True Countdown to December 9th 2018

Countdown to December 9th 2018

The majority of European train timetables have just one annual major update, which takes place on the second Sunday in December.

We’re not 100% certain of the logic behind this, as it comes just before one of the busiest times of the year for train travel.

So in 2018 this timetable update will occur on Sunday December 9th

Why does this matter?

Four reasons:

(1) If you want to book ahead, then tickets for journeys taking place on and after December 9th aren’t currently available on some routes

The train operators need to confirm when the trains will be departing and arriving before they can place tickets on sale..

(2) Brand new services and faster routes will commence on this date.

Therefore many of the new and improved train services, which will be available throughout 2019, will actually commence their operations on December 9th 2018.

(3) Longer services and routes that are to be discontinued, will cease operating on December 8th 2018.

Shorter, more local routes tend to be withdrawn more randomly.

(4) New trains will be introduced on some routes from December 9th onwards.


It looks as though 2018 will be an exceptionally uneventful year for major train timetable changes on continental Europe!

No new major high speed lines, or exceptionally lengthy tunnels, which have the ability to transform train schedules are due to open.

For the moment the most significant schedule changes that we’re aware of are:

1: Berlin ↔ Wien/Vienna via Nurnberg by ICE

The capitals of Germany and Austria will once again be connected by direct daytime  trains, as a brand new service via Nurnberg will more than make up for the withdrawal of the previous service via Praha, a few years ago.

ICE trains will travel on the high speed line between Halle and Nurnberg and then travel between Nurnberg and Wien/Vienna via Linz.

So Linz will also have direct trains to and from Berlin.

These trains will depart from Berlin hbf daily at the convenient time of 10:05 and arrive in Wien at 17:45.

In the other direction they will depart Wien Hbf at 10:15 and arrive in Berlin at 17:58.

2: Berlin ↔ Wien/Vienna via Wroclaw by Nightjet

A new Nightjet service will restore the overnight train link between Berlin and both Vienna/Wien and Budapest.

Instead of taking the route via Praha/Prague that the withdrawn EuroNight train followed, it will take a new route via Wroclaw in Poland.

This train will also restore the direct 'daytime' train service between Berlin and Wroclaw - it will depart from Berlin Hbf at 18:41 and Berlin Ost at 18:51 and arrive in Wroclaw at 23:00.

Though in the other direction it will depart from Wroclaw at the bracingly early time of 05:05.


3: Bratislava ↔ Zurich via Wien and Salzburg
Railjet to Bratislava

Access by train to and from the Slovakian capital is to be transformed for the better.

One of the daily Railjet services in each direction on the Zurich ↔ Wien/Vienna route is to have its journey extended to and from Bratislava.

The city will then also be linked by direct trains to and from Innsbruck, Linz and Salzburg.


4: Trains between Lille and The Netherlands to be withdrawn:

Lille will no longer be served by Thalys trains to/from Antwerp and The Netherlands.


Instead the Thalys trains which currently serve Lille, will be switched to travel to/from Marne La Vallée, to provide daily direct trains between Disneyland Paris and both Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

5: New Swiss IC trains to enter service:

The long awaited, and rather fabulous, new Twindexx trains (pictured below) will finally be entering service on the principle rail route in Switzerland; namely the IC 1 route;

St Gallen - Winterthur - Zurich Flughafen - Zurich HB - Bern - Fribourg - Lausanne - Geneve.
new Twindex trains for Swiss Intercity train services

6: Improved services to and from Romania.

The capital cities of Hungary and Romania will once again be linked by direct DAY trains, which will provide an alternative to the overnight trains from Budapest to Buccuresti/Bucharest.

The restored daytime IC train will depart from Keleti station in Budapest daily at 07:10, for an epic journey that arrives in Buccuresti at 23:22.

The daytime trains between Budapest and Cluj Napoca will also have their journeys extended from/to Wien/Vienna, providing a new direct daytime train service between Austria and Romania.

7: Improvements in Germany:

New ICE 4 trains will be replacing ICE - T trains on the Hamburg - Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munchen/Munich route.
ICE 4 between Berlin and Munich
Our understanding is that t
he ICE 3 trains will still be used for the faster 'ICE-Sprinter' services between Berlin and Munchen/Munich, which don't divert off of the direct route to call at Leipzig.

We also understand that some of the ICE-T trains, will then be transferred to the Hamburg - Bremen - Dortmund - Essen - Dusseldorf - Cologne/Koln - Bonn - Koblenz - Mainz - Mannheim - Heidelberg - Stuttgart route - which is currently operated by IC trains.

Stuttgart will also benefit from more ICE trains between the city and Koln/Cologne.

7: Improvements in Poland:

PKP (InterCity) the operator of express train services in Poland will be operating a record number of services, when the new timetable commences, with more trains on most routes including Warsaw to Krakow.

Other potential changes:

We have read reports about these potential service changes, so we’ll either be adding them to the above list, as soon as we have confirmation - or removing them.

(1) We stated above that no major new high speed lines will be opened on December 9th, but three comparatively minor ones in Spain could begin to be used by trains.

(i) Trains may begin to use a new high speed line between Valladolid and Burgos in Spain, which will speed up journeys between Madrid and Burgos, Miranda de Ebro, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Irun.

(ii)  The extension of the high speed line to Granada in Spain should be opened so the city will once again be linked to Madrid by direct trains - most likely by new Alvia services.

The opening of this line should also provide for the introduction of new direct high speed services between Granada and Malaga.

UPDATE - the work on this high speed line, is behind schedule, so these services won't now be happening until June/July.

(iii) Trains from Barcelona to Valencia and to Alicante may become faster by around 15 - 20 mins, IF they are diverted to a new route, which will enable them to use the high speed line between Barcelona and Camp de Tarragona.

(2) We expect that  more high speed trains to and from Montpellier will be switched to the new Sud-de-France station, so will no longer call at the city centre station, Montpellier St-Roch.

The services that could be re-routed include the RENFE-SNCF trains between France and Spain – if they are re-routed, their end-to-end journeys will be around 10 – 15 mins faster.