The rail timetables in Europe have a major annual update, which occurs on the second Sunday in December, and ShowMeTheJourney has been working through the key changes on the journey guides - which also happen to have a new look.
Hence the most important alterations have been summarised below.
There is no hiding the fact that relatively few new routes are available for 2024, partially because some withdrawn services, such as the Lyon ↔ Barcelona trains and the Marseille ↔ Madrid trains, had an out of sync restoration to the timetables back in 2023.
ShowMeTheJourney has scanned through the new timetables, and the only entirely new international daytime service, is the introduction of a daily train in each direction on a Berlin - Leipzig - Frankfurt (Main) - Stuttgart - Munich ↔ - Kufstein - Worgl - Jenback - Innsbruck route.
The image of the ICE train in Innsbruck was taken by Simon Legner and downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.
Berlin is the major beneficiary of the additions to the 2024 timetable, as the city is now benefitting from the restoration of its overnight service, to Paris and from Paris.
The three nights* a week service, from Berlin on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from Paris on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is provided by Nightjet trains.
*= The plan is for the trains to depart nightly in both directions from September.
The trains are separated / joined during the journey so that Aachen, Liege and Bruxelles are also now connected to and from Berlin by Nightjet.
Berlin and Bruxelles had already been linked by the European Sleeper Train service, which operates on different days than the new Nightjet service.
Though from March 25th the European Sleeper Train route is being extended beyond Berlin to also serve Dresden and Praha / Prague.
Both cities will therefore gain a direct rail link to and from both Bruxelles and Amsterdam.
The Euronight train service named 'Chopin' has long connected Warszawa and Wien / Vienna, then a few years ago it had its route diverted so that it also calls in Krakow - and it began to travel beyond Wien to and from Graz.
It has been switched to a different route beyond Wien, because it now travels to and travel from München / Munich, the main city in Bavaria.
On its extended route it also calls in Salzburg and Linz, thereby providing both of these cities with a new direct rail link to both Krakow and Warszawa.
Despite the relatively small number of new direct train services on the 2024 European rail timetable, travelling by train across the continent has been made easier, thanks to a swathe of significant service improvements.
On virtually all of the routes below the service has been made more frequent than ever before; and many of these services are also operating at their fastest ever schedules too!
Travellers from and to Berlin will be particular beneficiaries of the additions to the 2024 rail timetable.
to and from Amsterdam
The trains on the Berlin - Hannover - Osnabruck ↔ Deventer - Amersfoort - Amsterdam route have had their end-to-end journeys sped up by around 30 minutes; so the journey time from Berlin to Amsterdam has come down to under six hours - with the same timings now available from Amsterdam.
Berlin ↔ Munich
The swathe of brand new ICE trains which have been rolling out of the factories in recent years, have created the opportunity to improve the service on many long-distance rail routes in Germany.
The numbers of the fastest Sprinter services from Berlin to München / Munich and from München / Munich to Berlin have been more than doubled on the new timetable - these are the trains which take the most direct route between the cities.
Though what's more exciting is that three 'Super Sprinter' services have been introduced in each direction, which only make one intermediate station call in Nurnberg, so have a journey time of only 3hr 45mins!"
Berlin - Hannover ↔ Cologne, Dusseldorf and Aachen
Four separate ICE services now use the Berlin ↔ Hannover route, which has doubled the service between these cities:
In even hours the trains available will be on these two routes;
In odd hours the trains available will be on these routes;
There will also be still be three 'Sprinter' services per day in each direction calling only at Berlin* - Koln/Cologne - Bonn.
*= multiple stations in Berlin.
Berlin ↔ Krakow
The service on this route has been doubled to 2 x trains per day in each direction.
Berlin ↔ Linz - Vienna
Trains from Berlin to Wien / Vienna and vice versa take multiple routes - but the service of ICE trains on the Hamburg - Berlin - Erfurt - Nurnberg ↔ Linz - Vienna / Wien route has been doubled to 2 x trains per day in each direction.
The year round train service of daytime trains from Hamburg to København / Copenhagen and in the reverse direction from the Danish capital, has been increased from 3 x trains per day in each direction to 5 x trains per day in each direction.
In the summer months, additional first and final trains of the day, will be available, providing an unprecedented seven regularly timetabled trains per day travelling between the two cities.
The Norwegian section of the route taken by trains from Oslo ↔ Gothenburg / Göteborg has benefitted from massive improvement works, including a huge tunnel to keep the trains away from Oslo commuter services.
As a consequence the number of trains on the Oslo ↔ Göteborg route has been doubled on the 2024 timetable to 7 x trains per day in each direction on Monday to Friday; and 6 x trains per day on Saturday / Sunday.
The enhanced service between the two cities has also made it possible to travel from Hamburg to Oslo by train in a single day; as well as travelling in a single day from Copenhagen to Bergen!
Spanish rail company iryo has significantly increased the volumes of its departures on the Madrid ↔ Barcelona and Madrid ↔ Valencia routes.
Since iryo began to compete with the AVE services, provided by the national rail operator, Renfe, the total number of departures per day on each route has in effect doubled.
The new pan-European rail timetables of recent years have been opportunities to introduce brand new types of train to multiple routes, because the enhanced timetables can be dependent on these trains.
Though for 2024 this availability of new trains, doesn't seem to be so synchronised with the timetable updates.
Arriving later in 2024:
Hence new Railjet trains won't be enhancing the Munich - Kufstein - Innsbruck ↔ Bolzano - Trento - Verona route until April 8th.
From around March the latest high speed Spanish train, the long awaited Talgo-Avril, should finally enter service, initially on the Madrid ↔ Vigo route.
At the summer timetable update travellers from and to the Netherlands should be able to experience enhanced services on two major routes:
1: Brand new trains will begin to be introduced on the Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Breda ↔ Antwerp - Brussels route.
2. The ICE-L trains will commence operations on the Amsterdam - Amersfoort - Deventer ↔ Osnabruck - Hannover - Berlin route.
Also arriving in summer are two additions to the UK rail network:
1: The new trains which Avanti West Coast is bringing to the London ↔ Chester and North Wales and London ↔ Shrewsbury routes.
2. The new Aurora trains that EMR is introducing to the London ↔ Nottingham and London ↔ Sheffield routes.
Already in Service:
So the headline news is that a brand new type of double-decked overnight train have already begun to operate on the Hamburg ↔ Innsbruck and the Hamburg ↔ Vienna routes.
The most unique feature of these trains are the Mini Pods - sleeping capsules similar to those which are used on Japanese overnight trains.
They enable solo travellers to have a private sleeping area at a cost-effective rate - which is less than half the price of booking sole occupancy of a sleeping cabin.
The plan is for these trains to be be used on the Rome - Florence ↔ Munich and Venice routes from June.
The other brand new train which is already operating in Germany is the ICE 3Neo
It's limited introduction had been confined to the all-stops services on the Koln ↔ Frankfurt high speed line, but these trains are now operating on the Dortmund - Essen - Dusseldorf - Koln-Messe/Deutz ↔ Frankfurt Flughafen - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Ulm - Augsburg - Munchen route.
They should also be introduced to the Amsterdam and Bruxelles ↔ Koln - Frankfurt routes at the summer timetable update.
New permanent alterations to routes taken by long-standing train services have led to multiple enhanced journey opportunities:
Berlin ↔ Vienna by Nightjet
The sleeper train between the German and Austrian capital cities is taking an entirely new route in 2024; instead of travelling across south-west Poland, it now travels overnight across Czechia.
On its new route it calls in Dresden at a convenient time in both directions, providing a new link to and from Vienna / Wien.
Hamburg ↔ Aarhus
Not such good news for those planning to travel between Germany and Aarhus and beyond into northern Denmark, the trains which took the Hamburg ↔ Aarhus route have been switched to the Hamburg ↔ Copenhagen route, in order to enhance the train service between those two cities - see above
Though the five - seven trains per day in each direction on that Hamburg ↔ Copenhagen route now all have simple as can be cross-platform connections at Kolding station with trains to and from Aarhus.
So for those prepared to make a simple transfer, there are now more opportunities than previously for taking a Hamburg ↔ Aarhus rail journey.
Nurnberg ↔ Cheb
On the new timetable the four regional trains per day which took a Nurnberg ↔ Cheb route, have been withdrawn - those trains enabled a Nurnberg ↔ Praha/Prague journey to be made with only one connection.
Though they have been replaced by hourly local trains which take the same route across the Czechia / Germany border, because they travel between Cheb and Marktredwitz.
There are also hourly trains which take a Nurnberg ↔ Marktredwitz route and in most hours there are trains between Cheb and Praha/Prague.
So for those happy to make multiple connections, there are now more opportunities per day to travel by train between Nurnberg and the Czech capital.
Barcelona to Paris
The trains to Paris are now departing Barcelona an hour earlier and the key difference this makes are better connections in Narbonne when travelling from Barcelona to Bordeaux and from Barcelona to Toulouse - in effect an hour has been cut from the end-to-end journey times to both cities.
Paris ↔ Cerbere
The Paris ↔ Cerbere (for connections to/from Barcelona) overnight train takes one of the longest rail journeys in France, but on the new timetable it has had its route north of Perpignan switched from travelling via Toulouse to travelling via Nîmes.
As a consequence, in addition to Nîmes, other cities including Montpellier, Beziers and Narbonne are now connected with Paris by Intercités de Nuit trains.
Vienna ↔ Cluj-Napoca
The long-standing 'Transavaia' trains which linked the Austrian capital with northern Romania, now only operates on a Budapest ↔ Cluj-Napoca route, with its departure time from Budapest brought forward to 09:10
Trans-Pennine Express routes
In 2023 it was obvious that Trans Pennine Express lacked the sufficient train crew to operate its timetable, hence it is offering fewer services in 2024. A summary of the changes is:
Liverpool ↔ Hull is now Manchester Piccadilly ↔ Hull
Manchester Piccadilly ↔ Scarborough is now York ↔ Scarborough
Manchester Piccadilly ↔ Newcastle has been withdrawn, but there are still services on the Liverpool - Manchester Victoria ↔ Newcastle route.
Between Frankfurt (Main) and Mannheim
The Riedbahn railway which connects one of the main hubs of the German rail system, Mannheim, with destinations to the north, is to be closed from July 15th to December 14th.
It is typically used by these regularly timetabled ICE trains, which on the usual schedule operate every two hours:
However, when the route was closed in January for the first phase of the work, all of these trains were either diverted in the Frankfurt area, and/or had their routes shortened - for example all of the trains to and from Switzerland were turned around in Basel.
So exepect something similar to occur from July 15th.
Trains to and from Switzerland in summer 2024
1: From August 9th to August 30th, the route between Rastatt and Baden-Baden will be closed to rail traffic.
The ICE trains which usually travel between these locations are:
2: The railway between Arona and Stresa is closed completely from June 9th to September 8th, so during these dates the following EC express train services will be turning around in Domodossola:
Geneve - Lausanne - Sion - Visp - Brig - Domodossola ↔ Stresa - Milano
Basel - Olten - Bern - Thun - Spiez - Visp - Brig - Domodossola ↔ Stresa -Milano
3: From August 10th to September 9th 2024 the railway across the Austria / Switzerland border between Buchs and Feldkich will be closed due to reconstruction work.
This is the route taken by the daytime Railjet trains on the Zurich ↔ Innsbruck - Salzburg - Wien - Budapest / Bratislava route.
The rail replacement services are to be arranged; presumably the night trains between Zurich and Budapest, Wien and Zagreb will be diverted on to a much longer route.
The switch to the new timetables also coincides with major changes to how tickets can be purchased and used:
The German national rail operator DB has made significant changes to its ticket terms and conditions, with the stand out being that seat reservations are now not complimentary when booking any type of 1st class ticket - they are now only included when booking the more expensive types of ticket.
The cost of adding a seat reservation per per person has been raised to €5.90 for 1st class and €4.90 for 2nd class.
The Swiss national rail operator, SBB, has joined the ever lengthening list of rail companies, which now place tickets on sale up to 6 months ahead of the travel date.
The Nightjet trains
The sleeping cabins on the Nightjet trains had been regularly selling out weeks and months ahead in 2023.
The fact that demand has clearly been running ahead of supply, has almost certainly been a factor in significant price increases for some of the sleeping cabin reservation fees on these trains.
The reservation fees per person, which are mandatory when booking tickets or using rail passes, are now:
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.
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