

New video guide: London to Cornwall by sleeper...

After a recent trip at the invitation of First great Western, I've added new photos and a short video guide to the London to Cornwall sleeper train page.

Istanbul's classic Sirkeci station closed to long-distance trains from 1 March 2013...

If you've been following the story, since March 2012 the Bucharest/Sofia to Istanbul train has been terminating at Kapikule on the Bulgaria/Turkey border with a rail replacement bus onwards to Istanbul, due to engineering work to rebuild the rail line into Turkey.  The good news is that while the weather is poor in January/February/March 2013, the engineering work is suspended and the train is again running through to Istanbul.  The not-so-good news is that  from1 March 2013, Sirkeci station is closing to allow lines to be rebuilt in connection with the Marmara Tunnel project.  That means that even though the train is currently running through to Istanbul, from 1 March it will terminate at a suburban station called Halkali, some 27km short of Istanbul city centre.  You can hop on the regular railway-replacement buses from there for the last bit to Istanbul, these are buses that are replacing the Istanbul suburban service.  Bus replacement Kapikule to Istanbul Sirkeci may resume some time in March, but there is no set date yet.  Sirkeci station itself is still open, serving just a short remnant of suburban train service.

Fyra fiasco update, Brussels-Amsterdam...

Fyra high-speed trains were introduced from 9 December 2012 between Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam & Amsterdam, then withdrawn indefinitely due to serious technical problems.  You can now travel Brussels-Amsterdam by high-speed Thalys train, or on the frequent non-high-speed InterCity service Brussels-Antwerp, followed by the hourly local train Antwerp-Roosendaal, then by frequent Dutch InterCity trains Roosendaal-Amsterdam.  However, very shortly two daily direct InterCity trains will be reintroduced between Brussels-Antwerp-Roosendaal-Rotterdam-Den Haag, increased to 8 per day from 11 March.  Not quite the old hourly Brussels-Amsterdam pre-Fyra InterCity service, but they are trying to extend them to Amsterdam.  This may or may not be possible in due course.  However, it may be months before Fyra resumes.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2013

Fyra kaput...

The new Brussels-Amsterdam high-speed Fyra service has fallen victim to poor construction of its V250 trains by Italian firm Ansaldo Breda.  One expects a few faults when any new train first comes into service, but it seems these trains have had more than usual, can't cope with the snow, and when a part fell off a train's underside, the Belgians banned them from their network until further notice.  That leaves Thalys as the only train directly linking Brussels and Amsterdam, unless you take the IC Brussels-Antwerp, all-stations local train Antwerp-Roosendaal and Dutch domestic IC Roosendaal-Amsterdam.  Which many people are now doing!  Belgian Railways will shortly be extending their Brussels-Antwerp IC to Roosendaal, and work is progressing on reinstating the old hourly Brussels-Amsterdam IC.

Italy improves its child age limit for children, sort of...

From 9 December 2012, Trenitalia increased the age limit for child fares from 'under 12' to 'under 15', but only for national trains, meaning the high-speed Frecciarossa/Frecciargento/Frecciabianca services and long-distance InterCity, ICN and sleeper trains.  Regional trains retain the long-standing 'under 12' age limit.  This will no doubt cause confusion on journeys such as Rome to Siena, where one leg is on a Frecciarossa or Frecciargento, the other on a regional train, with differing age limits.

Turista Plus & lack of Club class in Spain...

In Spain, Renfe have introduced Turista Plus on many but not all AVE trains, which appears to mean Preferente (1st class) seats but without the at-seat meal & wine.  Furthermore, some AVEs are being sold without Club class, and on these you may end up in a Club class seat with a Preferente ticket.  Indeed, when booking a Preferente ticket on these trains it will pay to use the 'select exact seat' option and make sure you choose a seat in the endmost car with the Club class seating.

Bus replacement between Bulgarian border & Istanbul temporarily over.

The Bucharest/Sofia to Istanbul train has been temporarily replaced by a bus between Kapikule & Istanbul since March 2012 until October 2013 due to major railway engineering work related to the Bosporus Tunnel Project.  Trains seem to be running direct to and from Istanbul, but it now seems that the work is not over, this is just a temporary respite while the weather is too bad to work.  The bus replacement will resume in mid-March.

UK versus Europe train fares comparison...

Just for fun, with all the fuss over UK having the highest rail fares in Europe (yawn) I thought I'd actually do a test myself.  The results surprised even me.  It seems that in 10-15% of cases we have the highest train fares in Europe. In the other 85%-90% we have the lowest!  See the UK & Continental Europe train fares comparison.  Update 9 January: It's nice to be recognised - This page was quoted in the House of Commons this evening, by both Iain Stewart MP and in his summing up by Norman Baker, Under Secretary of State for Transport.

London to Madrid in one day, without flying!

The final section of the Perpignan-Barcelona high-speed line now seems set to open on 8 January 2013 (although they are very late opening bookings!).  Several Madrid-Barcelona AVE high-speed trains will be extended to Figueres Vilafant, two with TGV connections to and from Paris.  For the first time in history it will become possible to travel from London to Madrid in a single day, see the London to Spain page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2012

Eurostar downgrades bike policy...  See the bikes by train page

Eurostar's new (well, 2008) bike service, where you can book a bike space on the same Eurostar departure as yourself for £30, has been a great success.  But as an alternative, you've always been able to take bikes free of charge as ordinary luggage, semi-dismantled in a zip-up bike bag not exceeding 120cm long, which you are allowed to do on almost all European trains right across Europe.  Eurostar has now removed the ability to take bikes in bags up to 120cm and is sticking to its general '85cm maximum length' policy for any luggage at all, which pretty much rules out taking anything except folding Bromptons and children's bikes.  This is totally at odds with the policy of onwards train operators such as Thalys, Elipsos and most TGV, where you can ONLY take your bike if you put it in a bike bag, semi-dismantled, max 120cm long.  And this is in spite of Eurostar and Thalys both being 85% owned by SNCF (French Railways), TGV is of course 100% SNCF, so even train companies within the same group aren't working or thinking together as a team.  Does Eurostar expect you to pay £30 to take your bike undismantled to Brussels, and in the 18 minutes connecting time, take it to pieces, stick it in a bike bag that you've brought with you, to take onwards to Cologne or Amsterdam?

On the plus side, I have now improved the bike by train page to make the options for taking bikes to mainland Europe clearer, with better coverage of the Dutch Flyer train and ferry option.

The St Petersburg to Irkutsk Baikal to disappear (almost) in May?

Train 9/10 from St Petersburg to Irkutsk, originally Moscow-Irkutsk, has been a mainstay of the Trans-Siberian route for years. Decades!  It's now reported that it will be downgraded to run only Novosibirsk-Irkutsk, a shadow of its old self.

It's on!  Fyra Brussels-Amsterdam is go from 9 December!

The new high-speed Fyra service between Brussels & Amsterdam will indeed now start on 9 December with 10 trains a day, rising to an hourly service a few months later.  Bookings were due to open on 29 October.  They didn't, but finally opened on 3 December just days before the new service starts, after a last-minute political deal between the Belgians and the Dutch allowed the new service to start as planned.

Highlights & lowlights of the new timetable across Europe from 9 December 2012...

The new timetable starts from 9 December all across Europe.  Pages are slowly being updated to reflect the new times now.  Here are some of the key changes expected in the new timetable.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2012

Seat 61 wins 'Favourite Travel Website' in the Telegraph Travel Awards 2012...

I'm absolutely delighted (not to mention still a little stunned) that seat61.com has won the 'Favourite Travel Website' category in the prestigious Telegraph Travel Awards 2012.  17,000 readers voted on their favourite travel companies, destinations and websites, and seat61 beat tough competition such as Tripadvisor and i-escape.com.  The award ceremony was held on 13 November at the very swish ME Hotel in London (which isn't yet open to the public - as ceremony host Clive Anderson put it, what better place to hold a travel awards ceremony than a half-finished hotel?).  I'd like to thank everyone who voted for seat61 as their favourite site.  For a full list of the winners and runners-up, see www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews.

New motorail route to Slovenia for summer 2013...

Dutch Motorail (Auto Slaap Trein) will be operating a new weekly motorail from the Netherlands to Koper in Slovenia, handy for Trieste, Venice & Croatia, every weekend in July & August 2013.  Meanwhile DB Autozug have discontinued their motorail to Verona and Trieste for 2013.  See the Motorail page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointOctober 2012

When will bookings open for dates after the European timetable change on 9 December?

Reservations for dates from 9 December onwards always open late, as train operators are always late loading the new data.  Expect bookings for most trains to open from mid-October, the usual 90 day booking period squeezed to 60.  Just sit tight until reservations open.

Italo start their new Venice-Florence-Rome route from 3 October...

...in competition with State-run Trenitalia.  See www.italotreno.it.  Initially, there'll be 3 trains a day.

The demise of the Berlin-Kiev 'Kashtan' from 1 October 2012

Without warning, with just weeks to go, UZ (Ukrainian Railways) announced that the long-standing 'Kashtan' sleeper train between Berlin and Kiev will be discontinued permanently as from 2 October 2012.  That leaves all passengers having to travel to Warsaw then take the daily 'Kiev Express' to Kiev.  A great shame.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointSeptember 2012

New videos:  Morocco to Madrid, Madrid to London via Brittany ferries

I've added two new videos following a recent holiday - Morocco to Madrid on the Morocco page and Madrid to London via Brittany ferries Santander-Portsmouth on the Spain page.  The videos show the ferries, trains and scenery on these routes.

London to Vienna, Salzburg & Switzerland

I've now added an alternative route to Switzerland via Brussels and Cologne, as this avoids the need to cross Paris, and with clever use of German Railway's 'London Spezials' from €49 can actually be the cheapest way to Switzerland.  Thanks to tweaks made recently by Eurostar and DB, the 06:50 Eurostar from London once again officially connects with the 10:25 ICE to Cologne, so it's once more possible to travel from London to Vienna in a day.  I've added this option to the Austria page.  And as Salzburg is classed as a German station even though it's in Austria, you can buy a 'London Spezial' all the way from London to Salzburg from €49, making this the cheapest way to reach Austria, so I've added this option to the Austria page too.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2012

New seat61 site design...

I hope you like the new design - using the word 'design' loosely, of course, as the emphasis has always been on content rather than swish graphics.  But the new design should solve the one regular piece of negative feedback I get, that the small white text on a dark background is hard to read.  The new design:

In addition:

Currently, all the UK, European, train type and great journeys pages use the new design, but the 'worldwide' country pages still use the old design and will be switched over in stages.  I simply can't keep two sets of European pages updated (one old and 'live', one new and waiting in the wings) while I finish transmogrifying all the pages, so please excuse the site being 65% new design and 35% old design while I finish the job.  Do let me know what you think!  Also, do let me know of any glitches, it's highly likely that a few things won't have been carried across to the new pages correctly.

'Overlander' page becomes 'Northern Explorer' page...

This month, many thanks must go to Seat61 correspondent James Chuang who recently tried out the new Kiwi Rail 'Northern Explorer' train from Auckland to Wellington.  Thanks to James I've been able to update the Overlander page, replacing the old Overlander photos from my own trip a few years ago with photos of the new Northern Explorer train which replaced it in June.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2012

Greece reconnected?  But only once a week, July until September!

Greece cancelled all its international passenger trains in February 2011, cutting itself off from the rest of Europe other than by ferry.  However, there's now a glimmer of hope, as they have just reinstated a weekly train between Skopje and Thessaloniki, at least until September.  It departs Skopje at 05:05 every Saturday from 14 July to 30 September, arriving Thessaloniki 10:24.  Northbound, it departs Thessaloniki every Sunday at 20:11 arriving Skopje at 23:11.  For trains between London/Paris/Munich and Skopje, see the Serbia & Macedonia page.  You will need to stay overnight in Skopje.  The fare is 756 dinars one-way, about €10.

Online booking from Budapest enabled:  Budapest to Warsaw or Krakow from €49 with sleeper

Hungarian Railways have enabled online booking of couchettes and sleepers on direct international trains from Budapest to places such as Bucharest, Belgrade, Krakow or Warsaw, with all the local cheap book-ahead prices such as 'sparnight' available, making it far, far cheaper than using any agency based in the UK, USA or Australia.  Budapest to Krakow starts at just €49 per person including a bed in a 2-bed sleeper if you pre-book at www.mav-start.hu.  It's a little fiddly, and switches back to Hungarian half way through, but using the Google Chrome browser with built-in translation sorts that!  Read the tips for using it on the How to buy cheap European train tickets page.

Canada to cut back trains...

VIA Rail Canada has announced that the three-times-per-week 'Canadian' from Toronto to Vancouver will be trimmed to twice weekly off-season, and the 6-times-weekly 'Ocean' from Montreal to Halifax is to be cut to 3 times per week.

large bullet pointJune 2012

New video:  Trenitalia's Frecciarossa from Milan to Florence, Rome & Naples...

New video added showing the interior and exterior of a Eurostar Italia Frecciarossa, refurbished with four (yes, four!) classes of accommodation instead of the normal 1st and 2nd, http://youtu.be/Xp3A59Xh-ZE.

New video:  TGV Duplex, France's 200 mph double-deck high-speed train...

New video added showing the interior and exterior of a double-deck TGV Duplex, http://youtu.be/KrXUqOPU9wc.

New video:  Milan to Zurich by Bernina Express...

New video added showing the Bernina Express and the superb scenery, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5AyEe5xWkQ.  Information about the Milan-Tirano train connection is totally absent from the Bernina Express website or brochures (which keep mentioning some Lugano bus link or other, forgetting the major train connection to Italy!), so this video puts that right, showing how to combine a Milan-Tirano regional train with the Bernina Express with a connecting train to Zurich, to travel from Italy to Zurich and even Paris or the UK this way.  More info on the Bernina Express page.

New video:  Paris to Milan by TGV...

New video added showing the train itself, on board food and scenery, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B09t_WJz_mM.  I've also updated the Eurostar video guide with shots showing first class seating and food.

European timetable change from 9 June...

As always, all European timetables change on the second Sunday in June.  No major changes are expected, some pages have already been updated, others will be updated shortly.

Zurich-Milan Gotthard route closed by landslide, at least until July...

A major landslide has completely blocked the Gotthard route for at least a month, blocking both the Basel-Milan and Zurich-Milan train routes.  Buses are replacing trains for the part of the Milan-Zurich/Basel journey.  I travelled from Milan to Zurich myself last Saturday, but fortunately had chosen to come up via the spectacular Bernina Route and so avoided the problem.  Geneva-Lausanne-Milan route is OK, as is the Milan-Tirano-Chur-Zurich slow but scenic Bernina Route, see the Bernina page.

Direct Paris-Barcelona TGVs delayed again, until 3rd quarter 2013...

Completion of the Figueres-Barcelona section of the high-speed standard-gauge line from France to Barcelona has been delayed again.  High-speed TGVs were due to start running direct from Paris to Barcelona from December 2012, this has been put back to the third quarter of 2013.  Until then the connecting service of Paris-Figueres TGV and connecting Figueres-Barcelona Spanish-gauge train will continue, see the Spain page.

Eurostar to introduce Quiet Coaches in September...

From 11 September 2012, Eurostar will designate a 'Quiet Coach' in Business Premier and Standard Premier classes (but not Standard class) with a quiet working environment, no noisy kids and no mobile phones.  This will normally be cars 8 & 11, and you'll be able to select this when you book, at least if you book direct with Eurostar.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMay 2012

New Thello sleeper train from Paris to Florence & Rome will now start in December...

It was due to start in June, then this slipped to July.  Thello, a consortium of Trenitalia and Veolia who run the current Paris-Milan-Verona-Venice sleeper train, now plan to start their second service, a sleeper train from Paris to Bologna, Florence and Rome, from the timetable change on 9 December 2012 (although a more recent official Trenitalia news release simply says 'after the summer').

Estonia-Russia:  Tallinn to St Petersburg train relaunched from 27 May...

After a 4-year gap when the only way between Tallinn and St Petersburg was to endure a 7 hour bus journey, a train is finally set to resume.  GoRail will restart a daily morning train from Tallinn to St Petersburg, returning in the late afternoon/early evening.  See the Estonia page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2012

Italo is go!  Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples...

As of 28 April 2012, private operator Italo is now running its first trains between Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples, in competition with State operator Trenitalia.  You can check times and buy tickets at www.italotreno.it.  In Milan, Italo uses the less-known but still central Porto Garibaldi station.  It uses the main stations in Bologna, Florence and Naples, but a secondary (less than central) one in Rome, Tiburtina.  It has three classes all with free WiFi and leather seats, see the virtual tour at  www.italotreno.it/EN/NTV Tour/classic/intro.html.

Big changes to the Auckland-Wellington Overlander from 26 June 2012

KiwiRail have announced that from 26 June 2012, the Overlander will be replaced by a new train, to be called the Northern Explorer, intended to become a more upmarket tourist experience.  It will run 3 times a week all year round, using smart new air-conditioned panoramic 'AK' carriages.  It will be speeded up, only calling at Hamilton, National Park, Ohakune and Palmerston North - all the smaller places will be missed out.  I sincerely hope it will not become so 'tourist-orientated' that only wrinklies aged 70+ on £10k holidays can afford it, with families, backpackers and New Zealanders themselves priced off. See KiwiRail press release.

New videos added:  Arlberg route & Brenner route...

I've added two new videos, one showcasing a ride through the Arlberg Pass between Zurich and Innsbruck on a Railjet train en route to Vienna and Budapest, the other a ride through the Brenner Pass from Innsbruck to Verona on a Munich-Verona EuroCity train.  the scenery on both routes is excellent!

Problems at Trenitalia.com:  Until further notice, use www.fsitaliane.it, not www.trenitalia.com...

It seems that Trenitalia (Italian Railways) are switching to a new IT platform, but are having problems.  www.trenitalia.com and www.fsitaliane.it should be alternative addresses for exactly the same Italian Railways website, but the web address 'Trenitalia.com' has been switched to the new computer system, and for some reason the search results now open on Trenitalia's high-speed train mini-site www.lefrecce.it, which won't show regional trains or InterCity trains or international trains, and it won't recognise English place names such as 'Florence' or 'Venice' even though you switched it to English.  So it's now as much use as a chocolate teapot, as my Grandmother would say.  However, www.fsitaliane.it is still using the old platform (which works!) so I have temporarily switched all the links to Trenitalia.com (the address which most people know) on Seat61 to open at www.fsitaliane.it, so you can buy all the tickets, in English.

Buy your Dutch train tickets online ...  But at the Belgian Railways website!

I wasted 15 minutes trying to buy a Dutch train ticket at www.ns.nl before discovering that it only accepts obscure Dutch bank cards, rendering it useless.  I then had a brainwave.  I tried the Belgian Railways site, www.b-europe.com, and hey presto, a Hengelo to Arnhem ticket for 15 euros (which is actually €0.20 less than NS quoted) with 21st century payment options including Visa, MasterCard and Amex, and in this case no fees.  I simply printed out my own ticket at home.  There's no need to pre-book Dutch domestic train tickets, of course, as prices are fixed and reservation isn't necessary on Dutch domestic trains, but it saves time at the ticket office, allows you to pay with a card not cash and saves €0.50 (as Dutch ticket offices only accept cash and charge a €0.50 fee).  This tip has now been placed at the top of the Netherlands page, and on the European train tickets page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2012

Sunday Telegraph Vietnam article...

I'm delighted that an article by me made the front page of the Sunday telegraph on 4 March, see www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations.

Latest situation with trains to Istanbul...    See the Turkey page for latest info.

It now seems the flood damage in Bulgaria has been repaired and the Bosfor Bucharest-Istanbul and Balkan Express Belgrade/Sofia-Istanbul will resume on or shortly after 3 March.  However, the long-term engineering work in Turkey on the line into Istanbul has now started as from 19 March, and both these trains now terminate at the Turkish border at Kapikule with a replacement bus into Istanbul.

How to buy train tickets for India online...  See the India page for info.

Cleartrip.com has until recently been the only way for foreign visitors to buy Indian train tickets online.  They are a private website which provides a user-friendly front end to the official irctc.co.in online booking service.  Unlike irctc.co.in itself, Cleartrip accepts non-Indian credit cards, and originally did not require you to have an Indian mobile phone like irctc.co.in.  However, IRCTC recently forced Cleartrip to require its users to sign up for an account with irctc.co.in.  This requires an Indian mobile phone number to which the account activation code is sent.  The good news is that there's a workaround for this, involving emailing irctc's customer care department with a scan of your passport, and this works, giving you an activated irctc.co.in account on the Cleartrip website.  A step-by-step guide with all necessary workarounds has been put on the train travel in India page.  Indian Railways now quite possibly qualifies as the Most Bureaucratic Online Train Ticket Sales in the World.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2012

New page: Train travel in the Philippines...

A new Philippines page has been added to show the Manila to Naga City 'Bicol Express' that has resumed operation.

New video: London to Scotland by Caledonian Sleeper...

You'll now find this on the Caledonian Sleeper page.

Indian train booking problems for foreign visitors...

In 2011, IRCTC.co.in (Indian Railways' own online booking service) rendered its train booking website useless for foreign visitors by insisting that your account activation code is sent to an Indian mobile phone number.  Until now, I have suggested using Cleartrip.com which allowed registration without an Indian number.  Unfortunately, it seems IRCTC has now forced Cleartrip to require an Indian mobile phone number too, which means foreigners cannot book Indian trains online anywhere unless they use this workaround:  If you register online at www.irctc.co.in, then email their customer care department (care@irctc.co.in) they can help you activate your registration without an Indian mobile number.  They will ask you to email them a scan of your passport and then they will email you the activation code, allowing you to activate your account.

New page:  Train travel in Gabon...

Thanks to traveller Clive Leatherdale, I've been able to add a Gabon page, with details of the SETRAG train service from Libreville (Owendo) to Franceville.

Videos added to the site...

I've been able to add some video guides to the site:  - Paris to Venice by Thello sleeper train;   - How to cross Paris by metro, Paris Nord to Paris Lyon;  - inside a Christian Lacroix TGV

Engineering work affects trains to Istanbul on the European side...

According to a normally well-informed German rail website, the 'Bosfor' from Bucharest will be replaced by a bus between Kapikule and Istanbul in both directions from 1 February until the end of 2012.  There is nothing yet shown on the official TCDD website, but that is sadly not unusual.  Feedback would be appreciated if you go this way!  This is in connection with line rebuilding, which will ultimately link Europe with Asia through the new Bosphorus rail tunnel.  Latest update 2 February:  It now looks as if the work will start on 22 February, with the Bosfor terminating at either Kapikule or Cerkezköy (it hasn't yet been decided which) and a bus will take passengers on to Istanbul.  This will apply in both directions from 22 February 2012, for up to two years.  This is while railways in Istanbul are transformed with the new Bosphorus rail tunnel, and a new underground station in European Istanbul, serving train to both Europe and Asia.

..and on the Asian side

Istanbul's Haydarpasa station closes down for all long-distance trains from 31 January until 2013.  This is while the high-speed line and Bosphorus Tunnel projects are completed, that will ultimately link Istanbul (European side) to Ankara in just 3 hours.  Some trains will start from Arifiye, including the Bogazici Express to Eskisehir with high-speed connection to Ankara, and a re-timed 'Içanadolou Express' to Konya and Adana. The Istanbul-Konya 'Meram Express' is cancelled.  Trains to/from eastern Turkey will start in Ankara.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2012

SailRail problems seem to be sorted...

From 31 January, SailRail tickets once again can be bought online at least at Raileasy, London to Dublin from £38, see the Ireland page.  Tickets can be bought from any station in Britain to any station in Ireland, covering both train to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin, and onward trains within Ireland.  A bargain!

Slow travel?  Italy late morning, Switzerland late afternoon, Aylesbury late evening.  Who needs planes?!

Returning from the Thello trip to Italy (see the item below), we left Milan's magnificent Centrale station at 11:25, with lunch and superb Swiss red wine in the dining-car as we passed Lake Maggiore, trundled through the Simplon and Lötschberg Tunnels, past Lake Thun in Switzerland to arrive in Basel at 15:29.  We left Basel at 16:34 by TGV to Paris, arriving on time at 19:37, in plenty of time for the 21:13 Eurostar arriving in time at London St Pancras at 22:36.  Hurling myself into a taxi, I just made the 22:57 from Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway, arriving 23:59.  Who needs planes?!

Thello:  The 'new' Paris-Venice sleeper train....    Watch the Thello video   New Thello page

In a lightening trip to Italy a few days ago I checked out the 'new' Thello sleeper train from Paris to Italy and have already posted new information and photos on the Paris to Venice by Thello sleeper train page.  Although it uses the same fairly old sleeping and couchette cars as its lacklustre predecessor Artesia, I'm glad to say everything else is significantly improved.  Staff were friendly, beds comfortable, the ride smooth, and we had an excellent dinner in the restaurant car washed down with some great Chianti.  The train now leaves from the historic Gare de Lyon not the awful Gare de Bercy, and we left and arrived spot on time. The sleepers lacked carpet and had been cheaply refurbished by Trenitalia a few years ago before being inherited by Thello, that is where Thello needs to concentrate its efforts next.

Kenya:  Nairobi-Mombasa train cancelled until April...

News just in, it seems the famous Lunatic Express between Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya has been cancelled from 30 January until at least April 2012.  This is while Kenya Port Authority works to clear massive freight congestion at the Mombasa Port. The line will be used to haul cargo away from the port to inland dry ports on the outskirts of Nairobi.  See the Kenya page to see what you're missing...

Major problems booking SailRail tickets to Ireland...

It's been two weeks since the new range of SailRail fares were introduced on 2nd January, and the requirement for seat reservations seems to have totally stuffed anyone's ability to buy these tickets!  Online systems are failing to find the London-Dublin £38 'Advance' fare, they are picking up the walk-up £43 fare, but even this fails to book, producing an error message saying that there are insufficient reservations available!  (Update:  The new tickets apparently make use of the rail industry booking system's 'sleeper' functionality, requiring capture of names and phone numbers for the ferry company, and as Raileasy.com can't do sleepers they cannot now sell SailRail to Dublin at all.  Thetrainline.com can do sleepers, but they haven't modified their system so they can't sell these new SailRail tickets either.  It's a shambles).  Phoning a railway telesales line is no good, as the staff seem to have the same problem.  I hope they sort this out soon.  In the meantime, if you have a UK postal address, tickets from London and a few other key cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool & Birmingham to Dublin can be booked with no reservation problems at www.stenaline.co.uk instead.

City Night Line sleeper fares...

After several years at the same price level, these have risen a bit this year, the starting price for a couchette from Paris to Berlin or Munich is now 59 euros rather than 49 euros, a bed in a 2-bed sleeper 99 euros rather than 79.  However, the task of compiling one consistent coherent table of fares for these CNL trains is driving me up the wall.  A man with one booking system knows the fare, a man who checks several alternative booking systems is never quite sure...  The cheap 'Savings' fares in my fares tables are now all taken from the German website bahn.de, which shows Paris-Munich in a couchette from 59 euros, as Rail Europe shows £63 so bahn.de is cheaper.  Yet full price in a couchette seems to be £129 on Rail Europe but 196 euros (£170) on bahn.de, so for the full price part of the tables I've taken the Rail Europe prices as for these, Rail Europe is for some strange reason significantly cheaper.  Although Rail Europe seems to show £63 as the full price for a seat, which is presumably a glitch as full price is really 180 euros, so I've had to use the German price for the first box in the full-price row of fares that are otherwise taken from Rail Europe.  Oh, by 'otherwise' I mean apart from the full-price fare for 4-berth couchettes which I always have to take from the German system, as Rail Europe can't book 4-berth couchettes on these trains for some reason.  Simple, eh?  And there's a senior and youth discount on the full price, too.  Or is there?  A lower full price fare appears in the search results if 'senior' or 'youth' is selected instead of adult at Rail Europe, clearly indicating the existence of such fares (in fact, it's confirmed in the Rail Europe trade fares tables), but the age of the passenger makes absolutely no difference to the price when using bahn.de.  So do senior and youth fares exist, or not on the CNLs?  Then we have the Cologne-Vienna Austrian EuroNight.  DB seems to have applied their own new prices to this, so a couchette starts at 59 euros, yet on the Austrian railways website oebb.at the same train still starts at 39 euros with a couchette.  I've decided to show two rows of 'savings' fares for this particular train, one if booked at bahn.de, one if booked at oebb.at!  Finally, it seems a couchette supplement is no longer one simple fixed price whatever type of ticket or railpass is held.  A higher supplement is charged if you have a railpass than if you have a normal ticket.  So even DB and ÖBB now think a railpass is worth less than a regular ticket!  Aargh!

Long-term engineering work affects trains into and out of Istanbul from 2012...

It's been threatened for a year or two, with many false starts, but this time it looks like it's really going ahead.  The line from Istanbul Haydarpasa to Izmit (on the line to Eskisehir and Ankara) will close for long-term rebuilding in January 2012, affecting all trains from Istanbul Haydarpasa station into Asian Turkey until June 2015.  Work is also being carried out in 2012 affecting trains into Sirkeci station on the European side.  Details will be shown on the London to Turkey page and Train Travel in Turkey page, being progressively updated as more info becomes available.

Rail staff 'priv' travel in Europe...

I've now added a page on 'priv' travel in Europe for rail staff.  Feedback to help add to this page would be very welcome.  It's now some time since I lost my own free and reduced rate travel facilities!

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2011

Caledonian Sleepers not only saved, they're to get £100m of investment in new trains...

Transport Scotland's consultation document asked about the future of the Caledonian Sleeper service linking Scotland with London.  Should it be improved, or scrapped?  Good news, the Scottish government has now voted to more than match the UK government's pledge of £50m to invest in a new sleeper fleet, not only to keep the Caledonian Sleepers running, but to transform them to the most modern standards.

Changes to SailRail fares from 2 January 2012...

From 2 January 2012, SailRail tickets from UK stations to Dublin & Ireland will change.  Instead of open tickets with a requirement to have a reservation for the ferry, there will be two types of SailRail tickets:  Advance, which can be booked until 18:00 the day before travel, with reservations included (and required) for each train on which seat reservations are possible and Walk-up (a.ka. Standby) which is available on the day of travel for a pound or two more.  The UK zones used for the fares will also alter.  The new fares from London-Dublin by train+ship will be £38 Advance, £43 Walk-up.  London to Dublin by train+Swift will be £43 Advance, £48 Standby.  Advance tickets have been made 'reservation compulsory' throughout the journey not to limit numbers, but to ensure all passengers have a reservation on the ferry, as passengers had been sold tickets without reservations and turned up to find the ferry full on busy dates.  Full details now updated on the UK-Ireland page.

London to Amsterdam or London to Cologne from just £45 one-way, £79 return with www.eurostar.com...

Eurostar have really stepped up their game on through fares to Amsterdam and Cologne, with new £45 one-way, £79 return through fares from London to Amsterdam and Cologne by Eurostar and high-speed Thalys train, book at www.eurostar.com.  It's the cheapest return fare to Amsterdam I've seen in 10 years, even cheaper than the Eurostar+InterCity £89 return to 'any Dutch station', which unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the Eurostar website (you can still book a ticket to Any Dutch Station online at www.nsinternational.nl).  To Cologne, the fares are only valid via Thalys between Brussels and Cologne, not the German ICE, a pity, as this means only half the potential departures are being sold by Eurostar.  DB's 'London Spezial' fares from 49 euros to any station in Germany, even Berlin or Munich or Hamburg, remains the cheapest option for journeys beyond Cologne or for journeys to Cologne via Eurostar+ICE, see the Germany page.

DB's direct London-Cologne and London-Amsterdam ICE trains delayed till 2015...

Rats!  It seems delays in production of the new class 407 ICE trains mean Deutsche Bahn's direct London to Cologne and London to Amsterdam ICE trains planned for December 2013 will not now start until 2015.

Northern Italy to Sicily direct sleeper trains culled...

With no advance warning (the Italians are always late with their data for the new timetable) it seems that from yesterday the Venice to Sicily, Milan to Sicily and Turin to Sicily night trains are discontinued.  You will no longer be able to board a wagons-lits on the banks of the Grand Canal and travel overnight in your personal hotel room to Sicily.  You will now need to sit in a seat on a high-speed train to Rome and board one of two remaining Rome-Sicily sleeper trains.  A shame!

Summary of changes to European train services from 11 December...

I am currently updating the European pages to reflect the new timetable starting 11 December 2011.  So far, here are the main known changes which will come into effect from 11 December:

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2011

Daily Telegraph Reader's Travel Awards...

Someone kindly pointed out to me that on 26 October, the Daily Telegraph announced the winners of it's Readers' Travel Awards.  In the 'Favourite Travel Website' category, Tripadvisor was the winner, with The Man in Seat 61 and Alistair Sawday as the two runners up.  I'm very grateful for all the DT readers who voted for the site, I'm quite chuffed (no pun intended) to have come runner up to Tripadvisor!

Improved Trans-Siberian page and new Moscow to Beijing in pictures page...

It's been a while since my own Trans-Siberian trips, and my own scanned-in pre-digital Trans-Siberian photos have been creaking at the edges, not properly reflecting the changes that have happened over the years, or being sharp enough for display on today's higher-resolution computer screens.  And having blown all my accumulated 'Man Miles' for the trip away from wife and kids to Vietnam and Cambodia to overhaul those two pages, there is little hope of me having the time to do a three-week Trans-Sib refresher for seat61.  But fortunately, I've now been able to overhaul the Trans-Siberian page and create a new 'Moscow to Beijing in pictures' page thanks to fresh digital photos from recent Trans-Sib trips sent to me by travellers Tony Willis and Peter and Janet Jackson, with a few remaining photos from my own trips.  I've combined the Trans-Siberian main page and the Trans-Siberian timetable page, reducing duplication and simplifying presentation.  the Moscow-Beijing journey page replaces the Trans-Siberian picture gallery page.  I hope you approve of the new layout and pages - feedback (or further pictures, especially of the train sleeper interiors on the Rossiya, Baikal or train 3/4 and 19/20) is always appreciated!

Improved Cambodia page...

The Cambodia page now has details of bus services within Cambodia, the Saigon-Cambodia bus service, and the Bangkok-Cambodia journey by train, tuk tuk and road transport via Poipet.

Improved Vietnam page...

I'm just back from a research trip to Vietnam, and have relaunched the Vietnam page with updated information and photos. A refreshed and updated Cambodia page will follow shortly...

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointOctober 2011

Improved Australia page...

Thanks to James Chuang, I've been able to overhaul the Australia page, adding up to date photos of the Indian Pacific and Ghan sleepers and lounges as well as some of my own journey photos, to hopefully better showcase these two superb trains.

Improved South Africa page...

Thanks to Jeroen van Marle, I've been able to overhaul the South Africa page, and add photos of the sleepers, scenery, food and stations on the Johannesburg to Cape Town Shosholoza Meyl tourist class train service.  This train gets great reports from almost everyone who uses it - comfy sleepers, a shower at the end of the corridor, a restaurant car serving full meals, beer and South African wine, and fabulous scenery at ground level, all for an absolutely incredible R430 (about £38 or $59) or so.  Why on Earth doesn't every budget traveller use these excellent trains when they need transportation between Cape Town & Jo'burg or Jo-burg and Durban or Port Elizabeth, instead of a soulless flight or nightmare long-distance bus?  It may be ignorance that such a service exists, or misleading advice from some middle class South Africans who think all trains in SA are unsafe when they've never been near one.  If seat61 can help open people eyes to the possibilities for civilised, rail-borne travel around SA, that would be great!

Improved Peru page...

Thanks to visits to Peru by two friends of mine (but sadly not myself, at least not yet!) I've been able to improve the information and illustrations on the Peru page.

Improved Indonesia page...

I've improved the Indonesia page with photos, additional routes and information on how to travel by train & ferry between Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali, and between Sumatra and Java.

Improved Italy page...

I've significantly reduced duplication on the Italy page by combining the London-Milan/Verona/Venice section with the London-Bologna/Florence/Rome section.  I've also added more photos and journey information about the Paris-Modane-Milan route by TGV via the Fréjus pass, and the Paris-Zurich-Milan route via the Gotthard pass.  The page will be further simplified as December approaches, when I can remove the need to maintain two versions of the sleeper train section, one for pre-10-December when Artesia operates the Paris-Italy sleeper trains, and one for trael after 11 December explaining the new arrangements when Thello takes over these trains, see the next paragraph...

Coming soon... 'Thello' sleeper trains from Paris to Verona & Venice...

Well, they have a name at last.  The consortium of Trenitalia and Veolia that will take over the existing 'Artesia' Paris-Venice and Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper trains as of 11 December will be called 'Thello', www.thello.com.  It remains to be seen whether 'Thello' will merely be Artesia (a consortium of Trenitalia and SNCF French Railways) under a different name, with the same poor standards and appalling mismanagement, or whether it will be truly different.  If I were Veolia senior management, I'd be on the case of my Trenitalia partners 24/7 to ensure on-time starts from Paris, sleeping-car toilets with toilets seats attached, water systems that actually work, staff that give acceptable on-board service and proper catering standards.  One report suggests sleepers with en suite toilet and shower are planned for the future, so maybe there's at least one positive sign.

But no Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper train at all until June 2012...

The latest news is that although Thello will start running its Paris-Milan/Verona/Venice sleeper train from 11 December 2011, it will not be in a position to start its Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper train until June 2012.  That means there will cease to be any Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper train between 11 December 2011 and June 2012.

New faster seat61 server...

Webhost www.ultraspeed.com has given me a new faster server.  If you can see this, the switch has happened.  It should make browsing a bit quicker!

Stena Line worsens ferry service to Belfast, switching ferries from rail-connected Stranraer to middle-of-nowhere Cairnryan...

Sadly, Stena Line are worsening their ferry service to Northern Ireland, switching their ferries from historic, rail-connected, integrated Stranraer to dis-integrated un-connected Cairnryan, in the middle of nowhere with poor connections.  I'd been hoping they would abandon this misguided project, save money and stay put, ensuring easy train//ferry connections via Stranraer for future generations.  But unfortunately, as from 22 November 2011, instead of a comfortable train from Glasgow to Stranraer, then simply walking from train up the gangplank onto the ferry to Belfast as people have done for over 100 years, you'll have to take a train from Glasgow to Ayr, then endure a one-hour bus journey to Cairnryan before boarding the ferry to Belfast.  Hardly an improvement, and so much for integrated transport...  The new timetables from 22 November are now shown on the Northern Ireland page.  Passengers from London to Belfast and from Scotland to the Republic of Ireland may wish to divert via Holyhead from 22 November, using Irish ferries Holyhead-Dublin.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointSeptember 2011

No sleeping-car between Sofia & Istanbul until at least the end of 2011...

News just in, Bulgarian railways (BDZ) are very short of serviceable sleeping-cars.  Not only have the 'new' second hand ones from Germany disappeared from international services to be replaced once again by the old 1960s ones, there is unlikely to be a sleeping-car at all on the Belgrade-Sofia and Sofia-Istanbul overnight trains at least until the end of 2011.  If you're travelling from London to Paris to Istanbul, the route via Bucharest is now most definitely the one to take.

New Caucasus page...

I have moved and expanded the sections about Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan from being an addendum to the Turkey page to being a new 'Caucasus' page in their own right.  Incidentally, before anyone emails me, whilst these countries are technically in Europe, I have resisted lumping them in with the more familiar European countries at least for the time being, as this might detract from the clarity of the UK-Europe section.

Condé Nast Traveller readers vote Seat61.com as one of the top 10 travel websites...

I'm really chuffed (no pun intended) that seat61 has made it to number 10 in the list of Top 10 Travel Websites, as voted for in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller magazine Readers Travel Awards 2011, www.cntraveller.com/awards/readers-travel-awards/the-readers-travel-awards-2011/travel-companies.  Seat61 may be in tenth place, but with the other nine including such household names as Booking.com, LastMinute.com and Expedia, all probably the result of multi-million pound investment, tenth place isn't bad for a site started with £2.95.  The overall and very worthy winner was Mr&MrsSmith.com (another Smith, of course!).

Buenos Aires and Montevideo to be linked by passenger train?

It seems that passenger trains are to return to a route linking Argentina and Uruguay, which may in due course be extended to link the two capitals - see www.railwaygazette.com/nc/news/single-view/view/by-rail-from-buenos-aires-to-montevideo.html#.TmCJ8ftZTrM.email.

New Ankara-Konya high-speed train now operational in Turkey!

High-speed train services between Ankara and Konya at up to 250 km/h started on 24 August, and are now shown on the Train travel in Turkey page.  A roundabout journey taking over 10 hours now takes just 1 hour 40 minutes.  An initial four trains a day will be built up to an hourly service in due course.

Artesia Paris-Italy trains get worse...

Couchette cars are now substituting for a lack of serviceable sleeping-cars on the Paris-Venice 'Stendhal', and the same problem now seems to be affecting the Paris-Rome 'Palatino', with sleepers 'closed for sale' in much of August and September, meaning that even if sleeping-cars do operate on that train, no-one can book them.  Frankly, I now recommend avoiding the incompetently-run Paris-Italy Artesia sleepers and using daytime Paris-Milan TGV trains, or daytime trains via Switzerland with an overnight stop, or even the efficient German-run Paris-Munich sleeper then the similarly-efficient German and Austrian-run EuroCity trains from Munich to Italy through the scenic Brenner Pass.  I have changed the recommendations and warnings on the London-Italy page accordingly, and also added a daytime option via Munich with overnight hotel.  Who'd have thought 30 years ago that a round-about London-Italy route via Munich would have to be recommended because of so many problems with the previously wonderful Paris-Italy sleeper trains?  Artesia (the consortium of Trenitalia & SNCF) will cease to exist in December 2011, perhaps no bad thing, and 'new' Paris-Italy night trains will be operated by Trenitalia and new partner Veolia.  It remains to be seen if this is a new dawn for the Paris-Italy overnight trains or merely the same old mismanagement.  I'll keep you posted!  Latest update:  Now the Stendhal has lost its restaurant car, replaced with a food trolley from September onwards.

Direct sleeping-cars Berlin-Odessa and Berlin-Simferopol discontinued

Ukrainian Railways (UZ) have announced that the direct sleeping-cars running several times a week from Berlin to Odessa and Berlin to Simferopol in the Crimea will be discontinued as from early September, with last departures around 9 or 10 September.  The main train Berlin-Kiev will continue, but you'll now need to change trains in Kiev to reach Odessa or the Crimea, so I've added connecting train times from Kiev to Odessa, Simferopol & Sebastopol to the main London-Kiev section.  Direct sleeping-cars  between Kiev and Prague, Kiev and Vienna, and between Warsaw and Odessa, Warsaw and Simferopol are also discontinued.  Warsaw-Kiev will remain running normally.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2011

More interactive maps...

Hot on the heels of the Southeast Asia interactive map (see below), I've made the southern Africa map interactive, and the map on the Trans-Siberian page interactive.  Hopefully this will make it easier to find the information relating to each route shown on the map.

New interactive map of Southeast Asia

I've created a new, larger and (hopefully) clearer map of train routes in Southeast Asia with connecting bus and ferry routes, and made it interactive so that clicking on any train, bus or ferry route takes you to the relevant part of the relevant  page.  Let me know if you find it useful!

Non-availability of sleeping-cars on Paris-Italy & domestic Italian night trains until further notice...

Trenitalia are easily the most useless and incompetent national railway in Europe.  They have just sent a message to all their retailing agents saying that "As from July 28th until December 10th, WL coaches on the trains listed on the file attached are not available on the sale systems further to negotiation in progress with the company in charge of maintenance."  The list includes most or all domestic Italian night trains plus the Paris-Venice Artesia train 'Stendhal', but fortunately not (it seems) the Paris-Florence-Rome Artesia 'Palatino'.  According to a report in newspaper La Republica, it seems that staff at the company who maintain them haven't been paid for 4 months and have gone on strike.  Each sleeping-car has been replaced by a couchette car, and passengers who have already booked sleepers will get single, double or triple occupancy of a 6-berth couchette compartment.  It remains to be seen exactly what's going on, and the 'until 10 December' may as well be read as 'until further notice'.  The 4 and 6 berth couchette cars on these Italian night trains are not affected, it's only the 1, 2 or 3 bed sleepers.  I will update this entry as I find out more...

Online booking in Thailand is back...

Having at long last introduced online booking in 2009, State Railways of Thailand suspended it again in September 2010.  But from 1 August it's back and better - you can now book 1st or 2nd class seats or sleepers on most routes, for up to 4 people at a time, 2 to 60 days in advance.  Details on the Thailand page.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJuly 2011

 
   
BBC Top Gear:  Yes, it really is an Audi pulling four caravans...  

Boarding the 'train' just off the end of Rothley platform...

 

Murray Brown, editor of Rail Express magazine, takes a break from high-speed passes on Jeremy Clarkson's 'TGV12'...

The Man in Seat 61 on BBC TV 'Top Gear'

Yes, I know it's the most unlikely show for me to appear on.  But this week, Hammond and May were building a train and needed some 'train experts' as guinea pigs.  An Audi S8 pulling four caravans on rail trolley wheels, it was the noisiest and most vibration-ridden conveyance I have ever ridden.  You also can't see how swelteringly hot that second class caravan was on that bright sunny day on the Great Central Railway at Rothley.  Still, lucky I didn't end up in Scum Class...  I did try out the first class car later in the day, with fewer windows and carpet it was a fraction less noisy and a tad cooler.  That was one crazy day...  UK residents can watch on BBC iPlayer until www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b012qrz1/Top_Gear_Series_17_Episode_4/

Online booking in Egypt...

They've had a very basic online booking system for ages, but it didn't accept non-Egyptian credit cards, and only covered the Cairo to Alexandria route.  But now it does accept non-Egyptian cards - I am the proud owner for a 1st class Cairo to Luxor ticket which I bought five minutes ago for LE94, about £10, but will sadly not be using.  And it allows booking up to 2 weeks ahead of express trains between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan as well as Alex.  I have added online booking instructions to the Egypt page.  Interestingly, you can select 'United Kingdom' and happily book a daytime express train up the Nile from Cairo to Luxor, with no sign of the tourist restrictions which theoretically mean they won't sell you a ticket for these trains (only for the privately-run deluxe overnight sleeper, which is not covered by the online system).  So, a good way to get around the restrictions, too!  As always, feedback from travellers would be appreciated.

Improved Isle of Man page...

The Isle of Man now features photos and improved info following a recent trip there.

New Beijing to Shanghai high-speed train service started on 1 July:  819 miles in 4 hours 48 minutes...

The new 300 km/h (186mph) Beijing-Shanghai high-speed line opened on 1 July.  I've located and de-coded a Chinese timetable for the new service and added it to the China page. Timetable for the new Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train service.

Singapore's historic station is now closed:  All trains to Malaysia are starting from Woodlands...

As advised earlier this year, in an act of vandalism worse than any criminal's, Singapore's government has brought about the closure of Singapore's beautiful 1932 station, with all trains to Malaysia starting from Woodlands as from 1 July, some 15 miles north of central Singapore, just south of the causeway across the Johor Strait.  The Malaysia and Thailand pages have largely been updated to reflect this, though I expect some final tweaking will be necessary here and there.  A great shame, an era has ended...  See the Singapore & Malaysia page for details of why this has happened.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJune 2011

New Bernina Express page...

I've added a new Bernina Express page, which explains how to travel from London or Paris to Italy via the ultimate scenic route, using the fabulous 'Bernina Express' from Chur or St Moritz to Tirano in northern Italy, with connections for Milan.  Well worth slowing down for!

New ferry service Sri Lanka - India...

After many years of being cut off from each other, a new overnight cruise ferry service has started twice a week between Colombo and Tuticorin in India.  All passengers travel in comfortable cabins, and the fare includes a fixed-menu dinner and a non-alcoholic 'welcome aboard' drink.  See the Sri Lanka page for more info.

Thailand PDF format train timetable...

Thai rail expert Dave Bernstein has produced a superb PDF format timetable for the whole of Thailand, with details of fares, refunds, through ticketing to Ko Samui and Phuket, and much more.  I've now made this available for download in the 'general information' section on the Thailand page.  Ideal for printing out and taking with you if you're travelling around Thailand!

Europe-wide timetable change from 12 June...

Europe's train timetables change again on 12 June, the new timetable is valid until 10 December.  There are very few major changes.  Seat61 pages have now been updated to reflect the new times.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMay 2011

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointApril 2011

  Irish Ferries launches online booking for SailRail tickets from Dublin or any rail station in Ireland to London or anywhere in Britain!!

Good news for anyone living in Ireland!!  Irish Ferries have enabled online booking of the amazingly cheap SailRail train & ferry tickets from any rail station in Ireland (including Dublin, Galway, Cork, wherever) to any Rail station in Britain (including London, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, wherever).  Dublin to London, Brighton, Norwich, Plymouth or Edinburgh costs just 40 euros (ship) or 46 euros (Swift fast ferry) any sailing, any day, even bought on the day of travel.  Cork, Galway, Tralee or Limerick to London costs 60 euros (ship) or 66 euros (Swift fast ferry).  With luxurious superferries and a scenic journey along the North Wales coast on a modern 125mph InterCity train, this is a low-price but remarkably high-quality way to travel.  My own top tip?  Pay the extra £16 (you can upgrade when you book online) for Club Class, with complimentary tea or coffee, red & white wine and canapés.  The clever money takes the train and ferry!  Tickets can be sent to any Irish address by registered post, sent to any address worldwide by normal post (at your own risk) or collected at Dublin Ferryport.  See www.irishferries.com/ie/sailrail.asp.

UK flag SailRail tickets any station in Britain to Cork, Galway, Limerick or any station in Ireland now bookable online at www.thetrainline.com...

Hot on the heels of Irish Ferries launching an online SailRail booking system at the Irish end, www.thetrainline.com can now book cheap SailRail tickets from any station in Britain to any station in Ireland, one-way or return in either direction.  One ticket covers a British train to Holyhead, the ferry to Dublin, and the Irish train to your Irish destination.  London or anywhere in the southeast, East Anglia, the South West or Scotland to Cork, Galway, Limerick, Tralee, Kilkenny, wherever, costs £50.50 one-way, £101 return, and that's a fixed price available any day, any date, even if you need to travel tomorrow.  Yes, Inverness to Tralee for £50.50;  Brighton to Kilkenny £50.50.  Norwich to Cork for £50.50.  Amazing!  See the seat61 Ireland page.

Info on weekly Zimbabwe to Mozambique train service added...

Thanks to traveller Richard Walsh, the weekly train service from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to Maputo in Mozambique is now shown on the Zimbabwe and Mozambique pages.

Additional modern train in Vietnam from April 2011... 

An additional train, SE19/SE20, has been put into service between Hanoi, Hue and Danang, consisting of modern air-con coaches with upgraded interiors, designed to appeal to visitors.  Fares are about 10% higher than other SE trains.  Details on the Vietnam page.

Good news from the UK:  Trains gain passengers from domestic flights on all key domestic air routes...

The latest research into market share by ATOC, the UK's Association of Train Operating Companies, shows a continuing switch from air to rail for domestic journeys in the UK.  Rail's market share on the 400-mile London-Glasgow route has climbed from a low of 6% in 2001 to 10% in 2006, 12% in 2008, 16% in 2009 and now 20% in 2010 following the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line.  Meanwhile, London-Glasgow airline journeys decreased by 22.4% between 2006 and 2010, according to CAA figures.  From Birmingham to Edinburgh, a 14% market share in 2008 became 31% in 2010, also following major improvements to the train service.  As well as improved train services, airport stress and a desire to cut their carbon footprint have all played their part, and the trend seems to be continuing...  see Virgin Trains press release.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointMarch 2011

Improved information on the Spain page...

A recent trip to Madrid & Barcelona with the assistance of Rail Europe, Renfe, Elipsos & Railbookers.com has enabled improved photos and information to be provided about both the trainhotel from Paris to Madrid and high speed AVE trains in Spain, as well as the new Barcelona to Paris high-speed service.  See the London to Spain page.

Improved information on the Poland, Ukraine, Russia pages...

A recent trip to Warsaw has enabled improved photos and information to be provided about the Jan Kiepura sleeper train from Amsterdam & Cologne to Warsaw (there's now a new Jan Kiepura page), the Kiev Express from Warsaw to Kiev, the Polonez sleeper train from Warsaw to Moscow, and about Warsaw Centralna station and Warsaw city itself...

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointFebruary 2011

Christchurch in New Zealand hit by earthquake...

The TranzAlpine & TranzCoastal trains were suspended following the quake.  The TranzAlpine will resume running from 7 March, the TranzCoastal will initially be replaced by a bus from 7 March onwards until further notice.

Recent trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand...

I spent 12 days away at the beginning of this month travelling from Singapore to Bangkok on the fabulous Eastern & Oriental Express and returning on scheduled trains.  The Singapore/Malaysia, Thailand & Bridge on the River Kwai pages have all now been updated as a result of the trip.  I hope you like the improvements!

New 'Eastern & Oriental Express' page...

Another result of that trip is a new page about the fabulous E&O from Singapore to Bangkok, see here.

One million visitors in January...

1,012,744 visitors came to seat61.com in January, a new record for a month without any volcanic ash!

New 'Man in Seat 61 - Worldwide' book to be published on 17 February...

My second book, the Man in Seat 61 - Worldwide' is due to be published on 17 Feb (originally 3rd Feb).  It has details of train travel around the world, beyond Europe.

Greece now cut off from the rest of eastern Europe...

It's now reported that international trains to and from Greece will indeed stop running from the 12 February, see the January news item below.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointJanuary 2011

Greece cuts itself off from the rest of Europe:  Greece suspends all its international trains from 1 Jan 2011...

It seems Greece is to become a third world country, separated from the rest of Europe.  With their economic situation dire, their government has just announced massive rail cuts to be implemented from1 January 2011.  This includes the cancelling from 1 January until further notice of all international trains between Greece and Sofia, Belgrade, Bucharest & Istanbul.  If this goes ahead, Greece will be cut off from the rest of Europe, except by ferry from Italy.  Effectively, it will become an island.  Stupidly, the international trains from Belgrade will terminate on the Macedonian side of the Greek border at Gevgelija, just 79 km short of their proper destination at Thessaloniki, Greece's 2nd city.  The train 'Romania' from Bucharest and Sofia will presumably terminate at Kulata on the Bulgarian side of the Greek border, 144 km short of Thessaloniki, though in this case I suppose they may cut it back to terminate in Sofia.  The recently-upgraded (and very scenic) Thessaloniki-Larissa-Athens main line and (when completed) the Athens-Patras standard gauge line will continue, as may branches to Volos and Kalambaka (Meteora).  However, many branch lines including those to Olympia and Kalamata in the Peloponnese will be shut.

Update, 16 January 2011:  It's reliably reported that the Belgrade-Thessaloniki trains are in fact still running normally, as is the Thessaloniki-Istanbul 'Filia Dostluk Express' train.  It's not clear whether these trains have been given a reprieve, or if they are being run by OSE staff in spite of Government instructions to stop them!  At least one train from Sofia to Thessaloniki is also running.  However, I have not received any info to confirm if the 'Romania' Bucharest-Sofia-Thessaloniki train is running or not.

Update, 6 February 2011:  It's now reported that the Istanbul-Thessaloniki train will stop running 'until further notice' from 12 February, and I suspect the other international trains to and from Greece will do likewise.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointDecember 2010

Take a virtual journey across the USA by train from New York to San Francisco...

I've created a new California Zephyr page illustrating a journey across America from New York to San Francisco on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited and California Zephyr.  This compliments the existing Train travel in the United States page which will continue to contain all the factual and practical information.  Any feedback gratefully received!

European timetable change on 12 December 2010

What changes are expected from 12 December 2010?

The new timetable brings some exciting developments:

Brand-new TGV service from Paris to Figueres in Spain:  New London to Barcelona opportunity by daytime trains... 

On 19 December, two daily direct TGV Duplex trains are due to start operation over the new high-speed line to Figueres in Spain, with connections to Barcelona.  One of these will have a Eurostar connection from London.  You'll be able to leave St Pancras by Eurostar at 10:25 arriving Paris Nord at 13:47, take the metro to the Gare de Lyon for the 15:20 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving in Figueres at 20:45, reaching Barcelona by connecting train at 22:45.  Northbound, leave Barcelona at 09:05 to connect with the new 11:09 TGV from Figueres to Paris, this will connect you with the 18:13 Eurostar to London arriving 19:34 (1 hour later on Saturdays).  Figueres is home to the amazing Salvador Dali museum, well worth a stop in its own right.  In a few years time the high-speed line will be extended to Barcelona.  See here for details of the new London-Barcelona daytime train service.

Brand-new 'Allegro' high-speed tilting trains between Helsinki & St Petersburg. 

Russian & Finnish Railways (RZD & VR) have formed a joint venture (Karelia Trains) to launch a Helsinki-St Petersburg high-speed service called 'Allegro'.  From 12 December, two daily Allegro 'pendolino' tilting electric trains will link central Helsinki with central St Petersburg in an airline-beating 3½ hours, down from the current 5½ hours of the lumbering 'Sibelius' and 'Repin'.  The new service will be speeded up to 3 hours flat with four daily departures in a year or two's time. The trains use the existing track, the time is saved by track upgrading, tilting trains, no longer requiring a time-consuming locomotive change at the frontier, and streamlined border checks.  The 'Tolstoi' direct sleeper train between Helsinki & Moscow will remain.  Photos.  Details on the Finland page.

Paris-Hamburg City Night Line sleeper train reinstated!

The German City Night Line sleeper train company will reinstate the direct Paris-Hamburg sleeper train withdrawn a few years ago, once more giving the chance to leave London in the afternoon and arrive Hamburg in time for business next day.

Paris-Berlin & Paris-Munich City Night Line sleepers return to daily operation all year round...

More good news from City Night Line.  A few years ago, these key sleeper trains were reduced to running 4 times a week in the depths of winter, on the busier nights of the week.  From 12 December, they will return to running every day of the week, all year round.  Update 26 November:  The Germans are having trouble getting the extra train paths agreed with the infrastructure operator so these trains can go daily.  But it looks as if they will indeed run daily.  Booking was supposed to open today (26 November) for the 'missing' weekday trains, but is now delayed again by a day or two.  I will confirm on that date that the change has indeed happened, and will then update all the relevant pages.

Faster & more frequent Paris-Geneva TGVs.

What was a single-track local line in southeast France has been rebuilt as a main line cutting quite a few miles off the Paris-Geneva distance.  Paris-Geneva journey time will be cut from 3h20 to 3h04, and 7 daily TGVs will be increased to 9, most with connections from London by Eurostar.

Copenhagen-Stockholm faster as Malmö City Tunnel opens...

Shaving almost 15 minutes off the Copenhagen to Stockholm X2000 journey time, as trains will no longer have to reverse in Malmö's terminal station.

But sadly, much worse London-Germany services from 12 December...

Sadly, Eurostar, Thalys & DB have not co-ordinated their London-Brussels & Brussels-Cologne timetables at all.  In fact, from 12 December the London-Cologne timetable will be the worse it has been for years.  The last train from Cologne to London, currently 17:44 arriving 21:33, becomes 16:44 but still arriving 21:33 with an extra hour wasted in Brussels.  As a result, some journeys, such as Copenhagen-London in a day, London-Prague in a day, London-Vienna in a day, cease to be possible without an overnight stop or using a sleeper train.  Perhaps the worst example is this:  On Saturdays, if you arrive in Cologne at 08:42 on the sleeper train from Vienna, the earliest you can get back to London will be 19:03, a remarkable 11 hours from your arrival in Cologne!  When this sleeper train used to run through to Oostende, connecting with a 4-hour ferry crossing to Dover, then a 90mph boat train to Victoria, you also arrived in London around 19:00, so what is the point of all the expensive high-speed infrastructure?  The start of direct London-Cologne services in 2013 will help resolve this, but in the meantime the fragmentation and lack of co-operation between European train operators is beginning to show.  Billions of euros of investment in high-speed lines is being wasted because services aren't being properly co-ordinated as a network.

Budapest-Sofia through sleeper withdrawn:  London-Istanbul now 4 nights, not 3...

The direct sleeping-car between Budapest & Sofia via Bucharest is withdrawn.  Not only does this knock out one of the suggested London-Sofia options (fortunately leaving the faster one, via Vienna), this through sleeper used to guarantee the connection between the Budapest-Bucharest 'Ister' arriving 11:47 and the Bucharest-Istanbul 'Bosfor' & Bucharest-Thessaloniki 'Romania' leaving at 12:24.  As the onward train will no longer wait for a late-arriving 'Ister' I can no longer recommend a direct 24 minute connection in Bucharest, instead I recommend a 24hour (24 hours 24 minute!) connection, extending the London-Istanbul journey from 3 to 4 nights.

Odds & ends this month...

large bullet pointNovember 2010

Seat61 wins 'Best Low Carbon Transport & Technology' at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards 2010...

I'm delighted that seat61.com has won the 'Best Low Carbon Transport & Technology' category in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards 2010.  The awards were presented at the World Travel Market at Excel in London's Docklands on 10 November.

London to Ireland via Rosslare for just £32...

After a delightful return trip from Ireland via Rosslare-Fishguard for just £32 all the way from Ireland back to my local station, I've put photos and improved information in the London-Rosslare section of the Ireland page.  The Dublin-Rosslare line has to be the most scenic in Ireland, hugging the rocky coastline south of Dublin then winding through the Wicklow Hills whose golden autumn leaves rival New England in the fall.

Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable to cease publication after 30 years...

Unbelievably, the celebrated Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable will cease publication after its Nov/Dec 2010 edition, after 30 years.  It was my own life-changing inspiration, and it will be sorely missed by all serious overland travellers everywhere.  The internet may be a suitable substitute for travel in western countries now, but in much of the Asian, African and South American world rail, bus and ferry companies do not have websites, or have very poor websites that are not always in English.  The absence of any printed timetable for world overland travel will make finding out about alternatives to air that much harder.  For the avoidance of doubt, the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable will continue to be published.

large bullet pointOctober 2010

   

A taste of things to come:  DB present a high-speed ICE train to the press at St Pancras in London on 19th October.  Three trains a day will link London with Amsterdam (3h55), Cologne (3h55) & Frankfurt (5hours) from 2013.

Direct trains from London to Amsterdam, Cologne & Frankfurt from 2013...

German Railways (DB) show off their ICE train in London on 19 October...  DB (German Railways) intend to start a direct high-speed train service from London to Amsterdam, Cologne & Frankfurt with three departures a day from 2013, if they can get certain regulations changed regarding what trains may pass through the Channel Tunnel.  They're very serious about it - an ICE was brought to London and shown to the press on 19 October, and yours truly was invited.  The ICE (see this page) is arguably the most civilised high-speed train in Europe.  Bring it on...

Right:  the ICE at St Pancras...

Eurostar to buy 10 new trains...

Meanwhile, perhaps trying to upstage the Germans (see above), Eurostar have announced that they are refurbishing their existing trains over the next few years and have ordered 10 new 'e320' trains, each with 900 seats and capable of 320km/h.  They will be fully interoperable with other high-speed networks, allowing them to run through to places beyond Paris & Brussels such as London to Amsterdam, Geneva, Marseille, Cologne.  However, unlike the Germans they have not committed themselves as yet to any specific new destinations.

Changes to Eurostar's 'Any Belgian station' tickets...

A Eurostar ticket from London to Brussels has always been automatically valid to any Belgian station.  This was a fantastic deal for passengers, but less fantastic for Belgian national railways (SNCB) as they received no revenue from the arrangement.  As from 12 October 2010, a ticket to Brussels will no longer be valid to any station in Belgium, only to Brussels itself.  You'll still be able to buy a ticket to Any Belgian Station, but this will cost £5.50 one-way or £11 return more than a standard class Eurostar ticket to Brussels (or in first class, £7.50 one-way, £15 return added to the price of a Standard Premier or Business Premier ticket to Brussels).  In other words, from £80 return, which is still extremely good value.

Buy a ticket to Any Dutch Station at www.eurostar.com, from £51 one-way, £89 return.

Eurostar have at long last enabled online sales of the special fare from London to Any Dutch Station at www.eurostar.com, from £51 one-way, £89 return (youth under 26 from £59 return, seniors over 60 from £69 return).  It's valid on the specific London-Brussels Eurostar you choose when booking, then by any suitable connecting train(s) to Amsterdam or any Dutch destination you like within 24 hours of your arrival in Brussels, as long as you don't use a high-speed Thalys or Fyra train, or German ICE.

Odds & ends this month....

These are some of the issues that have come up this month...

large bullet pointSeptember 2010

Cruise to Spain with Brittany Ferries:  Increase to 5 sailings a week from 2011...

A recent travel trade dinner cruise on the superb ship Pont Aven was a great opportunity to improve coverage of this excellent way to reach Spain, see the improved Spain by ferry section on the UK to Spain page.  Brittany Ferries say that their passenger numbers have been growing whilst airline passengers to France and Spain have been falling.  Last year they added a twice-weekly Portsmouth to Santander service last year to their existing once or twice weekly ferry from Plymouth to Santander, and they've now announced yet another twice-weekly ferry to Spain from March 2011, this time Portsmouth to Bilbao.  Which is handy, as P&O Ferries have just ceased operating on that route.  Brittany Ferries will therefore be offering an unprecedented 5 sailings a week from the UK direct to Spain for most of 2011.

New sleeper train service from Moscow to Nice...

Russian Railways (RZD) have introduced a weekly direct sleeper train from Moscow to Nice, taking 2 nights and leaving Moscow every Thursday afternoon.  It runs via Warsaw, Vienna, Innsbruck, Milan and Genoa. 

UK domestic travellers switching from plane to train?

ATOC (the UK's Association of Train Operating Companies) have just issued a press release with some remarkable figures, no doubt helped by volcanic ask earlier this year:  "Figures show that in recent years, rail’s market share on routes that have traditionally been dominated by domestic air travel, has risen significantly. Over the last 18 months, rail’s market share has seen a particularly sharp surge, as tough economic times have led to increasing numbers of people taking advantage of value for money rail tickets:

• For London to Glasgow, rail's market share has risen from 12% in 2008 to 21% in June 2010"

• For Birmingham to Edinburgh, rail's market share has risen from 14% in 2008 to 31% in June 2010

• For London to Manchester, rail's market share has risen from 69% in 2008 to 85% in June 2010

• For Birmingham to Glasgow, rail's market share has risen from 15% in 2008 to 27% in June 2010

New Queen Mary 2 transatlantic page...

It's the only way to cross...  If you ever wanted to visit the United States without flying, this new page will help you plan, book and make a transatlantic trip by sea aboard Cunard's superb Queen Mary 2.  I've tried to add value to Cunard's own site, telling you the important details that even they don't tell their passengers before they step on board the fabulous QM2.  Indeed, Cunard always have their 'cruise head' on and seldom seem to present critical transatlantic timetable and sailing date information in a form most useful to travellers who simply want A to B transatlantic travel rather than a whole list of various irrelevant 'cruise' options, so I have aimed to create a page to put that right too!

Eurostar downgrades 'Leisure Select' to 'Standard Premier' from 1 September...

Eurostar currently offers three classes, first class for business (Business Premier), first class for leisure (currently branded Leisure Select), and Standard class.  Until 31 August, 'Leisure Select' first class passengers received the same hot meal and complimentary drinks (including champagne) as 'Business Premier' first class passengers.  Sadly, from 1 September 2010, 'Leisure Select' will be re-branded 'Standard Premier', and will no longer include the hot meal, instead a simpler cold tray meal will be provided.  The complimentary drinks service will include one round of wine or beer but not champagne.  Prices will remain the same, a hefty £120 premium over the equivalent Standard class fare.  In spite of confusingly being called 'standard' premier ('standard' being a recognised term for 2nd class in the UK), Standard Premier will still consist of 1st class seating.  Initial reports from travellers used to the original hot meals have all been negative, and Eurostar is reportedly receiving many complaints as a result of the downgrade. Update:  Having now tried Standard Premier myself, the food isn't bad, and I was readily given a second small bottle of wine when I asked.  Yes, it's disappointing if you've been used to being served the full hot meal and the small glass of champagne, but if you have never tried Eurostar first class before so don't know what you're missing, the new cold tray meals are not bad.

Taking train & ferry to Dublin or Amsterdam can reduce your CO2 emissions by up to 80%...

Calculating CO2 emissions for ferry travel has previously been problematic, as there has been no agreed way of allocating the vessel's CO2 emissions between foot passengers, motorists and freight.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have now allocated CO2 emissions from ferries on the basis of weight, giving a figure of 22.54 grams of CO2 per passenger for ferry foot passengers.  I'm no expert on environmental matters, but using www.ecopassenger.org to calculate the train connections and the alternative flights, this suggests that taking the train & ferry option from London to Dublin can reduce CO2 emissions per passenger by up to 73% compared to flying, and taking the Dutch Flyer rail and sail service from London to Amsterdam can make an 80% saving.  More information.

Passenger numbers on the Auckland - Wellington 'Overlander' up 24%...

A train that nearly died (yet which links New Zealand's economic and political capitals) has made a convincing comeback, with passenger numbers up 24% in the last financial year.  From making a NZ$2m loss, revenue is up significantly and the Overlander is now 'making a financial contribution to KiwiRail operations'.  See press story here.  In my book, this 12-hour journey right across New Zealand's North Island on the historic Main Trunk Railway is one of the Great Railway Journeys of the world.  Next time you visit NZ, ditch the internal flights for an eye-opening train ride!  See the Overlander page.

Odds & ends this month....

These are some of the issues that have come up this month...

large bullet pointAugust 2010

Eurostar Explorers Train...

I was delighted to travel with the Eurostar Explorer's Train on 24 to 26 August, which sent 300 passengers (including Eurostar photo competition winners) off to Bruges, Amsterdam, Cologne, Lyon & Avignon in search of hidden treasures.  You can see what some of the Explorers found at http://europe.eurostar.com/explorers-discoveries/.  Me?  I headed for Avignon with 4 year old Nate, and we found a superb traditional French restaurant, l'Epicerie, in a backstreet square behind the Palais des Papes.

Rail line to Istanbul reopens after repairs...

With the line blocked by landslides after heavy rain earlier this year, the international trains from Bucharest, Belgrade & Sofia to Istanbul had been terminating at Cerkezköy with a replacement bus the final 115km into Istanbul.  As from 23 August, the line has been repaired and trains are once more running all the way into Istanbul Sirkeci station.  See the Turkey page.

Norfolkline's Rosyth - Zeebrugge ferry to fold...

Sadly, Norfolkline have announced that their three-times-a-week passenger service from Rosyth near Edinburgh to Zeebrugge is to be withdrawn permanently from December 2010.  A great shame.  Amazingly, they put this down to an 'expansion' of freight service, if so it's a type of expansion we could all do without!

New timetable in Malaysia...

The Malaysian railway operator KTM has introduced a new timetable.  Some trains have been speeded up, and there are now 3 trains daily instead of just one or two between Kuala Lumpur & Penang (Butterworth), namely two daytime and one sleeper.  Details have now been updated on the Malaysia page.

All Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains in South Africa cancelled...  Some routes have now resumed...

Due to a dispute over maintenance, and reportedly only 16 out of 130 locomotives being serviceable, Shosholoza Meyl has cancelled all long-distance passenger trains in South Africa.  It's not clear when they will resume, the new passenger rail authority (Prasa) has got itself into quite a shambles.  By late August, the Cape Town-Jo'burg and Jo'burg-Durban routes have reportedly resumed.  See the South Africa page for updates.

Yet more complaints about the Artesia sleeper trains from Paris to Italy

I always loved travelling on these great sleeper trains between Paris and Florence, Rome and Venice, but Trenitalia (Europe's most incompetent railway) seem to be running them down badly, with poor food, service, cleanliness and timekeeping.  They are now generating many complaints, and it remains to be seem how long they will survive.  How I wish someone competent would take over the management of these important trains!  The daytime options to Italy (which require an overnight stop in Paris, Milan or Switzerland if travelling beyond Milan) are now the higher-quality choice.

large bullet pointJune 2010

European timetable change, 13 June 2010

A new timetable starts on 13 June all over Europe.  Relatively few changes have been made from the Dec 2009-June 2010 timetable, and the site has now been fully updated.  One change that will take place, though perhaps of limited interest to travellers from the UK, is the sad withdrawal of the Barcelona to Seville/Cadiz 'trenhotel' sleeper train.

New Stena Line superferry 'Stena Hollandica' named on 8 June...

I was lucky enough to be invited to join Stena Line for the naming of their new Harwich-Hoek superferry 'Stena Hollandica'.  She is a superb ship, and at 63,000 tons she's the largest RoPax ferry in the world.  She now offers free WiFi throughout, with every cabin coming with an en suite shower & toilet and satellite TV.  Just £35 buys a train and ferry ticket from London (or any National Express east Anglia rail station) to Amsterdam or any rail station in the Netherlands, plus £24 for a single cabin or £37 for a double one.  A bargain, and the clever way from London to Amsterdam!  See the Netherlands page for details, it has now been updated to show the new ship and its enhanced facilities.

Line to Istanbul blocked by flood damage:  Line will reopen from 20 June.

Flooding has damaged the line and a tunnel between the Bulgarian border at Kapikule and Istanbul, and as a result all international trains between Bucharest/Sofia/Belgrade/Salonika and Istanbul are temporarily cancelled while repairs are carried out.  No alternative transport is being provided, although for anyone stranded there are plenty of regular buses between Sofia and Istanbul, an 8 hour bus journey.  The latest news is that the line should reopen and trains resume running as from 20 June 2010.  This comes from a forwarded email from TCDD (Turkish Railways) themselves. If I hear anything more, I will post it here as well as on the Turkey page.

Lowest train fare ever from London to Lyon, Avignon, Marseille: £69 return, call 08432 186 186

Eurostar have launched a trial 'code share' deal with French Railways, and are offering tickets from just £69 return on two daily Eurostars to Lille and connecting TGV to Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence and Marseille.  To get the lowest £69 rate you'll need to call as it's not available online.  No refunds, no changes to travel plans, limited availability.  This is probably the lowest train fare ever to the south of France.

Singapore station to close by July 2011 - trains will start from Woodlands instead...

It's been on the cards for decades.  But now it's reported that the historic 1932 art deco station in Singapore will close by July 2011, with trains transferred to start/terminate at a new station at Woodlands, near the causeway to Malaysia and miles way from Singapore city centre, see this article.  Sadly, in Singapore they know the value of absolutely nothing except office blocks and shopping centres, and you'd have thought they had quite enough of those.  By summer next year, taking a train from this wonderful historic building will be a thing of the past.  You will have to take a bus to Woodlands in the north of Singapore island and pick up the trains to KL, Penang & Bangkok there.

large bullet pointMay 2010

TV appearance on the Holiday Show, The Travel Channel

Yours truly was a guest on the Holiday Show on TV's Travel Channel on 24 May.

Trans-Siberian 'Baikal' diverted to run from St Petersburg rather than Moscow...

The long-standing Moscow-Irkutsk Trans-Siberian train 9/10 'Baikal' is being diverted to run from St Petersburg rather than Moscow as from 1 June 2010.

Irish Rail to close Rosslare Harbour to Waterford line...

Yes, volcanic ash grounds planes, everyone has to switch to traditional train & ferry again, but Irish Rail is closing the line between Rosslare Harbour and Waterford after over a century of operation.  The line was Waterford's link with London via the direct Fishguard route, although you can still travel between London & Waterford via Holyhead.

BBC Radio 4 Travellers' Tree

Yours truly is a guest on Radio 4's The Travellers' Tree at 16:30 on Monday 17 May.

Sunday Telegraph, 2 May 2010

This weekend's Sunday Telegraph travel section includes a front page article on train travel by yours truly.  My return from Croatia to the UK on 18 April was my inspiration, particularly the Zagreb-Vienna train ride - made at a time when no-one was flying anywhere as flights were grounded.  I’d been on a press trip to the medieval villages, olive groves and wineries of Istria when the volcanic ash cloud struck, and without sounding too smug about it (no, really!), the journalists who’d been dropped at the airport on the same day I’d left Croatia by train were still waiting for their flights days after I got home spot on time.  A modern-day case of the tortoise and the hare?

New Mozambique page...

Another omission corrected, thanks to traveller Andy Spencer who has provided information and photos for the train service between South Africa and Maputo in Mozambique.

Croatia & Slovenia pages improved...

My recent trip to Croatia & Slovenia has allowed me to split the combined Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia page into three separate pages, each with more information & illustrations.

New ferry service to Egypt!

After a break of some years, a new weekly ferry service is due to start on 20 May 2010 between Venice in Italy and Alexandria in Egypt.  www.visemarline.com will carry vehicles and passengers.  A London to Cairo journey is likely to take 4 nights, without flying.

large bullet pointApril 2010

Volcanic ash grounds flights - seat61 gets over 1.3 million visitors...

On 20 April I returned from a press trip to wonderful Istria in Croatia, land of olive oil, wineries and picturesque medieval villages.  Naturally, I went from the UK to Croatia and back by train.  I found out just before leaving Istria that flights were grounded, and met Icelandic refugees at Zagreb trying to buy train  tickets back to Blighty.  Seat61 visitor numbers have gone ballistic over the last few days, total visitors in the last 30 days exceeding one million for the first time ever.  On Sunday 18 April, visitors exceeded 136,000.  I'm sorry I have not been able to reply to all your emails during that time, as I was away and simply could not cope with the volume.  If you still have an unanswered question sent in an email between 10 and 20 April, please re-send it, as I've given up trying to clear the backlog.

New 2010 edition of the Man in Seat 61 book out now...

The revised and updated edition of the Man in Seat 61 book is now in the shops.  Based on the website, it's a complete handbook for travel from the UK to almost anywhere in Europe without flying, by train...

'The Man in Seat 61' TV series:  Watch the 'pilot' video

A TV series called 'The Man in Seat 61' is proposed.  We've filmed a 'taster' to show you what the series might be like, which you can watch below.  In the taster, The Man in Seat 61 helps actor Kenneth Cranham travel from Trafalgar Square to Waterloo battlefield on the first leg of an overland journey to St Petersburg, on the trail of Napoleon.  Let us know what you think!  Latest news:  We're still looking for a TV Channel to fund and broadcast the series, if you can help, get in touch!

large bullet pointMarch 2010

London-Venice 5-night round trip including the fabulous Venice Simplon Orient Express, for £1,579 per person

This really does warrant a special mention.  Book before 24 March and Railbookers are offering outward scheduled rail travel from London to Zurich by Eurostar & Lyria TGV (see photos), a night at the superb 4-star Hotel Schweizerhof, onward travel on the Gotthard route (the most scenic of all the mainline routes through the Swiss Alps) to Venice, 3 nights at the superb 4-star Palazzo Giovanelli right on the Grand Canal, then the wonderful Venice Simplon Orient Express back to London with meals included, for £1,579 each.  That's about the same as the normal £1,595 one-way  price for the V-S-Orient Express without outward travel or hotels!  If you're ever going to take a loved one on the VSOE, now's the time to do it!  Book by 24 March for this price.

Save the Waterford-Rosslare line...

It seems the Waterford-Rosslare line in Ireland is under threat, www.facebook.com/group.php?v=info&gid=367387502018.  And this at a time when Galway & Limerick are once again linked by a re-opened rail line, with other local lines also reopening.  Please see the Facebook link, and if you can help, please do so...

Visit the Great Wall of China - by train!

Most tourists visit the Great Wall of China at Badaling on a one-day bus tour from Beijing.  Unfortunately, this often gives only 30 rushed minutes to see the Wall.  But there are regular air-conditioned trains from Beijing North to Badaling, ideal for those who want to travel under their own steam and see the Wall without the rush.  The fare is only RMB14, about £1.50 or $2.  See the new Great Wall section on the China page, put together with help from traveller Simon Penny.

New 2010 edition of the Man in Seat 61 book now due out on 15 April...

The revised and updated edition of the Man in Seat 61 book, originally due out on 18 march, has been delayed slightly due to the publisher shifting to a new warehouse.  It is now due out in early April.  I'm sorry for any inconvenience caused by this delay (as we railway folk say)...

Ferry changes:  Swansea-Cork, Rostock-Helsinki...

The Swansea-Cork ferry returns this month, with a 3-times-a-week overnight cruise ferry linking Britain directly with Cork in southern Ireland.  Local businesses campaigned for years to get the ferry reinstated, many small investors finally making it possible.  See www.fastnetline.com.  I wish them every success.  Meanwhile, Tallink has suspended its Rostock (Germany) to Helsinki ferry, allegedly for the ship to be refitted, at least until April.  But rival operator Finnlines (www.finnlines.com) has started its own 3 times a week service, so will the Tallink ferry ever return?  I have updated the Estonia & Finland pages to reflect this.

Save New Zealand's 'Capital Connection' commuter service, Palmerston North to Wellington!

The Palmerston North to Wellington commuter service is under threat of withdrawal, see their Facebook page and help save the train...

large bullet pointFebruary 2010

Vladivostok - Japan ferry changes...

The time-honoured Russian Far East Shipping Company (FESCO) appears to have succumbed to the recession and gone out of business.  Their Vladivostok-Fushiki service is no more.  However, a new ferry, the Eastern Dream, now runs weekly all year between Vladivostok, Korea and Japan.  The Korea and Trans-Siberian pages have been updated accordingly.

"Best Travel Website" Silver Award at Wanderlust Travel Awards 2010...

Seat61.com has once more been voted into the top three travel websites (of many hundreds of nominated websites) by readers of Wanderlust Magazine, this year picking up the Silver Award.  And my favourite rail journey, Scotland's West Highland Line, came top of the 'Best rail Journey' category for the second year running.

Trains to Machu Picchu cancelled due to heavy rail, flooding & landslides...

The railway to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru is blocked by landslides caused by heavy rain.  All trains were cancelled as of 23 January.  It is likely to take at least 8 weeks before services resume, so we're talking late March at the earliest, though no-one will give an exact date yet.  See the Peru page.

German ICE approved to run through the Channel Tunnel...

In December, Eurotunnel approved DB's (German railways') ICE3 high-speed train for running through the Channel Tunnel.  This paves the way for direct ICE services from Cologne to London, should DB wish to run them, in the next few years.  Previously, only Eurostar trainsets were authorised for the tunnel, because trains had to be of a minimum length and be capable of splitting in the middle so half of the train could be driven out backwards in an emergency, a facility never actually used.  DB is a very good train operator, and this is one German invasion I'd be very glad to see! 

Update: It now seems that the news items in the press about the ICE being approved for the Channel Tunnel were premature, the result of misleading briefing by a Eurotunnel executive.  The ICE has not been approved for use in the Tunnel, and approval will take some time.  Those pesky Tunnel safety rules still have to be officially relaxed for ICE to operate.

large bullet pointJanuary 2010

New Ethiopia page...

A new Ethiopia page covering the thrice-weekly train from Dire Dawa to Djibouti has been added, thanks to feedback from traveller Richard Gennis.

New 'senior' & 15-day Interrail passes for 2010...

The 2010 Interrail Pass line-up includes a new 15-days continuous pass, and a cheaper 'senior' price for each pass type for anyone over the age of 60.  Te senior passes cannot currently be bought online, you need to call Rail Europe. See the Interrail pass page.

More problems from Trenitalia, easily Europe's most incompetent railway...

After (1) withdrawing their Switzerland-Rome and Nice-Rome sleepers leaving long daytime journeys as the only alternative, (2) forcing Austrian railways to run a bus(!) between the Austrian frontier and Venice as Trenitalia won't run a train, (3) forcing Slovenian railways to do the same from the Slovenian frontier as Trenitalia won't run a train, (4) causing endless complaints due to their poor management of the Paris-Italy sleepers, (5) forcing the 3 daily Paris-Turin-Milan TGVs down to 2 per day (one of which only goes as far as Turin) due to wrangles with French railways, (6) running a poorly-translated website that only accepts (by my rough estimate) 60% of UK credit cards and 20% of US ones, (7) causing the collapse of the Swiss-Italian Cisalpino consortium, Trenitalia's poor management have struck again.  This time at virtually no notice they have suddenly ceased running their Milan-Genoa-Monaco-Nice trains beyond the French frontier at Ventimiglia.  So much for us all being in the EU!  It's no wonder German and Austrian railways have broken a major precedent and partnered with little-known regional train operator LeNord (instead of the Italian national operator Trenitalia) to run their new Munich-Innsbruck-Verona-Bologna trains.  And even here, Trenitalia is playing games to the detriment of passengers, running slow train in front of the new high-quality German/Austrian services to make sure they miss useful connections in Bologna or Milan.  When will Trenitalia grow up?  I look forward to new private operator NTV taking over the high speed routes linking Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome & Naples in due course, see www.ntvspa.it.

Avoid London with the Newcastle-Amsterdam DFDS Seaways cruise ferry...

Thanks to DFDS' friendly and proactive management in Newcastle, the Man in Seat 61 was able to sample the overnight Newcastle-Amsterdam cruise ferry over Christmas.  The ships really are 'cruise' ferries, with great restaurants and cabins, the excellent 'Commodore Deluxe' cabins being as good as any 4 star hotel.  If you live in the north or Scotland, this ferry is a great way to avoid the trek south to London, sailing overnight direct to Amsterdam then taking onward trains to destinations all over Europe.  Or using it instead of flying for a romantic getaway to Amsterdam or even business trip.  DFDS have just reported a very successful year on this route in spite of the recession, with passenger numbers up 10% in 2009.  Perhaps people really are getting fed up with the hassle of flying!  Following the trip I've added photographs and more information to the 'North of England & Scotland to...' sections on my Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Czech pages.  See the Netherlands page.

P&O to withdraw Portsmouth-Spain ferry in September 2010...

P&O Ferries have announced that their Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry will cease after the 27 September departure.  The Pride of Bilbao's charter ends, and they say they cannot justify another ship on a loss-making route.  Meanwhile, Brittany Ferries have not only speeded up their excellent Plymouth-Santander in recent years, they've added a second weekly ferry from Portsmouth, also sailing to Santander.  A very good alternative to the P&O service!

Eurostar snowbound at Christmas...

Eurostar's problems just before Christmas were well publicised in the press.  Eurostar is no stranger to snow, sending a train twice a week to the French Alps every winter.  But it seems snow conditions were a bit different this time.  Snow was sucked into the power cars and caught on the filters, where it melted.  Water vapour then condensed on the electrical equipment in the humid heat of the Channel Tunnel, causing electrical arcing and shutting down the train.  This happened not just to one train but several at the same time.  The technical solution is one thing, the handling of the situation with so many people stuck on several Eurostar trains in the tunnel is another, and Eurostar have promised a full independent review to see how they can improve if a similar situation ever happens again.  Will it put me off using Eurostar?  No, I've used Eurostar too many times without a problem over the last decade and a half.  Indeed, on a day to day basis Eurostar achieves 95% on time or within 15 minutes whereas competing airlines struggle to reach 68%, making Eurostar a very reliable option.  I genuinely think they will learn the necessary lessons from this and put it behind them.  However, if you were caught up in it, or had your trip cancelled as a result, you have my heartfelt sympathy.  It was only luck that this year we went away for Christmas by ferry rather than Eurostar.

large bullet pointDecember 2009

The 'Orient Express' makes its last run on 12 December 2009...

The famous name 'Orient Express' lives on in the official timetables, albeit in a much truncated form as an Austrian Railways Strasbourg-Vienna sleeper train.  But make no mistake, this is indeed the true descendant of the original 1883 Orient Express, cut back from running Paris-Vienna in 2007, cut back from running beyond Vienna to Budapest & Bucharest in 2001.  However, the Strasbourg-Vienna Orient Express will finally be withdrawn permanently as from the Europe-wide timetable change on 13 December 2009.  The name 'Orient Express' will then finally disappear from Europe's official timetables.  For a full explanation, see the Orient Express page.

Paris-Milan Artesia TGV shambles...

Due to wrangles between the French Railways SNCF and the (increasingly incompetent) Italian Railways over the fitting of special in-cab signalling equipment, the normal 3 daily Artesia TGVs from Paris to Turin and Milan have been cut back to just one Paris-Turin-Milan, one only running as far as Turin, and one cancelled completely.  Naturally, the one remaining Paris-Milan TGV is the morning one from Paris, afternoon one from Milan, not one of the two which actually allow same-day connections with Eurostar to/from London, as that would be too sensible (sigh!).  Artesia hope to return to normal service from 4 July 2010.  The Italy page has been updated to reflect the current situation, or at least, the situation until they change their minds again in 5 minutes time...

Timetable change on 13 December

Just a reminder that all European timetables change on 13 December.  Most seat61 pages have now been updated, though domestic trains in Spain, Italy and a few other countries may still need tweaking here and there for the new timetable.  As at the end of November, some post-13-December trains in Spain and Italy are still not loaded in the various online reservation databases...

Take a trip to Waterloo station (in Belgium, that is!)...  Possible 'Man in Seat 61' TV series...

The Belgium page now includes a short section on taking Eurostar to Brussels & a connecting train to the original Waterloo station, to visit the 1815 battlefield.  The pictures & information were obtained thanks to a 2-day trip filming a 15-20 minute 'tester' film for a potential 'Man in Seat 61' TV series with actor Kenneth Cranham (of 'Shine on Harvey Moon' and 'Rome' fame, amongst many other credits) & Guerrilla Films (www.guerilla-films.com).  The short film will be used to float the series concept with TV companies, and it is planned to post the video on seat61.com once the footage is edited, some time in the New Year.

large bullet pointNovember 2009

Even in mid-November, many European trains are still not loaded into online booking systems for travel after 19 December...

Every year, the European railways endure a massive self-inflicted loss in revenue, as they stupidly change their timetable just before Christmas, and never manage to get the new data loaded into booking systems in time to maintain the theoretical 90 days advance booking period.  French train bookings for travel dates between 13 Dec & 4 Jan went live on 14 October (so squeezing the 90 days to just 60), the Germans were even later, but in line for this years 'most incompetent rail managers of the year' award are Trenitalia, who as at 17 November still haven't got any data loaded into trenitalia.com for travel dates after 13 December.  The Artesia Paris-Milan TGVs are a particular problem, where passengers are losing out because of inter-railway wrangling.

Seat 61 'highly commended' in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards 2009...

I'm delighted that seat61.com was chosen as one of 3 finalists for the 'Best Low Carbon Transport & Technology' category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards 2009, announced at the World Travel Market in London on 11 November.  Alcatraz Cruises won the category, with seat61.com and the Swiss Travel System 'highly commended'.

European motorail:  Düsseldorf & s'Hertogenbosch are the new 'Calais'!

Sadly, Rail Europe announced in October that they will not be running their French Motorail service from Calais to southern France in summer 2010.  The withdrawal follows rising costs and poor exchange rates.  However, although it at first seems a long way round, both Dutch Motorail from the Netherlands and German Motorail from Düsseldorf (a 3 hour 45 min drive from Calais) will continue to run motorail trains to the South of France as well as Italy & Austria, with high-quality trains including proper sleepers and a bistro or restaurant car and (in the case of German motorail), cheap advance purchase fares from just 129 euros for car and driver each way.  The motorail page has now been updated with new pictures and information about travelling on the excellent Dutch and German motorail services, thanks to journeys provided courtesy of RailSavers/AutoSlaapTrein & DB Autozug.

Improvements to the Ireland & Northern Ireland pages...

A recent trip by rail & sail to Dublin & Belfast proved just how cheap and relaxing train & ferry travel can be.  The Ireland page and Northern Ireland page have been updated with new pictures and information.  I can especially recommend the T-Mobile WiFi on Virgin Trains to Holyhead, and the Club Class Martello Lounge on Irish Ferries 'Ulysses' with its complimentary red & white wine, tea & coffee, juice, smoked salmon canapés and cheese & crackers.  London-Dublin costs just £29 each way, any day, any date, even on the day of travel, London-Belfast £41, with a chance to relax, get some work done or catch up on your reading, airport- and flight-free.

European timetable change from 13 December...

Most seat61 European pages have now been updated with the new times as from 13 December 2009.  When the new timetable starts on 13 December across Europe, there will be a few key changes:

large bullet pointOctober 2009

BBC TV 'Eggheads' quiz...

Well, I never, real fame at last...  www.seat61.com became the subject of a question on the BBC Quiz 'Eggheads' on 15 October.  "The Man in Seat Sixty-One is a website aimed at helping (a) Rail travellers, (b) theatre goers or (c) couch potatoes?  We'll have none of the latter here at seat61, please!

Seat61 short listed for the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards 2009...

I'm delighted that seat61.com has been short listed for an award at the Responsible Travel Awards 2009, in the 'Best low-carbon transport & technology' category.  The winners will be announced at the World Travel Market in London on 11 November.  Fingers crossed...

Seat61 short listed for 'Website of the Year 2009' award from thegoodwebguide.co.uk...

I'm also delighted that seat61.com is one of the 24 sites shortlisted for 'Website of the year' with www.thegoodwebguide.co.uk, out of 1,000 sites nominated.  The winner will be announced on 3 November.  If you'd like to support seat61's nomination, you can comment at www.thegoodwebguide.co.uk/awardfeedback.  Update November 2009:  Sadly, seat61 didn't quite make the 'website of the year' award!

Changes to the London - Italy page...

Going back twenty years, the sleeper trains from Paris to Florence, Rome, Verona or Venice used to be amongst my favourite trains, and I've used them many times.  Dinner in the restaurant car as the sun sets over pretty French villages, snuggling between crisp sheets and waking up to Italy next morning.  Wonderful!  These sleeper trains have always been busy and popular.  However, Trenitalia's management of these sleeper trains has steadily declined in the last few years, generating increased complaints about delays, cleanliness, food service and carriage maintenance.  I have finally decided to reword the London to Italy page to suggest people take daytime trains to Italy, even if this involves an overnight stop.  New high-speed routes mean the journey to Italy isn't in fact that much longer (although a 100mph sleeper train still beats a 198mph train plus a 0mph hotel!) and the scenery through the Alps on the route via Zurich is superb.

European train bookings for 13 Dec 2009 to 4 Jan 2010 won't open until 14 October...

Normally, European train bookings open 90 days before departure (Eurostar is an exception, opening 120 days ahead).  However, this often gets squeezed to less than 90 days for travel immediately after the twice-yearly Europe-wide timetable change because there's always a delay in getting the timetable finalised and the new data into the system.  With unbelievable stupidity, the European Railways and the EU chose the second Sunday in December as the date for their big Europe-wide timetable change, right before the busy Christmas travel period.  As anyone with a brain can see, the second Sunday in January would have been the correct choice.  It's now been announced (surprise, surprise) that bookings for trains within France & out of France to Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany for 13 Dec 2009 to 4 Jan 2010 won't open until 14 October, closer to 60 days ahead than 90, precisely at a time when people need to make travel arrangements further ahead than normal.  This is not the first time, this seems to happen every year.  Just take comfort in the fact that no-one else can book up all the seats before bookings open, either.

SeaFrance no longer providing a Dover-Calais passenger service...

Sadly, ferry operator SeaFrance (www.seafrance.com) now refuses to carry passengers between Dover & Calais as from the end of September 2009.  It will continue to carry freight and a few motorists, but all other passengers should switch to alternative ferry operator P&O (www.poferries.com) who will continue to offer a fully-featured ferry service on the Dover-Calais route, with proper facilities for passengers.  The train+ferry option between London & Paris via Dover/Calais is explained on the London-Paris by train+ferry page.

large bullet pointSeptember 2009

Flooding blocks the rail line to Istanbul...  (Update 26 September:  Line now reopened)

On 11 September 2009, severe flooding damaged the railway west of Istanbul.  Turkish Railways have suspended all service west of Istanbul (domestic and international to/from Sofia, Thessalonica, Bucharest) while the line is repaired.  Update 26 Sept:  Line cleared and trains now running again.

Swansea-Cork ferry to resume in 2010...

At last some good news from the world of ferries.  Fastnet Line has finally secured a ship, the Julia, to resume the Swansea-Cork ferry service after a break of several years.  The ferry is due to start operating in March 2010.  Built in 1982, the Julia previously operated for the Color Line in Scandinavia.  She has 300 cabins and capacity for over 400 cars and 1,800 passengers.

International bookings now possible at www.renfe.es...

The Spanish Railways website, www.renfe.es, has long been the cheapest way to buy train tickets for journeys wholly within Spain, with cheap 'Web' & 'Estrella' advance purchase fares available that aren't shown anywhere else, and no booking or postage fees to pay, you simply print out your own ticket.  But it has always steadfastly refused to book any international trains.  However, that has now changed, and renfe.es will now book the international 'Trainhotel' sleeper trains linking Paris with Madrid, Paris with Barcelona, Zurich with Barcelona, Milan with Barcelona, and Madrid with Lisbon.  On the run from Paris to Madrid or Barcelona, prices are the same as on the French Railways website or Rail Europe's site, but because renfe.es accesses a separate pool of tickets held on the Spanish as opposed to the French reservation system, you can often find cheap tickets still available on renfe.es when they are sold out on the other sites.  Plus, cheap 'Web' & 'Estrella' fares are now available for the Madrid-Lisbon 'Lusitania Trainhotel' which aren't available through Rail Europe or the French Railways site, making it far cheaper to book this particular train direct with Renfe.  These cheap Web & Estrella fares are now shown on the Portugal page, and both the Spain and 'How to buy European train tickets' pages have now been updated.  There's a step by step guide to using renfe.es here.

large bullet pointAugust 2009

High-speed from London to Holland from December...

The new high-speed line from Brussels to Amsterdam will finally open on 13 December 2009.  Paris to Amsterdam will then take 3 hours 10 minutes by direct Thalys high-speed train, London to Amsterdam will take as little as 4 hours 6 minutes by Eurostar to Brussels then Thalys onwards.  From central London to central Amsterdam, it'll be faster than flying!  Details will be posted on the Netherlands page nearer the time.

Buy tickets online to Douglas on the Isle of Man from London or any station in Britain...

Seat61 is now the only website explicitly selling that well-kept secret, inclusive train+ferry tickets from any station in Britain to Douglas on the Isle of Man.  London to Douglas costs £82 return (£103 return on Fri, Sat, Sun June-September), Manchester-Douglas from £49.50 return, Leeds-Douglas from £54.50 return, Birmingham-Douglas from £66 return.  No airport hassles, and no flights required.  See the Isle of Man page.

Buy tickets online to Belfast from London or any station in Britain...

Online ticket sales are once again possible from London or any station in Britain to or from Belfast, thanks to RailEasy.co.uk.  London-Belfast costs just £41 each way via Holyhead & Dublin or from £44 each way via Stranraer, centre to centre without flying!  An online booking system has been added to the London to Northern Ireland page.  Coupled with online bookings to Dublin from any station in Britain now possible on the Ireland page, it's never been easier to ditch the plane and travel the classic civilised flight-free way to Ireland.

Norfolkline's resurrected Scotland-Belgium ferry hitting its targets...

Norfolkline report that loadings on their resumed Edinburgh (Rosyth) to Zeebrugge ferry are meeting or exceeding projections. The ferry sails overnight, three times a week.  See www.norfolkline-ferries.co.uk.

large bullet pointJuly 2009

New  Premier Classe sleeper train from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park...

July 9 sees the launch of another 'Premier Classe' affordable deluxe sleeper train in South Africa, this time linking Johannesburg every Thursday evening overnight to Hoedspruit for the Kruger National Park.  Aimed at both budget-conscious tourists and South Africans themselves who want a safe, civilised train travel experience, 980 Rand (£73) gets you a private deluxe sleeper, dinner and breakfast in the deluxe restaurant car and complimentary tea or coffee in the spacious lounge car.  They hope to increase it to thrice weekly in due course.  Highly recommended!  Other Premier Classe routes include Cape Town to Jo'burg, Jo'burg to Durban, Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

London-Amsterdam 'Dutch Flyer' train+ferry bookings up a remarkable 39%...

Stena Line report a remarkable 39% year-on-year increase in train+ferry ticket sales from London to any Dutch station in the first 6 months of 2009.  They also report a change in their clientele:  Train+ferry to Amsterdam is no longer the sole preserve of budget-conscious backpackers, but young professionals keen to avoid airport stresses and lower their carbon footprint, as well as travel overnight in a cabin an save expensive accommodation costs in Amsterdam.  Read the article by Richard HammondDetails of the Dutch Flyer service on seat61.com.

The Rail Europe Snow Train will not run in winter 2009/10...

Sadly, Rail Europe have just announced that after running for many years their special Snow Train from London to the French Alps will not run in the 2009/10 winter season.  Put down to the general economic situation plus a weakening pound, Rail Europe say they haven't taken this decision lightly.  The Eurostar Ski Train will continue to run in 2009/10, and regular trains are also available, see the Ski by Train page.

Online tickets from London (or any station in Britain) to or from Dublin...

Online ticket sales are once again possible from London or any station in Britain to of from Dublin Ferryport or Dun Laoghaire, thanks to RailEasy.co.uk.  London-Dublin costs just £29 each way, centre to centre without flying!  An online booking system has been added to the London to Ireland page, and the page has been overhauled to make it clear just how easy it is to reach Ireland the traditional way, by train & ferry.

Problems with the seat61 RailShop...

There are problems with the Seat61 RailShop (which sells railpasses and reservations to go with railpasses) at the moment, which are likely to last a little longer while the company concerned sorts them out.  Please buy passes by phone if you have any trouble getting them online.

large bullet pointJune 2009

New European train travel helpline, 0906 80 20 284

(60p per minute, lines open 08:30-18:00 Mon-Fri, 09:00-13:00 Sat, UK callers only, provided by Erail)

There isn't an official European rail travel enquiry line, and there's only one of me so I can't handle phone calls, just the occasional email.  So I've talked to Erail, a European rail ticketing agency in London, and we've set up a helpline so at least there's now someone to call with those knotty European train travel problems.  They charge 60p per minute which pays for the staff (seat61 also gets a small commission), lines are open 08:30-18:00 Mon-Fri, 09:00-13:00 Sat, UK callers only.  It's not intended for fare quotes or to buy tickets, as you can do this at normal call rates on normal phone numbers, it's for in-depth help and assistance with European train travel questions & problems, without necessarily buying tickets.  Feedback will be very welcome, as we'll improve the service as we gain experience.  More information.

New Royal Scotsman page...

Scotland's very own deluxe cruise train which showcases the history, scenery & culture of the Highlands, The Royal Scotsman now has its own seat61 page giving the inside story.  Trips on the Royal Scotsman don't come cheap, but if it's a special occasion or time & comfort are the issues rather than cost, you won't be disappointed by this train...

Success for New Zealand's Auckland-Wellington Overlander...

It's reported that passenger numbers have increased by over 25.5% in the last 11 months on the Auckland-Wellington 'Overlander', in my view one of the world's most historic and scenic train journeys.  This comes after the train was saved from withdrawal a few years ago, and new nationalised train operator kiwi Rail has pledged to improve and expand the service.  They have just announced that it will run daily (as opposed to 3-times-a-week) for a longer season this summer, becoming daily from 25 September 2009 until May 2010, instead of 30 November to April.

No more Berlin-Kazakhstan through sleeping-car...

Kazakhstan Railways has announced it will withdraw its weekly Berlin-Astana direct sleeping-car from June this year.  Through cars from Berlin to Novosibirsk, Saratov & Rostov-on-Don on this remarkable train will remain.  You can still easily travel from western Europe to Kazakhstan by changing in Moscow, see the Silk Route page.

At last!  Now you can buy European train tickets at St Pancras...

The Eurostar ticket office at St Pancras can only sell Eurostar tickets to Paris, Brussels, and a few other destinations.  It has never been able to provide a proper European train ticketing service.  But now Trains Europe (www.trainseurope.co.uk) has stepped into the breach and opened a European train ticketing desk in the East Midlands Trains travel centre at St Pancras.  The new Trains Europe desk can sell train tickets & railpasses for train journeys almost anywhere in Europe, and make European seat, couchette & sleeper reservations.  The new desk was opened by travel journalist & celebrity Simon Calder on 4 June...

New Eurostar fare structure...

Eurostar has revised its fare structure from 16 June 2009, and at long last this now features sensible one-way fares right across its fare range.  The cheapest 2nd class fare remains £59 return to Paris or Brussels, though the cheapest 1st class fare has risen.  Seat61 will be fully updated to reflect the new fares over the next few days.

New!  www.eurostar.com now sells tickets to Switzerland...

Eurostar has teamed up with Lyria, the consortium of the French/Swiss railways running the Paris-Switzerland high-speed TGV trains, to offer train tickets from the UK to Switzerland.  It can sell special through fares from London & over 130 key towns & cities across the UK to key destinations in Switzerland, including Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Montreux.  Fares start at £99 return - if the cheapest fares are available (but note the 'if') this will be the cheapest way to buy train tickets to Switzerland.  However, experience suggests that the number of cheap tickets made available in the reservation system will be crucial.  If it's anything like London-Amsterdam, it will often still be cheaper to use www.raileurope.com and add a cheap London-Paris ticket to a cheap Paris-Switzerland ticket (which also gives you the flexibility to stop over in Paris).  My advice is to check both systems!

RailJet, and where to eat before boarding your sleeper to Germany...

A trip from London to Budapest & back courtesy of Deutsche Bahn's English-speaking telesales line has allowed me to experience the superb new RailJet train linking Munich, Vienna & Budapest.  Photos & information about this train now appear on the Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey pages, along with many other snippets of useful information gleaned from the trip.  I can recommend dinner at the Brasserie Terminus Nord just across the road from the Gare du Nord in Paris before boarding your sleeper to Germany, and how about the typically Bavarian Mongdratzerl restaurant for breakfast on arrival in Munich, located in Munich hauptbahnhof itself.

large bullet pointMay 2009

Daily Hanoi-Halong tourist train starts in Vietnam...

The Vietnam page now includes details of a new daily train aimed at both Vietnamese and overseas tourists, between Hanoi & Halong for the beautiful Halong Bay.

No more 'Flandres Riviera' Lille-Nice overnight train...

French Railways SNCF have announced that the Lille-Nice overnight sleeper train will not now run this summer, or for that matter ever again.  It was so handy for travellers from the UK, even though it had become a summer-only seasonal train for some years.  UK passengers wanting to save time over daytime travel on high-speed TGVs will now need to travel via Paris, using the all-year-round 'Train Bleu' sleeper train from Paris to Cannes, Nice & Monaco.

Easier planning & booking for the Trans-Siberian Railway...

The Trans-Siberian page now includes a 'widget' linking to Real Russia's innovative Trans-Siberian trip planner.  This allows travellers to plan & book a Trans-Siberian journey any of the three routes, eastbound or westbound, with stopovers wherever they like for as long as they like, ordering tickets all in one transaction.

large bullet pointApril 2009

At last:  A new Night Riviera sleeper page all about the overnight train from London to Cornwall...

I've lost count of the emails I've received asking me why I haven't covered the 'Night Riviera' sleeper to Cornwall as well as the better-know Caledonian Sleepers to Scotland.  Well, thanks to a trip provided courtesy of First Great Western, I've been able to research that sleeper service and give it its own page.  The page includes not only train times, fares & information for the sleeper, but information about branch line connections to places like St Ives, Falmouth & Newquay, and bus & ferry connections to Land's End, the Eden project and even the Isles of Scilly.  I hope you find it useful the next time you plan to visit Cornwall...

Seat61 Facebook page...

Following suggestions from visitors (and not least my wife Nicolette, a Facebook regular) I've created a Seat61 page on Facebook.  It might make it easier to keep up with developments and share the site with your friends...

New credit card fees & postage fees at Rail Europe...

The credit crunch is biting, and the various European railways have reduced the commission they pay to ticketing agencies.  As a result, www.raileurope.com has now imposed a £1.95 postage fee and 2% credit card fee, although they can be avoided by collecting tickets at the station and by using a debit card.  Or indeed, avoided by using French Railways own website instead, www.voyages-sncf.com.  Ironically, SNCF will send tickets from France to the UK for free (with no credit card fee, either) whilst its own UK subsidiary charges £1.95 to send them out from its office in Kent.  Yes, really!

large bullet pointMarch 2009

Why not by-pass London?  Scotland, north of England & East Anglia to Europe...

You can of course take a train up to London and head to the Continent on Eurostar.  But if you live in Scotland, the north of England or East Anglia, why not by-pass London by taking a cruise ferry overnight from Harwich, Hull or Newcastle to Holland, then a direct train from Amsterdam to Zurich, Warsaw, Moscow, Prague, Milan, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna etc.?  I've added details of how to do this to the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Russia & Switzerland pages.

City Night Line sleeper trains...

A recent trip to Prague, courtesy of DB's UK office, has allowed me to improve the information about travelling on these excellent trains, with more pictures too.  See www.seat61.com/citynightline.htm.  The Czech page has been revised with more pictures, information & advice about visiting Prague by train, with not a flight in sight.

Norfolkline's new ferry:  £5 fare (plus £255 for the cheapest cabin, please)...

Norfolkline's new overnight ferry from Edinburgh (Rosyth) to Zeebrugge starts soon, and it's good to know it will now carry foot passengers as well as freight and motorists.  A recent test booking produced a fare of just £5 and initially appeared to show a (not unreasonable) cabin cost of £65 for sole occupancy.  But on proceeding, a mysterious cabin surcharge was added, totalling £255.  I thought the website was malfunctioning and I called their telesales line to confirm.  Yes, that'll be £5 for the fare plus a compulsory cabin surcharge of £255.  I'm sure their cabins are very nice, but worth the same as night at the Ritz?  At those prices, a train ride to Newcastle or Hull then an affordable crossing with DFDS or P&O remains a better option...

New train service to Vientiane, Laos...

With the rails now laid on the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River from Thailand into Laos, The overnight Bangkok-Nong Khai train is due to be extended into Laos this month, to the new station at Tha Naleng just outside Vientiane.  This is the first railway in Laos.  Details are on the Thailand page.

250 km/h high-speed trains now operating in Turkey...

The Ankara-Eskisehir section of Turkey's new 250 km/h Istanbul-Ankara high-speed line was opened in early March, and brand-new high-speed trains now link Eskisehir with Ankara, with connecting conventional trains between Istanbul & Eskisehir.  When fully completed, Istanbul to Ankara will take just over 3 hours, even beating airlines.  The new service is shown on the train travel in Turkey page.

New Turkey-Syria train service...

A new twice-weekly overnight train started running in early March between Mersin & Adana in southern Turkey and Aleppo in Syria.  Details on the Syria page.  However, the weekly Toros Express through sleeping-car between Istanbul & Aleppo still hasn't resumed following engineering work on the line, perhaps it will in April or May.

Passenger trains withdrawn in Botswana & Namibian train service cut back...

Sad news, Botswana is reverting to third world country status, withdrawing the overnight Lobatse-Gaborone-Francistown train as of 1 April 2009, having withdrawn the daytime train in 2006.  This leaves Gaborone and most of Botswana without any passenger trains for the first time in around 100 years.  This follows several minor StarLine passenger train routes in Namibia being withdrawn from January.

large bullet pointFebruary 2009

New page:  The West Highland Line...

Recently voted 'Best Rail Journey' at the Wanderlust Travel Awards, beating train journeys in Peru, Switzerland, Canada & Australia, a recent trip courtesy of ScotRail has allowed a new page to be added, all about the London-Ft William sleeper (in my opinion, the best train in Britain) and the superb train journey through the Scottish highlands up to Mallaig.

"Best Travel Website" Award at Wanderlust Travel Awards 2009...

Sat61.com has once more been voted into the top three travel websites (of over over 600 nominated websites) by readers of Wanderlust Magazine.  I was at the Times Destinations Show at Earl's Court, London, to received the award on 5 February.

Eurostar back to full strength from 23 February...

Last year's fire damage in the Channel Tunnel has finally been repaired, and the damaged section of the Channel Tunnel is now back in action.  Eurostar introduced a new timetable as from 23 February 2009 to take advantage of this.  Most seat61 pages have now been updated to reflect this (as at 24 Feb), but the last few will be done by 26 Feb.

Improved page:  Caledonian Sleepers...

A recent trip courtesy of ScotRail has allowed me to update and improve the Caledonian Sleeper page, with new photos and information.  A 'West Highland Line' page may follow, recently voted 'Best world rail journey' in the Wanderlust travel awards 2009, and rightly so.

New page:  Ski by train, not plane...

Helped by a recent trip to Bourg St Maurice & Les Arcs on the Rail Europe Snow Train, a new 'Ski by train, not plane' page has been added, pulling together all the information for skiers who prefer to enjoy the train rather than the stress of the plane.

At last - online train tickets for Thailand:  www.thairailwayticket.com

At last, State Railways of Thailand have dipped their toe in the water with online ticket sales.  Starting 1 Feb 2009, 2nd class sleepers on a few key trains on a few key routes will be bookable online, with more to come once the system beds in.  More details and any feedback will be posted on the Thailand page.

Cancellations in Australia affecting The Ghan & Indian Pacific...

The economic tourist downturn has prompted train operator Great Southern Railway to take the unprecedented step of cancelling many off-season departures of their Adelaide-Alice-Darwin 'Ghan' & Sydney-Adelaide-Perth 'Indian Pacific' trains, effectively reducing them from twice a week to just once a week in the off-season.  Information is now posted for travellers on the Australia page.  At the time of writing, this vital information is not even posted on GSR's own official website (which thus still maintains the fiction that the trains run twice a week all year round), nor have they apparently issued any press release.

large bullet pointJanuary 2009

Ready for 2009...

I've now updated the site for 2009, and all Southampton-New York Queen May 2 sailing dates, Beijing-Hong Kong sleeper train running days, Venice Simplon Orient Express departure dates, Vladivostok-Japan ferry sailings and innumerable other vital details should all now reflect 2009 schedules.  If you find something that I've missed, please let me know!

Daytime train travel to Europe...

Journeys such as London to Rome, Copenhagen, Stockholm or Vienna are simply too far to go in one day.  Overnight sleepers are the traditional, time-effective way to reach these places, but some people prefer daytime train travel and would rather stop overnight in a hotel.  I've now added daytime travel options with an overnight stop at a suitable location from the UK to key destinations in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark & Sweden.

Currency fluctuations...

With the pound going from £1=$2 to £1=$1.6 in a matter of weeks, and sliding from 1.40 euro to a ridiculous 1.1 euro, I've given up trying to keep pace with the latest currency fluctuations.  Treat quoted exchange rates as a rough guide and use the link to xe.com to check the latest rates.

large bullet pointDecember 2008

European timetable change 14 December 2008

All European timetables changed on 14 December 2008, and Seat 61 has now been updated to reflect the new times.  The biggest change affecting UK travellers is the revamp of the City Night Line sleeper trains between Paris & Berlin, Paris & Hamburg, Paris & Munich.  Thanks to high track access charges levied by Belgian Railways, German Railways (who own & operate City Night Line sleeper trains) have diverted their Paris-Berlin service to avoid Belgium.  UK travellers can no longer leave London after 18:00 and pick up the sleeper to Berlin in Brussels, they must leave London at 15:00 and travel via Paris.  The sleeper to Hamburg sleeper is withdrawn completely, although Paris-Hamburg passengers can travel overnight Paris-Hanover and change at Hanover for Hamburg.  That's a long way round from the UK, however!  The Paris-Munich sleeper now runs combined with the Paris-Berlin sleeper as far as Mannheim, so it has to leave Paris earlier, necessitating a 15:00 departure from London rather than 17:35.  In addition, as the economic situation bites, the Paris-Berlin & Paris-Munich sleeper trains will no longer run daily all year, but daily March-November and on 4 peak days a week outside that period.  Not good news, and well done Belgian Railways, you've lost the revenue but probably saved nothing, so everybody loses!  On the plus side, the Paris-Munich sleeper now makes an earlier connection in Munich for Zagreb, and a safe connection in each direction to/from Vienna & Budapest.  It therefore becomes the most logical route for travellers from London or Paris to Istanbul or Athens, and the Turkey and Greece pages (as well as the Romania & Bulgaria pages) now show the route via the Paris-Munich sleeper as the recommended option.

Also affected are the Amsterdam-Munich & Amsterdam-Switzerland City Night Line sleepers, which also go down to 4 times a week outside the core March-November season.  The Amsterdam-Cologne-Vienna/Milan sleeper becomes 3 times a week Amsterdam-Cologne-Vienna/Milan and 4 times a week Dortmund-Cologne-Vienna/Milan.  At least it's still daily between Cologne & Vienna!

Unconnected with City Night Line, but also affected by the economic downturn, the Paris-Madrid trenhotel sleeper train which has run daily since 1981, drops it's Monday & Tuesday departures from Paris & Tues/Wed departures from Madrid until the busier season starts in March.  A daily alternative is available, using sleeper train Paris to the Spanish frontier and a daytime high-speed train on to Madrid.  This is now shown on the UK to Spain page.

large bullet pointNovember 2008

Seat61.com updating for European timetable change, 14 December...

All European railways change their timetables in mid-December and mid-June, and seat61 pages are now being updated on by one to reflect the new Dec 2008 to June 2009 timetable.  Some internal train times within places such as Spain or Italy won't be fully updated until early December, so please bear with me and use online systems to double-check times if need be.

large bullet pointOctober 2008

Seat61 wins 'Best Travel Website' at the Guardian & Observer Travel Awards 2008

I travelled to Fes in Morocco last week (by train and ferry, naturally, allowing me to update that page of the site!) for the Guardian & Observer Travel Awards.  I'm absolutely delighted that seat61.com has won the 'Best Travel Website' award for 2008.  Eurostar was voted 'Best Train Company', too...

Channel Tunnel / Eurostar update: 

With two-thirds of the northern rail tunnel back in action, Eurostar are running 93% of their normal service levels, but a revised timetable will apply from 1 October to 13 December (and possibly beyond this).  All seat61 pages have now been updated to reflect the new Eurostar timetable.  .

large bullet pointSeptember 2008

Channel Tunnel damaged by fire: 

Eurostar services will remain disrupted until 26 September, while the damage is repaired, see www.eurostar.com for the latest update.  Normal service is expected from the beginning of October.

Ferry cutbacks...

Sadly, two ferry services bite the dust this September, victims of high fuel costs an budget airlines.  DFDS withdraws it's ferry service between the UK and Norway, leaving no regular ferries at all between the UK and anywhere north of Denmark after hundreds of years of maritime links between these countries.  Superfast withdraws its Rosyth-Zeebrugge service.  In addition, Tallink has reduced the daily Germany-Helsinki service to 4 times a week.  The Estonia & Finland pages have now been updated to reflect this, and recommend the daily London-Helsinki service taking just 2 nights via Copenhagen, Stockholm & Turku.

Re-routing of Paris-Berlin sleeper & withdrawal of Paris/Brussels-Hamburg sleeper, from Dec 2008

Allegedly due to unreasonably high haulage & infrastructure charges imposed by Belgian Railways (SNCB), German Railways is diverting it's Paris/Brussels-Berlin City Night Line sleeper via Mannheim from the timetable change on 14 December, and it will no longer serve Brussels.  UK travellers will need to leave London slightly earlier and pick up the sleeper to Berlin in Paris, rather than late at night in Brussels (in some ways a nicer option!).  The Paris/Brussels-Hamburg sleeper is being withdrawn, UK travellers will need to use daytime trains between London & Hamburg.  So, well done to Belgian National Railways for torpedoing EU international links - Perhaps the EU should move to Cologne, rather than being stick at the end of a branch line in Brussels!

Sicily by ferry...

The options to travel from the UK to Sicily using an overnight cruise ferry from Genoa or Naples have been added to the Italy page, following an emailed suggestion.

large bullet pointAugust 2008

French Motorail, Calais to the South of France...

This is a painless way to get you, your family, your car and all your luggage from the UK down to the South of France.  Following a recent trip, the Motorail page has been updated with information and photos showing what to expect, and how the service works.  A new map shows European motorail routes and connecting ferry lines of interest to UK travellers.

UK to Corsica by train & ferry?...

Why not, it's a wonderful way to get there!  Following a recent trip, improved information and pictures have been provided for this journey, see the UK-Corsica section on the France page.

Free WiFi at St Pancras International...

Eurostar have now installed free WiFi throughout St Pancras International station.  You can now connect to the net free of charge with your laptop, in the departure lounge or anywhere else in the station, whether you're travelling first class or standard class.  Full marks to Eurostar!

Railtours Ireland - Short breaks to Ireland, without flying...

At last, a company called Railtours Ireland (www.railtoursireland.com) has started offering short breaks to Dublin and key attractions all over Ireland, by train & ferry instead of flying.  They offer tours departing London Euston station at 9am every weekday arriving Dublin around 6pm, with 2 nights hotel in Dublin.  You can combine this with tours  to the Giant's Causeway or Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone, and much more.  See the Ireland page.

Rail Europe now offering 'ticket on departure'...

Until recently, you couldn't book train travel to Europe at www.raileurope.com if you were planning to leave in less than 7 days time, as there wasn't time to send out your tickets.  However, you can now choose to collect tickets on departure, using the self-service machines at St Pancras in London, or (if your journey starts in France) from any main French station.  This means you can book today and leave tomorrow if you like, a significant improvement.

large bullet pointJune 2008

"The Man in Seat Sixty-One" book is published..!

I've written an essential handbook for train travel from the UK into Europe, based on this website, published by Bantam Press on 30 June.  It's available now from Amazon.co.uk.  I hope you like it!

New page:  Rocky Mountaineer...

After a quick canter around the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer Fraser Discover, Kicking Horse & Whistler Mountaineer routes, I've put together a Rocky Mountaineer page to complete the Seat61 Canada page.  I've also revamped the Canada page, with larger photos.  The Rocky Mountaineer page is intended to complement the official Rocky Mountaineer site, helping you choose the best route, decide whether to travel Red Leaf or go for Gold Leaf Service, and understand what you're likely to see from the train.

New European timetable

The new June-December 2008 timetable brings very few real changes, except the surprise withdrawal of the Nice-Rome & Nice-Venice overnight sleeper trains, which have been in the timetable for over a century.  Obviously, nothing is sacred!  This is no high-speed route where faster daytime trains make sleepers obsolete - the alternative is a 10-hour daytime journey from Nice to Rome with a change of train.  You clearly can't leave anything to the Italians...

Ferries disappearing...

More sad news is just in that both the Superfast Ferries Edinburgh-Zeebrugge and the DFDS Seaways Newcastle-Norway ferry services will close for good in September.  This leaves no ferry from the UK to either Norway or Sweden, after over a hundred years.  The alternative to Norway is now a round-about train journey via Brussels, Cologne and Copenhagen.

large bullet pointMay 2008

New pages:  Train travel in Italy, Train travel in France

Now train travel within these two popular European countries is covered, with step-by-step instructions on how to buy tickets cheaply direct from the relevant operator's website.  Hopefully, Spain will follow...

large bullet pointApril 2008

'The Man in Seat 61' book is on its way...

I've now written a book based on this site, which is due to be published by the Bantam Press on 30 June 2008.  It's an essential handbook for train travel from the UK to Europe, with all the tips, resources, suggested routes, train times, how to buy tickets and approximate fares, but in convenient printed 'browse-in-your-armchair' form.  You can pre-order it at Amazon.co.uk.  A second book, this time on worldwide rail travel, is due out next year.

New online booking system at Rail Europe UK...

The team at Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com) have been getting as fed up as you have with the unreliability and quirks of the French Railways (SNCF) online booking system.  So they told SNCF (which happens to be their parent company) that they are breaking away and creating their own system.  The new system went 'live' on Monday 21 April 2008, and it's now easier to use, more reliable, and more capable, booking more trains on more routes in more countries than the old SNCF system.  It's a huge improvement, making European train travel much simpler to book for us Brits!

London to Dhaka overland, anyone...?

There have been several news articles lately about train travel from Europe to India or even Bangladesh, prompted by Calcutta-Dhaka trains resuming after 40 years and the planned completion later this year of the final gap in the rails between Bam and Zahedan in southeast Iran.  It's true, if and when the Bam-Zahedan section is finally completed (it's been allegedly "under construction" for decades) the rails will indeed stretch all the way from St Pancras to Dhaka, with just a mile or two gap across the Bosphorus in Istanbul.  Such a two- or three-week trip should not be undertaken lightly, as it will take a lot of D.I.Y. organisation with all the bureaucracy involved in getting an Iranian visa, and there are security concerns with bandit attacks in southeast Iran.  But if you want to try it, see the new Europe-India overland page.

New page:  Train travel to & within Namibia

It's been asked for several times, so here it is, a page with information for train travel within Namibia on its 'StarLine' passenger trains and the tourist-orientated Desert Express, and for train/bus travel between Namibia and South Africa, Zimbabwe & Zambia.

Take your bike on Eurostar...

At last, from 7 April 2008 you'll be able to call Eurostar and pre-book one of their bicycle spaces on the same train as you from London to Paris, Lille or Brussels, for £20 each way.  A major improvement over the previous two options, either dismantling your bike and putting it in a bike bag, or sending it as registered luggage when they won't guarantee it will be avaiolable for collection until 24 hours after you check it in!  See the bicycle section on the Europe page.

large bullet pointJanuary - March 2008

Half a million visitors....

January saw over 500,000 visitors to seat61 for the first time.

large bullet pointDecember 2007

Up the Jungfrau:  Altitude 11,333 feet by train...

There's now a short section on Europe's highest railway, the famous Jungfraubahn up the North Face of the Eiger to the Jungfraujoch, just below the Jungfrau summit.  See the new Jungfrau section on the Switzerland page.

Better photos & information for City Night Line sleeper trains...

A recent trip to Switzerland aboard the City Night Line 'Pegasus' has allowed me to improve the photos of the couchettes and double-decker sleeping cars used on all the City Night Line sleeper trains, not just on the Austria & Germany pages, but on the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Denmark, Greece & Turkey pages.

New Eurostar through fares from 68 UK towns & cities...

You can now book through fares from 68 UK towns & cities to Paris, Lille or Brussels online at www.eurostar.com.  This makes it both easier and cheaper to travel by train from outside London into Europe.  And if your UK train arrives at Euston, Kings Cross or St Pancras, interchange with Eurostar is easy, you don't even need the Underground or bus or a taxi.

New timetable from 9 Dec 2007...

A new Europe-wide timetable was introduced on 9 December.  A highlight is that a whole range of overnight trains from Germany to Prague, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Moscow & Vienna have been extended to start in Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is now better connected to the rest of Europe by train than it has been in years.  DB Nachtzug (German Railways sleeper trains) and CityNightLine (German-owned operator of international night trains crossing Germany) have merged and been re-branded as City Night Line.  They offer amongst the best night trains in Europe, so this is good news indeed.

large bullet pointNovember 2007

Eurostar in big switch to St Pancras on 14 November...

The very last Eurostar left London's Waterloo station on 13 November.  On 14 November, the new St Pancras International station opened, along with the final section of UK high-speed line that has shaved another 20 minutes off the London-Paris and London-Brussels journey times.  Journey time to Paris are now as little as 2 hours 15 minutes, to Brussels just 1 hour 51 minutes.  The Man in Seat Sixty-One was on board that first commercial Eurostar to Paris, the 12:30 on 14 November, naturally in seat 61 (car 8).  Information about the move to St Pancras & new timetable on the Eurostar website. 

Seat61 has now been updated to show the new Eurostar service from St Pancras, and photos showing the breathtaking new St Pancras International station now feature on the Eurostar page.  Most European pages have also been updated to show the new Dec 2007 to July 2008 timetable, and remaining pages will updated shortly.

New through fares from UK towns & cities to Paris & Brussels...

At long last, Eurostar are arranging through fares from many UK towns & cities to Paris & Brussels, in conjunction with the UK train operators.  From 14 November, these can be bought from Eurostar's telesales line on 0870 5 186 186 to buy these through tickets, but from December 2007 they should be available online at www.eurostar.com Click here to see the range of UK places served by the new through tickets, and cheapest prices.

New Eurostar one-way fares...

One-way fares for Eurostar have always been a problem, with cheap returns starting at £59, but official one-way fares costing £155.  At long last, Eurostar has introduced a trial £44 one-way fare, at least on a trial basis, for journeys from January until May 2008.  Keeping up with the best dodges to get affordable one-way fares has been an effort! 

Improved France page...

Travel broadens the mind, and it also means better information for seat61.com...  A recent trip to Nice has allowed the France page to be updated, with better TGV information including illustrations of the impressive double-decker TGV Duplex, information about changing trains at Lille Europe, a better account of the TGV journey to the South of France, and info on extra destinations such as St Tropez, Villefranche sur Mer, Beaulieu sur Mer.

Amsterdam better connected from December...

Long-distance international trains to/from Amsterdam were cut back a year or two ago, but German Railways is bringing them back with a vengeance.  DB will extend the Cologne-Vienna, Cologne-Prague, Cologne-Milan, Cologne-Copenhagen and even the Polish Cologne-Warsaw/Moscow sleeper trains to start/finish in Amsterdam, as from 9 December 2007.

Changes to German sleeper trains from December...

From the timetable change on 9 December, German Railways 'DB Nachtzug' sleeper trains and CityNightLine sleeper trains (in which DB is the major shareholder) will be combined under the brand 'City Night Line'.  A key change to reservation arrangements is that it will no longer be possible for solo travellers to book individual berths in a 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment and share with other passengers of the same sex.  Solo passengers will only be able to book a single-bed sleeper, or trade down to couchettes (in which passengers will still be able to book berths in shared 4 & 6-berth compartments).  This will include DB's international sleepers from Paris & Brussels to Hamburg & Berlin, and from Paris to Munich.

large bullet pointOctober 2007

New seat61 guestbook...

The original seat61 guestbook provider decided to withdraw its guestbook service, so I've switched to another provider.  It hasn't been possible to transfer the existing guestbook entries, so it means starting a new guestbook from scratch.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed over the last few years.

New destinations...

London to Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and A Coruña have been added to the Spain page.  London to Ravenna and Modena have been added to the Italy page.  If there are other key tourist destinations that you think could usefully be shown on seat61.com, let me know!

Christmas train bookings...

As usual, the normal 90 day advance booking period is squeezed to just two months before the timetable change on 9 December, just as people want to book trains for Christmas.  Reservations for trains within France and from Paris to Spain, Switzerland and Italy for the period 9 December 2007 to 22 January 2008 should now open on 11 October.  Bookings for this period within or via Germany should open on 1 November.  Just remember that no-one else can book before bookings open, either!

large bullet pointSeptember 2007

Improved and updated Italy page...

As the first benefit of running seat61 full-time, I've been able to hop on a train down to Italy for a quick trip to Florence, Siena and Rome.  The London to Italy page has now been revised, with new photos and updated information about the 'Artesia' overnight trains from Paris to Italy, as much had changed since the original information was collated.

Seat61 goes full-time...

Having been run as a hobby, sandwiched between a day job and busy home life, seat61 became a full time job on 18 September.  This should at last give me the time to keep the site properly updated, and expand it..!

large bullet pointAugust 2007

Over 405,000 visitors in July...

Another record broken!

New hotel booking system...

HotelsCombined.com searches all the major hotel booking websites, so you don't have to.  Not only this, but at last there's a booking site that actually features many of my own favourite historic/atmospheric hotels, such as the Pera Palas in Istanbul, Windamere in Darjeeling, Continental Hotel in Saigon, Strand Hotel in Rangoon, Raffles in Singapore - although the Baron's Hotel in Aleppo has yet to be added!  I've recently tried it out myself to arrange hotels in Italy, and I've been sufficiently impressed to add a hotel booking page.

 

large bullet pointJuly 2007

New:  Seat61 Ferry Shop...

Seat61 now includes a Ferry Shop, where you can book almost any UK or European ferry route and operator, all in one place.  Great for comparing operators, or finding out what ferry routes go where.  However, Seat61 will continue to show the ferry operators' own website addresses, and you can book through either.

New page:  Glacier Express, Switzerland's most scenic train ride...

The new Glacier Express page sets out all you need to know about Switzerland's most scenic train journey, with times, fares, photos and an account of the trip.

Train & ferry passengers increase as passengers switch from flights...

Eurostar have announced that the number of passengers travelling by train to destinations beyond Paris such as Perpignan, Bordeaux, Marseille and Nice increased by a staggering 39% in 2006, as people switched from flights.  DFDS Seaways have just announced that ferry passengers from the UK to Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands are up 17% on last year, as people switch from flying.  Virgin Trains have reported a 55% increase in train ticket sales between London & Glasgow in 2006/7, as air travel between those cities fell for the first time in years.  Both environmental pressures and the sheer hassle and frustration of modern short-haul air travel seem to be driving this trend...

New Calcutta-Dhaka train service...

A trial run with officials has been completed successfully, and direct Calcutta-Dhaka train service is due to start in late August or September 2007. When known, details will be posted on the Bangladesh page.

large bullet pointJune 2007

New Zealand page updated, extended and improved...

A trip to New Zealand in May has allowed a major update and expansion of the New Zealand page, with information on the superb train journeys between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Greymouth, and bus connections to Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown.

New European Timetable from 9 June 2007...

European railway timetables change on 9 June.  All the seat61 European pages are now being updated, please bear with me.  A major change is the opening of TGV-Est, with new high speed trains between Paris and Strasbourg, Basel, Zurich, Luxembourg, Stuttgart, Munich and Frankfurt.  A major downside is the withdrawal of the Paris-Vienna, Paris-Frankfurt and Paris-Zurich sleeper trains.

large bullet pointMarch 2007

New Tallinn-St Petersburg train...

The Tallinn-St Petersburg sleeper train was withdrawn in 2004, a victim of bus competition.  But a new daily daytime train is due to start from 31 March 2007, with competitive timings and a fare of 350 kroons (£15). 

large bullet pointFebruary 2007

Seat61.com wins "Best Travel Website" in Wanderlust Travel Awards 2007...

The Man in Seat Sixty-One has been voted "Top Travel Website" by readers of Wanderlust Magazine in the prestigious Wanderlust Travel Awards 2007.  I'm delighted that the site has been recognised in such a high-profile way, and am very grateful indeed for everyone who voted for the site.  I'm also delighted that the results seem to show a remarkable shift in the way people are thinking about their travel.  In last year's Wanderlust awards, four airlines featured in the list of top ten best travel websites.  This year Seat61 is in first place, followed by the (in my opinion, at any rate!) attractive and imaginatively-written Eurostar.com in second place.  Only one airline (Flybe.com) now makes it into the list, at number 10.  Could the shape of travel really be changing towards more environmentally-sound and rewarding ways to go..?  I hope so..!

Record 364,000 visitors to Seat61.com in January...

Easily a record, beating the previous best (267,000 in a month) by a huge margin.  The most popular pages are (in descending order of popularity) the home page, London to Europe general information page, London to Italy page, UK travel page, Train travel in China page, Train Travel in Malaysia page, Train Travel in India page, Trans-Siberian page, Train Travel in Thailand page, London to Spain page, London to France page, London to the Netherlands page, London to Germany page.

Travelling to Europe from somewhere other than London?

The UK to Europe page now offers advice for buying special UK train tickets to connect with Eurostar if your journey starts from a UK town or city other than London.  Special Saver fares to a destination called 'London International CIV' allow you to travel at the affordable Saver rate, with no time restrictions even on Monday-Friday mornings, if you're connecting with a Eurostar or rail+sea ticket via Harwich-Hoek.  Other options are featured, such as direct cruise ferries from Plymouth, Poole or Portsmouth to France followed by a domestic French train to Paris, or using direct ferries from Scotland or the north of England to Europe, such as the overnight cruise ferries from Edinburgh to Zeebrugge, Hull to Rotterdam or Newcastle to Amsterdam.

Helsinki or Tallinn, anyone..?

The Finland and Estonia pages have been extended to show the option of travelling by Eurostar and sleeper train  to Berlin, then via the direct Superfast Ferry from Rostock in northern Germany to Helsinki and Tallinn.  The ferry has cabins, bars, restaurants, even a health club with sauna and jacuzzis.  This non-flying thing is hell, isn't it..?

Eurostar goes from strength to strength...

Eurostar have announced that the punctuality of their London-Paris and London-Brussels trains reached an all-time high of 91.5% on time or within 15 minutes during 2006.  This compares with typical performance of 70%-79% on time or within 15 minutes for competing short haul airlines.  Eurostar carried 28% more passengers in 2006 than in the 12 months before the first section of UK high-speed line opened, and after the first 11 months of 2006 had cornered 69% of the London-Paris air/rail market.  With Heathrow closed due to fog in December, this is likely to exceed 70% for the whole year.  Eurostar are now looking at how to capitalise on the move to St Pancras in November 2007, when journey time will be cut to 2 hours flat, London to Paris.  Better through booking from UK cities, and better through booking to destinations such as Amsterdam and Cologne are also being looked at.  A London-Amsterdam journey time of 4 hours 10 minutes (city centre to city centre) is only a couple of years away.  Eurostar now think that with airline security problems, extended check-ins and lower on-time performance, train can compete head-on with air travel for journeys of up to 4 hours or so.  Eurostar have also announced their best ever skiing season, with bookings for the direct ski train to the Alps up 43%.

TGV Est opens June 2007...

The new TGV Est high-speed line will open on 10 June 2007, slashing Paris-Strasbourg journey time from 4 hours to just 2 hours.  It will also slash Paris-Basel journey time from 5 hours to 3.5 hours, and Paris-Stuttgart to 3.5 hours too.  Advance train times are now shown in the relevant sections on the London-Switzerland and London-Germany pages.  Sadly, the new TGV services mean the demise of both the Paris-Vienna 'Orient Express' sleeper, the Paris-Frankfurt sleeper, and the Paris-Zurich-Chur sleeper.

large bullet pointJanuary 2007

Seat 61 shortlisted for "Best Travel Website", Wanderlust Magazine Travel Awards...

Coming soon after winning 'Best Personal Contribution' in the Responsible Travel Awards 2006, Seat61.com has been shortlisted for the category of 'Best Travel Website' in the annual travel awards run by Wanderlust Magazine, based on votes by Wanderlust readers.  The winner will be announced at The Times Travel Destinations Show, Earl's Court, London, on 1 February.  Fingers crossed!  I'm delighted the site has been shortlisted, and I'm very grateful to everyone who voted for seat61.

UK to Spain, by trainhotel...

A week in Spain allowed my wife and I (and 8 month old Nate) to sample Gran Classe on the excellent Trainhotel from Paris to Madrid.  Gran Classe features 2-berth rooms with private shower and toilet, evening meal with wine and breakfast included, for a fare of £107 per person each way.  There really is no better way to travel to Spain.  The London to Spain page has now been updated with illustrations and information about train travel from the UK to Spain.

In our case, taking Eurostar and the trainhotel to Spain was not only more relaxing than flying, it was actually faster.  On the day we left London, Heathrow was fogged in and all flights were cancelled.  We reached Seville by train from London 6 minutes ahead of schedule and ahead of most air passengers, a modern day case of the tortoise and the hare.  And we still have all our luggage!

large bullet pointDecember 2006

New timetables across Europe from 10 Dec 2006

Pages are now being updated for the new timetables starting on 10 December in all European countries.  There are no major changes to report, though significant changes are expected at the next timetable change in June 2007, when the new TGV-Est high-speed line opens between Paris and Strasbourg.  This will allow new high-speed services between Paris and Basel, Zurich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt & Munich.  The downside is the planned withdrawal of the Orient Express Paris-Vienna sleeper train, and the Paris-Zurich-Chur sleeper train.  2007 could be the year when the name 'Orient Express' really does disappear from the timetables...

New seat61 'Rail Shop' to sell railpasses and world train travel...

Seat61 has teamed up with International Rail to provide the Seat61 RailShop, for easy online access to European railpasses and tickets, and railpasses for the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  At present, there is only a UK-based railshop, but similar railshops for residents of North America and residents of Australia are planned.

Travel from London to Germany can now be booked online...

At last, the Eurostar website now allows online booking from London to Cologne.  As the German Railways website already allows easy online booking of trains onwards from Cologne to any destination in Germany, it's suddenly become possible to book daytime trains from London to anywhere in Germany online.  See the London to Germany page for details.

New routes and destinations for the London-France page...

The London to France page has been updated and improved, with train times added for London-Nice or London-Marseille via Paris, and for London to Limoges, Brive and Toulouse.

large bullet pointNovember 2006

Seat61 wins "Best personal contribution" in the Responsible Tourism Awards 2006...

I'm delighted (and still stunned) that seat61.com is this year's winner in the 'Best personal contribution' category in the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards 2006, sponsored by ResponsibleTravel.com, The Times newspaper and Geographical Magazine.  The winners were announced at the World Travel Market event at London's Excel exhibition centre on 8 November.  Thank you to everyone who nominated seat61.com.

New webhosting provider...

Webhosting for Seat61 is now provided courtesy of Ultraspeed.  Seat61 was switched to the new servers on 19 November, and the new hosting service should make the site more reliable.  Some emails may not have got through during the changeover period, I apologise if you haven't had a response, please try again now.

large bullet pointOctober 2006

Seat61.com shortlisted for the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards 2006...

This website has been shortlisted for an award in the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards 2006, sponsored by First Choice holidays, The Times newspaper and Geographical magazine.  The award ceremony will be held at the World Travel Market exhibition at Excel in London's docklands on 8 November.  Fingers crossed..!

Shosholoza Meyl re-instate sleeping-cars to East London, Messina, Komatipoort...

In July, South Africa's Shosholoza Meyl passenger trains were split into two types.  Some routes (Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban & Port Elizabeth) got a Tourist class train with sleepers and restaurant plus a separate Economy class train with economy seats.  Other routes (such as Johannesburg to East London, Komatipoort & Messina) just got an economy class train with seats, ending all civilised sleeper service to these destinations.  It's good to report that Shosholoza Meyl have seen the error of their ways and will reinstate sleepers on these routes from 1 November 2006.

Major rescheduling of trains in Burma (Myanmar)

All mainline trains between Rangoon and Mandalay have been rescheduled to run by day rather than overnight as before.  The new times are now shown on the Burma page, thanks to Sanay Travel of Rangoon.  It's not clear whether this is permanent or temporary.  It's also now been confirmed that the Thanlwin bridge is open to train traffic and the new Moulmein station is now open.  Trains are now running direct Rangoon to Moulmein, previously the railway terminated at Moatama for a ferry across the river.

Irish Ferries & Stena Line reschedule Holyhead-Dublin ferries...

Irish Ferries has changed its sailing schedule between Holyhead and Dublin, and the London to Dublin timetable on the Ireland page has now been revised to reflect this.  With Stena Line now offering only one 'HSS' service a day and none on Sundays, Irish Ferries is now easily the best choice to Dublin, and it now comes before Stena Line on that page with its Ulysses cruise ferry and Dublin Swift fast ferry both offering daily rail connected sailings.  Stena Line has also made a 30 minute change to one of it's sailings.

Taftan Express Iran-Pakistan suspended...

You can travel all the way from London to Bombay by train, with just a short gap at Istanbul (where you cross the Bosphorus by ferry) and in Iran where there's still a gap in the rail network between Kerman and Zahedan.  Unfortunately, it's been reported that the gap has just got bigger.  The twice-monthly 'Taftan Express' from Zahedan in Iran to Quetta in Pakistan has been suspended because of repeated bomb attacks on the line.  Buses remain available as an alternative.

large bullet pointSeptember 2006

Web hosting problems...

I changed web hosts in August, switching seat61.com from shared hosting to a Virtual Personal Server with a UK IP address at interhost.co.uk.  The good news is that Google now knows that seat61 is a UK site, so it shows up in searches for 'UK sites only'.  The bad news is that I've had some downtime problems in the month since then, including an outage all afternoon on Sunday 24 September and the site going down for brief periods on several other occasions.  I'm keeping an eye on the site and contacting InterHost.co.uk as soon as I see a problem, but please bear with me.  If the site disappears, it won't be permanent, seat61 will be back as soon as I can get the problem sorted.  If the problems persist, I will need to rehost again.  Note that if the site goes down, my email goes down with it..!

Good news:  The Auckland-Wellington "Overlander" reprieved at the eleventh hour...

New Zealand's "Overlander" train between Auckland and Wellington has been reprieved at the eleventh hour, within days of its intended closure.  All train service between NZ's two most important cities was due to cease on 30 September 2006 with the withdrawal of this last remaining train.  Such was public support that the service has been saved, albeit running 3 times a week in the off-season, daily during the Christmas, Easter and summer high-season periods.  Details on the New Zealand page.

Photos of the wonderful new train journey to Tibet...

Many thanks to Keith Crane for allowing use of some excellent photos from his recent trip on the train to Lhasa.

DFDS Seaways closes Newcastle-Gothenburg ferry service...

Sadly, DFDS is closing down its long-standing Newcastle-Kristiansand-Gothenburg ferry service in early November.  DFDS has bought Fjord Line's ship 'Fjord Norway' and will take over Fjord Line's Newcastle-Norway service, but this leaves Sweden with no direct ferries to and from the UK.  This is a shame, it would have been far more sensible to have dropped the Fjord Line route and maintained a link with both Norway and Sweden, as Gothenburg is a far more convenient arrival point with direct trains to Stockholm every hour taking just 3 hours, for onwards ferries to Finland, Estonia and Latvia.  Dumping passengers in Norway, a difficult train ride away from Stockholm and its onwards connections, is not helpful and it leaves a nasty hole in the 'non-flying' European transport network...  The Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Finland pages have been updated with news of the withdrawal, more information about alternative routes will be added in due course.

New page:  Train travel in Taiwan...

The new seat61 Taiwan page has links for train information in Taiwan, and details of the ferry service connecting Taiwan with Japan.  If you can help supply more information or photos to develop this page, please email me..!

Online booking for trains in Turkey...

Thanks to Philip Dyer-Perry whose Turkish is rather better than mine, the Train Travel in Turkey page now features step-by-step instructions for non-Turkish speakers to use the Turkish-language online booking system on the TCDD (Turkish Railways) website.  Trains make a great way to get  around Turkey cheaply and in comfort and enjoying the fabulous Turkish scenery at ground level, and it's now easy to book tickets online, too.

19,000 visitors in one day...

A new record for a single day was set on 4 September, following articles featuring seat61 in the Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, Italy's La Republica and an article written by Robert MacPherson syndicated in Yahoo and papers around the world.

large bullet pointAugust 2006

Over 267,000 visitors in August...  Airport chaos... 

A new record.  Last month, China ousted Malaysia as the most popular page on the site after the home page, almost certainly driven by people looking for information on the new line to Tibet.  This month, the London to Italy page went into the lead for the first time ever, probably driven by UK travellers eager to reach Italy in spite of the air travel chaos.  On Thursday 10 August when the UK's airports virtually came to a standstill, seat61 received over 12,000 visitors against around 7,000 on a typical Thursday.

large bullet pointJuly 2006

TGV Est opening 2007...  Withdrawal of the Orient Express...

The new TGV Est high speed line from Paris to Strasbourg opens next year.  German ICE trains will link Paris and Frankfurt in just 3 hours 45, French TGVs will links Paris and Munich in about 4 hours 45.  Two daily trains will link Paris & Zurich in 4 hours 45.  On the down side, the Paris-Frankfurt sleeper train will cease, and so will the Paris-Vienna Orient Express, finally removing this famous name from the timetable after 120 years.

Bad news from New Zealand:  No trains from Auckland to Wellington from 1 October 2006...

The Overlander from Auckland to Wellington is being withdrawn permanently on 30 September 2006.  This follows the withdrawal of the overnight 'Northerner' last year, and it means that from 1 October 2006 there will be NO TRAINS AT ALL between Auckland & Wellington, the two most important cities in a supposedly developed country.  Your only option is then to be strapped to a seat on a plane or stuck all day in a bus seat.  Perhaps you should visit a  more developed country instead, like Australia..!

New page:  Nepal

A new Nepal page now shows information about train travel from London to Kathmandu, and overland train/bus travel from Delhi and Varanasi to Kathmandu.  It's not a journey I've yet made myself, so feedback (or photos) from travellers would be very welcome..!

London-Amsterdam by train+ferry from January 2007...

It's reported that Stena Line will withdraw their Harwich-Hoek van Holland HSS fast ferry service from Jan 2007, as budget airlines have reduced the number of people taking their car abroad by ferry.  However, they plan to upgrade their existing daytime and overnight conventional ship sailings (at present mainly used by cars & freight vehicles rather than foot passengers).  It's not yet certain whether train+ferry tickets will continue on this route using the conventional ferries, but hopefully they will.  Details will be shown on the Netherlands page as soon as they are confirmed.

Thanks to everyone who's helped...

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who's e-mailed me with updates, travellers' reports and extra information.  It has really helped to keep the site updated for future travellers.

large bullet pointJune 2006

New Railway to Tibet...

Passenger trains start running from Beijing to Lhasa in Tibet on 1 July 2006, over the world's highest railway.  Fares start at just $102 for a hard class sleeper, though trains are booked solid already for the first few months.  Details are now on the China page.  A direct train from Guangzhou to Lhasa is now on the cards for October.

Seat61 in the papers:  The Times, The Guardian

Short travel articles written by yours truly, The Man in Seat Sixty-One, are due to be published this month in both the Times and the Guardian travel sections...  The Guardian article is the start of a monthly column.

261,000 visitors in May

A cool quarter million, and a new record.!

European timetable change, 28 May

All European pages are now updated for the May-December European timetable.  Very few major changes have taken place, although the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof station has now opened as the main Berlin transport interchange, and all long distance trains now stop there.

Cape Town-Johannesburg by train...

The hitherto daily 'Trans-Karoo' from Cape Town to Johannesburg & Pretoria has been cut back to run Cape Town to Johannesburg only, and the sleepers will run only 4 times a week from July.  But it's still a bargain, at £30-40 one way including sleeper..!  On the positive side, South African railways have doubled the affordable deluxe 'Premier Classe' service from Cape Town to Johannesburg from once a week to twice a week.  It is no longer attached to the Trans-Karoo, it now runs as a separate train in its own right, with increased passenger capacity and lower fares (from £137/$240 one way including meals).  See the South Africa page and look for 'Premier Classe'.

large bullet pointMay 2006

Updates....

large bullet pointApril 2006

The Observer's Guide to Rail Travel, Sunday 9 April...

Watch out for 9 April edition of the Observer, which will feature a guide to rail travel to Europe written by yours truly, the Man in Seat Sixty-One...

243,000 visitors in March...

A new record, and it's still only March - perhaps over 2 million visitors in 2006?  We'll see..!  In the meantime, please keep your feedback coming, as up-to-date information from recent travellers really helps keep the site updated.  I try to reply to all emails, but it can sometimes be difficult..!

large bullet pointMarch 2006

New page:  Bangladesh

With basic train travel info for Bangladesh, including Dakha-Chittagong trains.  Feedback from travellers to add to this page would be particularly welcome.

In the papers this month...

Seat61 featured in Lighter Life magazine, Adventure Travel Magazine and Cornucopia magazine this month.  Also in 'Rail Travel' by Ginny McGrath in The Times Online, and on CNN Online in Ultimate train journeys - The Orient Express.

New page:  Motorail

People often ask about 'motorail' car-carrying trains in Europe, so the information has been expanded and given its own page.  A new weekly overnight motorail from Brussels to Bologna and Alessandria in Italy starts in June this year, which is bound to be popular.

large bullet pointJanuary 2006

220,000 visitors in January...

Thanks for everyone's support - January 2006 has been the busiest month for the site yet.  Please keep the feedback coming in - travellers' reports and suggestions help keep the site updated.  I'd be glad to hear from you..!

New page:  Laos

A new Laos page has been added, covering overland travel to Laos, including the rough but scenic Hanoi to Vientiane bus.  Feedback from travellers to add to this page would be particularly welcome.

1.7 million visitors in 2005...

It's been the busiest year since the site started in 2001.  The Malaysia page remains the most popular after the home page (with Singapore to Bangkok the train trip everyone wants to make, 1,200 miles in 48 hours for just £35/$50 with sleepers..!) , with the Rail Travel to Europe page next, then Thailand, Trans-Siberian, France, India, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Russia.

large bullet pointDecember 2005

Timetable update...

European pages have now been updated for the new timetable that came into effect in all European countries on 11 December.

Syria and Jordan

A few extra photos have been added to the Syria and Jordan pages to show some of the sights that can be seen there.

large bullet pointNovember 2005

172,000 visitors in October...

A new record, up from 159,000 in September, but in a month where summer travel season should be over.  Top page after the home page is Malaysia, then Thailand, France, India, Europe, Trans-Siberian, China, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Australia...  The least-visited pages are Botswana, Moldova, Andorra, Gibraltar, Malta and Iceland...

large bullet pointOctober 2005

New page:  Sri Lanka

By popular demand, a page about train travel in Sri Lanka has been added.  It features train times for the most popular Colombo-Kandy route and links to other sites for more information.  Comments and help with developing this page would be very welcome.

New page:  Pakistan

Also by popular demand, a page about train travel in Pakistan has been added, with basic information, train times for key routes.

Google Adsense...

I've added some Google-generated adverts to most pages on the site to help fund both site costs and to support the travelling that generates the information.  The site remains a hobby, and I hope the ads aren't too obtrusive.  This site has always been provided free to travellers to help and inspire their travels, and it will continue to be free.

large bullet pointSeptember 2005

Improved page:  London to Greece

It's easy to reach Greece without flying, in comfort by train and ferry in just 48 hours.  My wife and I travelled to Greece this way for a friend's wedding in August, and the London to Greece page now has more info and photos to tell you how to plan and book this trip.  A wonderful way to get there..!

Improved page:  London to Istanbul

If you've ever wanted to travel from London to Istanbul by train, the London to Turkey page tells you how...  I returned from Istanbul to London a few weeks ago, and I've now updated this page with the latest information and photos of what the journey is like.  The new Romanian sleeping-cars running from Istanbul to Bucharest and from Bucharest to Budapest are excellent.  They were bought second-hand from Germany, and they make this journey surprisingly comfortable.  Just make sure you always book a sleeper for a journey like this, and not just a basic sit-up-all-night seat.  The sleeper supplement is just 15 euros per person to share a 3-berth sleeper, so there's just no need to rough it..!

Improved page:  Jordan

After a recent trip by train from London to Petra in Jordan and back, I've been able to revise the Jordan page, with practical info and photos for the wonderful Damascus-Amman train journey along part of the old Hedjaz Railway (as blown up by Lawrence of Arabia - the passenger coaches looked as if they HAD been blown up by Lawrence...).  I've also added bus info Damascus-Amman (as these operate daily) and for Amman to Petra and Aqaba.

Improved page:  Syria

The trip to Jordan again took me on the weekly 'Toros Express' from Istanbul to Aleppo, 868 miles for £29 including sleeper berth.  I've updated information about the journey on the Syria page, with photos, and also improved information on the Aleppo-Damascus trains which are an excellent way to do this journey.  Contrary to (uninformed) popular opinion, Syria is one of the safest and most interesting countries to visit, with some of the most hospitable people you will meet anywhere...

large bullet pointAugust 2005

158,000 visitors in August...

A new record...  It's also becoming increasingly common for environmental reasons to be given as a reason by people researching train travel to Europe.  Short haul flights are, after all, one of the most polluting forms of transport known to man, and they put the pollutants right where they can do most damage.  Is this the start of a budget airline backlash..?

large bullet pointJuly 2005

New sleeper train Thessaloniki - Istanbul

From 8 July 2005, a new air-conditioned sleeper train started up between Istanbul and Thessaloniki.  At just 48 euros per person sharing a modern 2-bed sleeper, it's a comfortable, time-effective travel option which saves you a night in a hotel, too.  See the Train Travel In Turkey page, now updated from personal experience.

New page:  Indonesia

Several correspondents have commented on the lack of a page on Indonesia...  I've now added an Indonesia page, although it's still in development.  If you can help with information or suggestions for this page, please let me know..!

large bullet pointJune 2005

151,000 visitors in May...

large bullet pointMay 2005

Larger text on all pages...

I've finally managed to revise the whole site with larger text in an easy-to-read font.  Let me know if you like it ..!

London to Ireland by train+ferry:

- cheaper and simpler fares from 12 June 2005...

London to Dublin by train+ferry is now £24 one-way £48 return, valid any time, any day, except in July & August when it's £27 one-way, £54 return.  These aren't limited-availability special offers:  these are the regular flexible fares, with unlimited availability, you can buy them any time even on day of travel, and leave the return open if you like.  And it's exactly the same price from any rail station in the South East, East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall, wherever.  It's just a shame that EasyJet, Ryanair and even Eurolines are advertised everywhere, but these train+ferry fares are a well-kept secret..!  Fares are available from ANY mainland UK station to ANY Irish station.  See the London to Ireland page for times and fares.  When comparing with air fares, remember to add £12 one-way or £24 return to the air fare to allow for the train ride from London to the airport..!

Cheaper ways to Warsaw, Moscow and Prague...

If budget airlines are good for anything, they're good at getting train operators to lower their fares to compete.  Cheap fares on the sleeper trains from Brussels to Warsaw and Cologne to Prague (from just £28 one-way including couchette), and a new cheap deal (starting at just £69 return) from London to Cologne by Eurostar and connecting trains mean that train travel from London to Warsaw, Moscow and Prague has never been as affordable.  London to Moscow, where there are few if any cheap flights, can now cost as little as £138 one-way including one night in a couchette and one night in a sleeper.  London to Warsaw or Prague costs from £115 return including a couchette.

Romania & Serbia join the European reservation computer network...

Trains within (and starting in) Romania and Serbia can now be easily reserved from the UK via the computer systems used by UK European ticketing agencies.  Previously, reservations could only be made when you got there.  It's now easy to travel to Istanbul (for example) using a comfortable and secure sleeping-car all the way, as the Bucharest-Istanbul sleeper can now be reserved from the UK.  Similarly, trains from Bucharest back to Budapest or Vienna, and from Belgrade back to Vienna or Munich, can now be booked from the UK.

Warsaw-Vilnius sleeper train withdrawn...

Sadly, from 29 May 2005 the Warsaw-Vilnius overnight sleeper will stop running indefinitely, the victim of bus competition and cutbacks by Polish Railways, who run the train.  So much for them all joining the EU..!  There remains a daytime service of connecting trains, and the Latvia and Lithuania page has been updated to reflect this.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One 'live' on air....

The Man in Seat Sixty-One was interviewed 'live' on the Charlie Jordan show on LBC Radio, London, on 15 May.

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Istanbul - Pamukkale sleeper train modernised...

In April, the 'Pamukkale Express' from Istanbul to Denizli was modernised, and given brand-new 'TVS 2000' air-conditioned sleeping-cars, couchette car, reclining pullman seats and restaurant car.  This train is now the clean, comfortable and modern  way to travel cheaply and time-effectively from Istanbul to see Pamukkale.  Guidebooks directing travellers towards cramped and basic long distance buses had better wise up..!  There are now photos of the sleeper on the Train Travel in Turkey page.

Cambridge University Railway Club - 29 April

I gave a talk about the creation of 'seat61.com' at Cambridge University Railway Club on 29 April 2005, at the Gordon Cameron Lecture Theatre, Fitzwilliam College.  All are welcome - see www.cam.ac.uk/societies/curc/termcard.htm.

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125,000 visitors in March

Another record, with 125,500 visitors in March, 271,000 page views.  The most popular pages remain (in descending order) the home page, Malaysia page, Europe - general information page, Trans-Siberian page, London-Italy, London-France, China, London-Netherlands, London-Spain, Thailand, railpass page, India, London-Germany, London-Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, UK travel, London-Ireland.  The least popular page is Botswana..!

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Myanmar (Burma) page...

Following a recent visit, the Myanmar / Burma page has been completely revised, to make it what I hope is the most comprehensive guide on the internet to travelling around Burma by train and river steamer.

New page:  Silk Route

The other route between Europe and China is now covered in a Silk Route page...  Feedback is welcome, as the page will be developed further in the coming months.

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New page - South America

It's only a summary of train services in South America, but it fills a gap and will be expanded in due course.

Hong Kong - Hanoi

I've lost count of how many people have asked me about this journey - but with no obvious direct train service, it's always been a difficult one to answer.  Details of what I think is the best option are now shown on the Vietnam page.  If you know of a better route, let me know..!

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European timetable change - Dec 12th

The timetable changes throughout Europe on 12 December 2004.  No major changes are expected except for a reorganisation of the night-trains to Italy, and some of these Paris-Italy changes have already been introduced in September.  The pages on this site will be updated shortly.  In the meantime, please use the current times as a guide and double-check exact departure times when you book.

Improved page: Andorra

New photos and information from a recent trip have meant a better account of the train and bus journey from London to Andorra.

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New page:  Iceland

I've finally added another 'missing' page, this time for Iceland.  The sea journey from the UK to Iceland isn't the shortest or easiest of routes, but it's quite possible, changing ships at the Shetland Island onto Smyril Line's weekly service en route from Denmark.  Well, now you know...

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Still over 100,000 visitors a month, even in October...

Seat61 registered over 105,000 visitors in October, even beyond the end of the summer season.  It seems that as trips from the UK to Europe reduce after the summer, people start planning their trips to SE Asia, India and so on...

New page:  Moldova

By popular demand - well, following at least one email - I've added a page on Moldova, one of the few remaining countries in Europe not already covered by the site.  Maybe an Iceland page will follow in due course..!  I'd like to thank Pieter Beelen of the Netherlands for permission to use his photographs of the Bucharest-Chisinau sleeper train to illustrate this page.

Improvements...

The emails I get drive improvements to the site, so keep them coming.  After a steady trickle of emails about getting to Langkawi Island in Malaysia, I've added a Langkawi paragraph to the Malaysia page with a link to the Langkawi ferry company.  After regular emails about the ability to 'stop off' while making a Singapore to Bangkok or Hanoi to Saigon journey, I've made this clearer on the Malaysia and Vietnam pages.  After several emails about how to book a table for dinner in the restaurant car of the Paris-Italy sleeper trains, I've added a line about this is the 'guide to onboard accommodation' on the Italy page.

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Korea - new page...

A new Korea page has been added, covering train travel within South Korea, sea travel between South Korea and both China and Japan, and train travel between North Korea, Moscow and Beijing.  Thanks go to Shigeyuki Kaneko of Japan for advice and for photos of the new high-speed KTX from Seoul to Pusan.

Cuba - better photos and fares information...

Thanks to Gregory Moreton and Peter Jackson, the Cuba page now shows good photos of what the new 'Tren Frances' is like between Havana and Santiago.  A range of fares from Havana to most main destinations is now shown.

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Over 100,000 visitors again in July...

Seat 61 had 103,946 visitors and over 223,000 page views in July.  Most popular pages are (most popular first) the home page, Malaysia, Europe (general information page), France, Netherlands, Trans-Siberian, Italy, Thailand, Spain, Railpass page, UK travel, India, links page.

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Over 100,000 visitors for the first time...

Seat 61 had 100,828 visitors and over 211,000 page views in June, a new record.

European timetable change...

European timetables changed on 13 June.  All pages have now been updated.  The one major change was the extension of the Cologne-Warsaw-Moscow train to operate Brussels-Warsaw-Moscow.  The London to Poland and London to Russia pages have been updated to show the new service.

Numerous improvements...

Numerous small improvements continue to be made, in many cases following your feedback, so keep it coming.

The Turkey page has now been separated into a London to Turkey page and a train travel in Turkey page, the latter now including timetables as the official Turkish website is now unfortunately in Turkish only.

The London to Ireland page has been improved and now includes more photos, more journey details, clearer timetables for London - Dublin services via Stena Line and via Irish Ferries, and a complete set of fares from any station in the UK to Dublin.  The London to Northern Ireland page has also been improved with a full range of fares from any UK station to Belfast.

Numerous new links have been added, for example a link to the Hong Kong - Macau jetfoil operator on the China page, to a map of the new Bangkok metro on the Thailand page, and so on.  Relevant suggestions are always welcome..!

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New page - Burma / Myanmar...

Although there are arguments for and against visiting Burma (which I won't attempt to tackle on this site), Burma has an extensive rail network yet no official national rail website.  The new page has train times and approximate fares for the main routes.

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Another record...

'Seat61' clocked up 89,288 visitors and 209,164 page views in March, a new record.

BBC World...

The site made BBC World with a mention on 'Click Online' on 11th March.  It was also mentioned in The Times on 13 March.

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As seen on TV...

Seat61.com made prime-time TV for the first time on 2 February when it was recommended on BBC TV 'Holiday 2004'. 

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Record visitor numbers to seat61.com..!

In January 2004, over 61,000 visitors looked at over 144,000 pages on seat61.com, the highest numbers yet.  The most popular pages (after the home page) were the Trans-Siberian page, Europe (general information) page, Malaysia page, Thailand page, Italy, France, Netherlands, India, Spain, Russia, Egypt, UK travel page, links page.  The site was recommended in 'Rail' magazine, in 'ComputerActive' Magazine, and in the travel section of The Observer.

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New pages - Zambia & Botswana

New Botswana and Zambia pages have been added, showing national and (where relevant) international train services in those countries.  If you have any further information that would improve these pages, or any suitable photographs to illustrate train travel in these countries, please drop me a line..!  

European timetable change

A new European timetable starts on 14 December 2003, and most pages have now been updated to show the new times.  The biggest change is that the overnight Brussels-Vienna train (which in one form or another has been in the timetable for over a century) has been withdrawn, as has the Brussels-Switzerland night train.  

New sleeping-cars Brussels-Berlin and Brussels-Hamburg

On a positive note, brand new sleeping-cars have now been introduced on the Paris-Brussels-Berlin and Paris-Brussels-Hamburg night train.  Three compartments in each of these sleeping-cars have en suite shower and toilet.

Improved page:  Lithuania

Following a recent trip, new photographs and information have been added to the Lithuania page.

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Withdrawal of the Brussels-Munich-Vienna 'Donauwalzer'

A direct Brussels-Vienna sleeper train has existed for over a century, but this useful train (currently called the 'Donauwalzer') will be withdrawn as from 14 December 2003.  It will still be possible to travel from London to Vienna with just one change, taking Eurostar to Paris then the Paris-Vienna 'Orient Express' (the real one, not the expensive tourist one).  The Austria page now also includes times and fares for an alternative service with two changes (at Brussels and Cologne) using the excellent (and recently personally experienced) 'CityNightLine' hotel train from Cologne to Vienna.

Special fares from London to Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich...

I now have details of German Railways' special inclusive fares from London to Hamburg, Munich and Berlin using Eurostar plus a connecting overnight train from Paris or Brussels.  These are a significantly cheaper than buying separate Eurostar and night train fares - London to Hamburg starts at £153 return including Eurostar to Brussels and a couchette on the night train from Brussels to Hamburg, London to Munich or Berlin starts at £159 return including a couchette.  These fares are taken from a current German Railways Night Train leaflet, converted from Euros to at an estimated rate of exchange - actual fares charged in the UK may be slightly different from those shown, which are only intended as a guide.  The special fares also make it cheaper to travel from London via Germany to Poland, Austria, Denmark, and so on.

Vilnius, Latvia...

A recent trip by train from London to Vilnius and back has allowed more detail to be added to the Latvia page.  The overnight sleeper journey on the 'BALTI' from Warsaw to Vilnius was a very comfortable and pleasant way to reach Lithuania.  Photos will be added shortly...

Online train times and fares for Japan...

The excellent Japanese 'hyperdia' website giving train times and fares for Japan has stopped providing this information in English.  If anyone knows of a English-language replacement, please let me know..!

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London to Iran by train...

Thanks to a correspondent from Amsterdam,  the London to Iran page now has photographs illustrating the journey from Istanbul to Tehran on the Trans-Asia Express. 

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Eurostar times from 28 September...

The first section of the new UK high speed line through Kent will open on 28 September.  Journey time to Paris and Brussels will be cut by 20 minutes, to just 2 hours 40 minutes London-Paris and 2 hours 20 minutes London-Brussels.  The times shown on this website have now been updated to show the new Eurostar timetable as from 28 September.

Sleeping-cars on France-Germany night trains

It's good to report that the night trains Paris-Brussels-Berlin, Paris-Brussels-Hamburg and Paris-Munich once again have comfortable sleeping-cars as well as the more basic couchettes.  The sleeping-cars were temporarily withdrawn following a fire on a sleeping-car in December 2002.  Brand-new sleepers, some compartments with en suite shower and WC, are due to enter service on these trains in October.

New timetables in Vietnam, Thailand, Kenya, Morocco...

New timetables have been introduced in these countries over the summer, and seat61 has now been updated.  In Thailand, the 'International Express' has been speeded up and now arrives Bangkok at 09:55 instead of 12:10.  In Morocco, Tangier sees a 50% increase in trains to the South, from 4 a day to 6, and there is now a fast air-conditioned 'rapide' every two hours on the main line Marrakech - Casablanca - Rabat - Meknes - Fez, making it easily one of the best train services in Africa.

Updated Kenya page...

The Kenya page has been updated with photographs and travel advice.  Thanks go to David Pinney for providing the photos of the Nairobi-Mombassa train, both inside and out, and for useful tips on travelling with Kenya Railways.  Unfortunately, it is now reported that the overnight Nairobi-Kisumu train may no longer run.

New Northern Ireland page...

Travel information for London to Belfast and Northern Ireland has been given its own page, separate from the main UK travel page.  This should make it easier to find..!

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New pages:  Kenya, Senegal & Mali 

Neither the Senegal - Mali (Dakar-Bamako) or Kenya (Nairobi-Mombassa) railways have official websites, so a new Senegal & Mali and Kenya pages have been added.  Admittedly only basic information is provided at the moment, and I can't add anything from personal experience, but I hope to add to the information available in due course.  Feedback (and photos) from anyone who has travelled on these services would be very welcome.  

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New European timetables from 15 June 

The European railways changed their timetable on 15 June, and I have now updated most pages.  There have been relatively few changes of any significance, although the withdrawal of the Cologne-Prague night train means a re-routing of UK-Prague passengers via either Frankfurt or Berlin.

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Online train times, fares & booking for UK trains

An online form for checking UK train times and fares and for booking UK train travel has been pout on the UK page, thanks to TheTrainline.com.

Irish fares...

The London to Ireland page has been improved, with much more information about fares to Ireland, both from London and other cities in the UK.

More improvements ...

Numerous pages have had extra photos added to illustrate the journeys, more links have been added, and missing fares information added here and there.  Keep the feedback coming..!

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A new look for 'seat61'...

After two years, it was time for a bit of a make-over...  I hope you like the new look, it should make the site easier to navigate, with the country-specific pages in the vertical menu, the site-related pages across the top.  Let me know what you think!

The most wonderful train in Britain..?

Without a doubt, the best train journey in Britain is London to Fort William on the Caledonian Sleeper.  Find out why in the new 'London to Scotland by overnight sleeper' section on the UK Travel page.  The most civilised, romantic and time-effective way to travel from central London to the Highlands of Scotland..! 

'Seat61' successfully re-hosted...

You may have noticed 'seat61' go off the air for a few days 22-24 March.  My previous host could not cope with the bandwidth (the traffic caused by the sheer number of visitors to 'seat61') so I have had to move it to a new web-hosting company on a 'business' account that allows more bandwidth.  It has taken some time, but they finally moved the domain name on 22 March.  This meant that when you tapped in 'www.seat61.com' you saw the new host's server with no pages on it and got a strange message - the domain name was changed to point at the new server just as I went away for the weekend, but I have now uploaded my site to the new server.  Thank you for your patience.  Hopefully the new host will make 'seat61' both faster and more robust.

Eurostar cuts fares:  London to Paris / Brussels £59 return...

Eurostar has made its promotional fare of £59 from London to Paris / Brussels permanent, making it the cheapest regular Eurostar fare.  There is no advance booking deadline, so you can book the day before if you like, but book as early as you can because only a limited number of seats will be sold at this price.  You must spend a Saturday night away.  The long-established £79 'leisure apex' returns remain on sale with lots of seat availability, but they must be booked at least 14 days in advance.

UK to Spain by train...

It's easy to travel from London to Spain using Eurostar and the overnight 'trainhotels' from Paris to Madrid and Barcelona.  Thanks to a recent long weekend to Madrid and Salamanca,  I've been able to update the London to Spain page with more photos and details of what it's like to leave the cheapo flights brigade behind and take the civilised, overland 'trainhotel' to Spain...  Oh yes, and the Rioja and the smoked salmon in the restaurant car aren't bad, either...

Buying train tickets for China

The UK agency www.chinarailtravel.com, which up till now has been recommended on seat61 for anyone who needs to make a Chinese rail reservation from outside China, has set up a special website specifically for people who want to buy Chinese rail tickets - www.china-train-ticket.com. Bookings will be handled by its Beijing office, and although tickets cannot be posted abroad, they can be delivered to your hotel so you can pick them up when you get to China.  The main UK agency, Chinarailtravel.com, will concentrate on inclusive tours by train, and will no longer do rail-only bookings.

New timetable in Cuba

The Cuba page has been fully updated for 2003, and extra information added.  Thanks go to Oscar Jalice of Miami for information on the new timetable now in operation in Cuba.

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New page - New Zealand

A gross omission has been resolved..!  Information on train and ferry services in New Zealand can now be found on the new New Zealand page.

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Server problems...

You may have tried to access 'seat61' recently (around 14-16 January) and found that the site was unavailable - a blank page with 'access forbidden' came up.  The high number of visitors which 'Seat61' is now getting has caused problems for my web host, leading to a fault.  I am moving to a new host with greater capacity, but this is taking a little time.  Please bear with me - if 'seat61' goes down again, rest assured it will be back as soon as I can sort out the problems.

Site map

To help you find your way round the site, I have now added a site map.

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European timetable change 16 December 2002

The site's European pages have now been updated to show the new timetables introduced by most European railways on 16 December, and running until June 2003.  

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India

The 'Rail Travel in India' page has now been comprehensively updated with more information and illustrations about how to travel round India by train.

China

A new 'Rail Travel in China' page has been created to bring together the information about Chinese rail travel previously hidden away on the Trans-Siberian timetable page.

Egypt and Morocco

New timetables have been introduced in Morocco and Egypt, with a few significant changes.  Both pages have now been updated with the new times.

October 2002

Ukraine & Russia

The Russia and Ukraine pages have both been thoroughly updated, with more information and photographs about travelling by train to and within Russia and Ukraine.

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Updates:  Malaysia & Thailand

New timetables have been introduced in Thailand and Malaysia, and these pages have now been updated.

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Trans-Siberian picture gallery

To give you a better idea of what a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway is like, a new picture gallery has been added with photos of what the trains are like inside and out, and the sort of scenery you are likely to see from the train.

Guestbook

The Seat61 guestbook has up until now been provided as a free service by BeSeen.com.  BeSeen have now stopped providing this service, and I have had to find another guestbook provider.  My new guestbook can be reached through the link on the home page, but until I can update all the other pages, the guestbook link may give you a 'page not found' error.  Please bear with me, and use the home page guestbook link, until I can sort this problem out.

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Why not visit Albania..?

OK, so it's not everyone's first choice for a holiday destination.  But Albania is well worth a visit, and it's now quite safe to visit (except for some border areas, and areas in the North), easy to get to and easy to get into - EU citizens don't even need a visa.  Remember, this was the most mysterious country in Europe, almost completely closed to the outside world until the fall of its Stalinist government in 1991.  See the newly updated Albania page for details of how to visit Albania, and what you might see there..!

www.seat61.com

'The Man in Seat Sixty-One' has now been successfully re-hosted, with room to expand further.  The internet address is now www.seat61.com, and the old freespace.virgin.net/markgideon.smith/ address (phew, what a mouthful..) is now redundant.  Please update your bookmarks if necessary.

Amtrak passes

You can now book Amtrak railpasses for the USA online using a direct link to RailChoice Ltd from the 'seat61' USA page.  This is a great way to see the States at ground level, in comfort..!

The Orient Express...

The 'Orient Express' page has been updated.  Learn the facts behind the hype about the world's most famous train..!

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Buying Interrail and Eurodomino online

As well as Interrail passes, you can now buy Eurodomino railpasses for individual countries online by clicking the button on the 'Rail passes' section of the Rail Travel to Europe page.  This is provided in association with RailChoice.

June 16:  European timetable change

Most European countries changed their timetables on 16 June 2002, and I have now updated all the European pages to reflect the changes.  There are very few major changes:  Eurostar times, especially at weekends, change slightly, the Cologne-Moscow sleeping-cars now leave Cologne one hour earlier on Saturdays and Sundays (but arrival time in Moscow is unchanged), and the Istanbul-Budapest through couchette car is attached to a later train from Bucharest to Budapest (which should make both it and the train it used to be attached to more punctual (!).  Arrival in Budapest is now about 2 hours later)

large bullet pointMay 2002

New page:  Rail travel in Cuba

There's very poor little information currently available on the web about rail travel in Cuba.  To try and resolve this,  I've added a Cuba page, with basic train times and information. 

New page:  Rail travel in Japan

The journey from London to Japan has been covered by the 'Trans-Siberian' page for some time.  However, whether you use the Trans-Siberian or fly, the Japanese rail system is the way to get around Japan.  Rail travel in Japan now has its own Japan page, with links to online fares and train times.  Let me know what you think..!

Taking your bicycle on the train to Europe

'How do I take my bike...?'  is a question which crops up regularly.  So I've improved the 'bicycles' section of the 'Rail travel to Europe' page.  I hope you find it useful.  Thanks go to my brother Julian (a keen cyclist) for explaining exactly what a 'bike bag' is, and for telling me (at some length, and on numerous occasions...) just how much of a pain it is to lug one across Paris on the Métro.

How to buy Interrail passes online

An agency called RailChoice can now sell you an Interrail pass online.  Interrail passes are the famous Europe-wide railpass available to us European residents, both under and over 26 years of age.  In conjunction with RailChoice, I've added a direct link to their online Interrail sales page.  See the 'Interrail' section on the 'Rail travel to Europe' page for details of the types of Interrail pass available, what they cover, how to use them, and prices.

Timetable change in Europe 16 June 2002

Many European train timetables change on 16 June 2002.  With one exception, no major changes are expected, and the suggested journeys shown on this website will not change much (if at all) after 16 June.  However, please check your train times carefully if travelling after this date, as there may be small changes here and there, including to Eurostar times.  The exception is Calais to Paris trains.  All direct trains from Calais to Paris (other than TGVs) will be withdrawn from 16 June, and replaced by local trains between Calais and Boulogne, connecting with express trains between Boulogne and Paris.  This will greatly affect the London to Paris rail-sea-rail service shown on the London to France page.  I will revise the relevant timetables when I have details.

Cheaper fares in Vietnam

Vietnamese Railways have now abolished the practice of charging much higher fares to foreign visitors.  This makes rail travel in Vietnam much cheaper.  Sample fares at the new rates are now shown on the Vietnam page, thanks to information provided by Jon Hewson of www.wompom.ca.

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The Sunday Times... 

'Seat 61' was featured in the 'Doors' internet section in the Culture Magazine of The Sunday Times on 7 April 2002.  Thanks go to Matt Wall who wrote the article, Adam Hearn who organised the photoshoot at Waterloo International and photographer Mark Bourdillon.  Two of the photos taken on that photoshoot now appear on the 'about me' page.

Booking European trains online

Rail Europe's online reservation system can be quite a good way to book rail travel from London to Italy or Spain.  I've added links and instructions for booking the Paris-Italy night trains and the Paris-Spain 'trainhotels' to the 'Italy' and 'Spain' pages.  I have not added these links to all European pages, as the system has some drawbacks for other destinations.  For example, in the case of London to France, it doesn't hold information on the special inclusive through fares such as the special £115 return from London to Nice.  For most journeys booking by telephone is still the best bet.

Rail Europe - now even easier to book European trains by phone

Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com)  have increased the opening hours for their telephone lines.  You can now book rail travel from the UK to Europe from 08:00 to 21:00 on Mondays to Fridays, and from 09:00 to 18:00 on both Saturdays and Sundays.  The telephone number is 0844 848 5 848.

Freedom Rail

A highly-recommended UK agency selling rail tickets to Europe, 'Freedom Rail' has regrettably  now limited its sales to tickets for groups (5 people or more), but it will still sell railpasses or tickets for journeys wholly within Italy to individual travellers.  The 'how to book' sections of this site have been amended to reflect this.  Alternative agencies include the excellent Ffestiniog Travel, on 01766 512 340.

Russian & Trans-Siberian train times online at 'Seat 61'

6 April:  Thanks to www.poezda.net,  'seat61' now offers online timetable enquiries for Russia and the ex-Soviet republics, including both domestic and international services via the Trans-Siberian Railway.  The system can be found on the London to Russia and Trans-Siberian Timetable pages.  I've also added details of a Russian agency, Svezhy Veter, who will book Russian trains for you for a small commission.  I have no experience of using this agency myself, and feedback would be welcome. 

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New page:  Latvia & Lithuania

16 February:  The new Latvia & Lithuania page fills a long-standing gap in the range of countries covered so far.

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New page:  Egypt

20 January:  A new 'Egypt' page has been added, to show both the rail & sea options from London to Egypt (sadly diminished with the demise of the Adriatica Line service from Venice, and the recent suspension of the Piraeus-Israel-Egypt ferry), and information about rail travel in Egypt.  

Egyptian Railways does not appear to have a website, making this site one of the only sources of up to date Egyptian train times on the web (unless you know differently - if you do, please e-mail me, I'd be glad to hear from you!) 

New page:  Australia

13 January:  By popular demand (it's one of the most common searches on my site...) I have added an Australia page.  Although your chances of getting to Australia without flying are a little slim (unless you've £10,000 to and several months to spare, that is...) you certainly don't have to fly around Australia when you get there.  This page shows you where the trains run, when they run and what they're like.

New page:  Canada

9 January:  Canada now has its own page, with more information about travelling across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver on 'The Canadian'.

United States:

7 January:  The Trans-Atlantic page has been revised, with more information about travelling by train in the USA, an Amtrak route map, and extra photos.  

Vietnam and Thailand:  Booking trains from the UK

Details of two agencies with internet sites able to accept e-mail bookings for trains in Vietnam and Thailand respectively have been placed on the Vietnam and Thailand pages.  These agencies might be very useful for anyone with limited time needing to be certain of a train booking before leaving the UK.  I have not used these agencies myself, and would welcome feedback from anyone who has.

large bullet pointDecember 2001

New page:  Zimbabwe

17 December: A new Zimbabwe page provides information on the excellent trains between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, and between Bulawayo and Harare.  It also describes the overland options for travel between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

New page:  South Africa

15 December:  A new South Africa page provides information about rail travel in South Africa, about the famous 'Blue Train' between Cape Town and Pretoria, and about shipping companies offering sailings between South Africa and the UK.  

large bullet pointOctober 2001

New page:  Travel within the UK

20 October:  The new UK travel page explains how to find out train times and fares for the UK, and how to travel by rail and sea from London to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

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30 September timetable change:    

Most European railways changed their timetables with effect from 30 September 2001.  The European train times shown on this website are now valid from 30 September 2001 until 15 June 2002.

New page:  London to the Ukraine

30 September:  A new London to the Ukraine page has been added, setting out the options for comfortable rail travel from London to Kiev.

New page:  London to Estonia

29 September:  A new London to Estonia page has been added, setting out the options for comfortable surface travel from London to Tallinn.

New page:  Rail travel in Malaysia / Singapore

22 September:  A 'Rail travel in Malaysia & Singapore' page has been added.  Although the new page mentions the possibility of overland travel from London to Singapore via the Trans-Siberian Railway, it is primarily designed for people who want to use the trains to travel around Malaysia, and from Singapore to Malaysia and Thailand.  Includes a brief look at the Raffles Hotel..!

New page:  Rail travel in Thailand

16 September: A 'Rail Travel in Thailand' page has been added.  Like the new Malaysia page, the new page mentions overland travel from London to Thailand, but is primarily designed for people who want to use the trains to travel round this fascinating country.  The page includes information on rail travel between Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore, and has a section on the famous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'.

12 September:  The London to Switzerland page has been updated, with more destinations added, including Davos and Klosters.  Details of the rail service between London and Kiev (capital of the Ukraine) have been added to the London to Russia page.  News just in is that the Toros Express from Istanbul to Aleppo and Damascus has been further improved, and now includes a proper sleeping-car all the way from the Bosphorus to Syria (so make that overland trip to the middle east now..!).  Thanks to Gokce Aydin of Turkey - Seat 61's man on the spot - for confirming this information.

large bullet pointAugust 2001

20 August: I've added a link to the official RATP (Parisian transport) site on the France, Italy, and Spain pages and the 'useful links' page, to help people cross Paris by bus or metro.  The RATP site has a good quality map of the Paris Metro and Parisian bus routes.  I am also indebted to Ulf of Germany for an update on visa requirements for Belarus, now needed by travellers to Moscow.  This information has been added to the 'Russia' page.

New page:  Rail travel in Vietnam

19 August:  A 'Rail travel in Vietnam' page has now been added.  Although it's possible to reach Vietnam overland from London via the Trans-Siberian Railway, this page is also designed for people who are flying to Vietnam, but who want to use the trains to travel around.  A 'Thailand' and a 'Malaysia/Singapore' page will follow in due course. 

The 'trainhotels' from Paris to Madrid & Barcelona...

17 August:  With permission from Patentes Talgo SA (the manufacturers of Talgo rolling stock), photos of the accommodation on board the Paris-Madrid and Paris-Barcelona 'TrainHotels' are now shown on the London to Spain page.  In spite of having travelled on these excellent overnight trains half a dozen times, I found I had no photos of my own for the site...!

Chinese connections...

14 August:  Once you've reached Beijing all the way from London via the Trans-Siberian Railway, you may well want onward connections for, say, Xian (Terracotta Warriors), Shanghai, or Hong Kong.  Details of principal trains from Beijing to these destinations are now shown on the Trans-Siberian timetable page.

New 'search the site' facility...

12 August:  I've added a site search facility, thanks to Atomz.com, so you can quickly search the site for the destination you're interested in, or indeed for any key words or phrases.     

More links...

8 August:  Links to the websites for Brittany Ferries, P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, Superfast Ferries (Italy-Greece) and Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (Italy-Greece, free for Interrail card holders) have been added to the 'Useful Links' page.

More destinations..

8 August:  An entry for Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri & Amalfi has been added to the London to Italy page.  An entry for Le Mans, Angers, Nantes and Rennes (with just one change from Eurostar to a fast TGV at Lille - no need to cross Paris) has been added to the London to France page.

large bullet pointJuly 2001

Israel & Cyprus

28 July:  I have improved both the London to Israel and London to Cyprus pages, to give a better idea of how to make these journeys.  Setting aside the current security situation, it's perfectly possible to take just three weeks off work, travel to Israel and back by rail and sea, spending 8 days in Israel and seeing Paris, Venice and Athens on the way.  It can all be booked from the UK, and no airliner is required!

New page:  India

22 July:  I have been asked several times about overland travel to India.  I've now added a page briefly outlining the route, although the Foreign Office currently warn against visiting Southern Iran towards the Pakistan border because of security problems.  

However, even if you fly to India, one of the best ways to see it is by train using an IndRail pass.  The new India page explains the types of IndRail pass available, tells you how and where to book your pass in the UK (a wonderful family-run agency called S D Enterprises in Wembley), and tells you a bit about Indian train travel.  Let me know if it's useful..!

Bicycles

17 July:  By popular demand, the 'Rail travel to Europe' general information page now includes a section on how to take your bicycle to Europe by train.

European Motorail

Also by popular demand, the 'Rail Travel to Europe' page includes a very brief summary of Motorail services from Calais and Belgium to the South of France, Austria and Italy, with information on how to book and links to key Motorail agencies.

Trans-Atlantic sailing timetable

Southampton-New York sailing dates 2001/2002 have now been added to the USA/Canada page.

large bullet pointJune 2001

Country information

30 June: The country information panels have been redesigned, and information panels added to pages that lacked them, to show time zone, currency, tourist office website and other useful information for each country. 

Tourist information

27 June: Links to national tourist office websites have been added to many country pages, although some are still to be done.

New European Summer Timetable

14 June:  Pages have now been updated to reflect the European Summer 2001 timetable, which is valid until September 29.

Booking information

9 June:  Although information on how to book European rail travel is included in my 'London to Europe' page, it is easy to miss, and I have often been asked about who to call to book trains to Europe.  I have now included a 'How to make a booking' link on most European country pages.  The link brings up a pop-up window with details about European rail travel agencies.

London to Italy

4 June: The fare you've all been waiting for has now been added to the 'London to Italy' page: The cost of taking your loved one to Pisa, Rome, Verona or Venice in the 'suite matrimoniale' of the de luxe 'Excelsior' sleeping-car, complete with double bed, TV/video, en suite toilet and shower, complimentary welcome drink of champagne, and light breakfast...  No, I'm not going to tell you what it is here, you'll just have to look it up on the Italy page...

London to Ireland

4 June: At last, I have finally got around to adding times and fares from London to Dublin, via train to Holyhead and 'HSS', via train to Holyhead and Irish Ferries, and by overnight ship Liverpool-Dublin.

London to France, London to Monaco Monte Carlo

1 June:  If you're thinking about travelling overnight to the South of France, you can now see what French couchette accommodation looks like.

London to Sicily

1 June:  Photos of the 'InterCity' trains from Rome to Sicily added.  Fares Rome-Sicily added on 4 June.

large bullet pointMay 2001

London to Luxembourg

28 May:  More comprehensive timetables added for London to Luxembourg.

London to Germany

27 May:  More comprehensive timetables added for London to Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, Mainz & Frankfurt.

London to France

26 May: Feedback suggests (not surprisingly, I suppose...) that France is a key destination from the UK.  The  'London to France' page has been improved and updated with more comprehensive timetable information on train travel to Marseille, Toulon, Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Perpignan, Nimes, Montpellier, Avignon and others.

London to Italy

25 May: The 'London to Italy' page now includes an illustrated guide to travelling on the Paris-Italy night sleepers, including the new 'Excelsior' de luxe sleeping cars and the new air-conditioned 'Comfort' couchettes.  Train times have been updated for the new Summer timetable from 10 June 2001.  I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of the 'Excelsior' en suite showers!

New page: London to Iran

24 May:  With the reinstatement in March this year of a direct weekly train from Istanbul to Tehran in Iran, a 'London to Iran' page has been added to the site.

London to Malta

23 May: The 'London to Malta' page has been improved and updated, with a photo or two, in the light of recent personal experience.  Details of the weekly year-round Grimaldi Ferries service from Salerno to Valletta (which has been missed out by the Thomas Cook European Timetable) have been added.

London to Greece

23 May: A few improvements have been made to this page.  Blue Star Ferries now sail earlier (17:00) from Brindisi to Patras, making rail connections difficult.  I have changed the recommended service to that of Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (who offer a more sensible departure time later in the evening), but please check times when you book.

London to India

I have had several enquiries about the possibility of overland travel to India.  Although the journey is by no means straightforward, I hope to add a 'London to India' page in the near future, outlining the options.  Any feedback from anyone who has travelled on the London-Istanbul-Tehran-Kerman-Zahedan-Quetta route in the recent past would be very welcome.  There remain a few problems on this route, including the need for an independent tourist visa for Iran, and the odd Kurdish rebel in parts of Eastern Turkey(!).


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