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Mar 19

Europe’s Trains during Corona

By Edward | Uncategorized

Europe's Train Services during Corona

On this page I am aggregating all rail travel updates from European operators as the corona virus pandemic progresses. More and more countries will be added as I go along. I am reliant on what is written on the various operators' websites. Things are moving fast, so I can't promise everything is 100% up to date. But I am doing my best.

Remember to click "Refresh" in your browser to ensure you are seeing the latest version of this post.

Now is a very difficult time to travel Europe by train. Have a specific question or some information to share? Need travel advice? Join my free Rail Guide Europe Club. You gain access to my private Telegram help group, can Ask Me Anything by email, and you get the password to my insider guide library.

General Observations

  1. Many international services are suspended, though Eurostar and Thalys are still running.
  2. Most operators have relaxed their refund policies, making it easy to reschedule your journey or get the money back for your ticket. Some do this in the form of vouchers.
  3. Currently, most domestic services are running. Local services are at a reduced frequency.


Great Britain 🇬🇧

Britain is in lockdown. An emergency timetable has been rolled out.

Eurostar

Eurostar is running at a reduced rate of four trains out of London. This I expect to decline further. As of 25th March, France and Belgium have tightened their restrictions yet further. Only

  • Continental EU citizens returning home
  • UK and non-EU with a  residency permit in an EU country
  • Essential workers

are allowed in. Means a romantic getaway or a brie run doesn't cut it.

Click here for Eurostar's corona page and timetable.

France is in total lockdown. Arriving in Paris, you'll need this form with you. If you can't print it, copy it out by hand.

National Services

All operators have introduced emergency timetables. At least half of all trains are cancelled. All franchises have been suspended, putting all railways under state control. 

Here is National Rail Enquiries' corona page, with links to all operators' timetables.

Refund policies

Off-peak and Anytime tickets can be returned for 100% money back. Advance tickets bought before 07:00 AM on March 23rd can also be returned free of charge

Updated: 26th March. Outlook: getting worse

The Netherlands 🇳🇱

The Dutch have introduced a basic timetable. There are fewer trains, but the service is still good. Many thanks to Thierry for writing in with all the details!

International services

Thalys is running a reduced schedule to Brussels and Paris. If travelling to France, be sure to have this form with you. 

Currently there are three Thalyses per day to Brussels, to be reduced to one per day next week. You have to change at Brussels to get to Paris.

IC Brussel is running hourly, but only between Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Since 23rd March, the Amsterdam-Berlin Intercitys have been cancelled on the Dutch stretch.

National Services

From every station there are two trains per hour in every direction (sounds better than many countries in normal times! But I digress). The reisplanner is fed with data two days in advance, and NS recommend you plan your trips at the shortest possible notice so that your timetables are accurate. They also discourage all but the most necessary trips.

Refund policies

Refund policies seem to remain the same. On a national level, most journeys are done with the OV chipkaart, so advance deals don't apply.

International tickets are refunded 100% free of charge.

Updated: 28th March. Outlook: getting worse

Belgium 🇧🇪

Eurostar

There are currently two daily services from Brussels to London. 

Click here for Eurostar's corona page and timetable.

Thalys is running a reduced schedule to Amsterdam and Paris. If travelling to France, be sure to have this form with you.

ICEs to Germany are running at a reduced rate.

IC Brussel runs hourly between Antwerp and Rotterdam.

It seems the Nightjet to Vienna is now suspended.

National Services

Trains are being reduced. A timetable with "Trains of National Interest" is coming into effect from 23rd March. By the 23rd of March, about 75% of the usual seats in any direction will be 

Here is SNCB/NMBS's corona page.

And here is a list of the trains that are planned to run.

Refund policies

Domestic tickets retain the standard rules. International tickets are refunded according to whoever is running them - be it Thalys, Eurostar or Deutsche Bahn. 

Updated: 3rd April. Outlook: stable

Germany 🇩🇪

International Services

Almost all international services are suspended. There are NO TRAINS to

  • Switzerland (though Basel is still reachable)
  • Czechia
  • Poland
  • Denmark
  • France

Railjets from Munich to Vienna are still running. Expect long and difficult customs stop at Salzburg.

TGV and ICE services to Paris are now cancelled.

Trains to the Netherlands and Belgium are running, but at a reduced rate.

Most night trains are cancelled. The Nightjets to Vienna continue to run, and EN 463/462 from Munich to Vienna and Budapest is still hanging in there. Expect border controls at Salzburg and Hegyeshalom. Nightjets to Innsbruck are cancelled as the whole of Tirol is in quarantine.

National Services

Deutsche Bahn are running almost all mainline trains. Only few ICEs and ICs are cancelled. There is an hourly service between most major cities.

However, local services are severely impacted. As I write they are being wound down to an emergency timetable effective from 23rd March at least until the 30th of April. Some lines are completely cancelled, on others the frequency has been reduced drastically.

It is likely that DB will reduce its long distance network to a minimum shortly, as there aren't many passengers and DB needs to conserve staff.

The DB lounges and the restaurant cars are all closed.

All Flixtrain services are suspended indefinitely.

Click here for DB's daily updates. (German only)

Refund policies

If you postpone your journey: DB tickets purchased up to the 13th March for travel between 13th March and 30th April are automatically commuted to fully flexible tickets and will be accepted until 30th June.

If you want to cancel your journey: you can exchange any saver (Sparpreis) ticket up to 30th April for a travel voucher of the same value. 

Fully flexible tickets can be exchanged or reimbursed free of charge.

Flixtrain exchanges your ticket for a Flixbus voucher. Deutsche Bahn kindly accepts already issued Flixtrain tickets up until 30th of April. Good show, DB!

Updated: 3rd April. Outlook: getting worse

Switzerland🇨🇭

Switzerland is reducing all its services, starting 19th March. 

International Services

International trains are cancelled

  • All Railjets to Austria are cancelled
  • All Nightjet services are cancelled.

Local cross-border services like the Léman express continue to run, but at a reduced rate.

Local services to Konstanz (Germany) and Domodossola (Italy) are still operational, too.

National Services

An emergency timetable is running to keep vital state functions going, especially hospitals. All frequencies are being reduced, some lines cancelled. Previous 15 minute intervals are now 30 minute intervals. Previous 3o minute intervals are now running hourly.

For the duration of the emergency timetable, cheap promo tickets (Sparbillette) are not being sold.

Click here for SBB's updates

Refund policies

SBB are secretive about their refund terms. They say they are being "lenient". 

Get ready for some serious filling in of forms and click here.

Updated: 3rd April. Outlook: stable

Austria 🇦🇹

Austria is scaling back its railway services to a bare-bones level.

International Services

There are NO TRAINS to:

  • Czechia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland

Some trains to Hungary are still running, but expect border controls at Hegyeshalom. Only Hungarian residents are being let into Hungary.

The Railjets to Munich are also running, but expect a long and difficult customs stop at Salzburg. Same goes for the ICEs to Frankfurt via Passau. Only German residents are being let into Germany.

Local services continue to reach Simbach, Passau, Lindau and Freilassing.

The only international night trains still running are the EN 462/463 between Budapest and Munich and the EN 498/499 between Villach and Munich.

National Services

Mainline and local services are being reduced. Vienna S-Bahns are running to a reduced schedule.

Two-hour schedule of Railjets between Vienna and Salzburg and Vienna and Graz.

Click here for more details.

WESTbahn are running every two hours between Vienna and Salzburg.

Domestic Nightjet services continue to run.

Refund policies

ÖBB-Tickets up until 13th April to Italy, Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany and Switzerland can be cancelled free of charge via customer service.

This goes for all Nightjets, too.

Updated: 3rd April. Outlook: stable

Italy 🇮🇹

Italy is in total lockdown. You are only allowed out with a sound reason which you have to have in writing when the police stop you. This is the form you have to have with you. Very few trains are running.

International Services

All international services are suspended

National Services

LeFrecce: one Freccia (high speed train) per day in every direction. Here is the link to that timetable.

In major cities ONLY the main station is served: Milano Centrale, Roma Termini, Napoli Centrale and Torino Porta Nuova.

Italo: severely reduced service. Here it is.

Intercitys: one train per day in every direction. Here is the link to that timetable.

In major cities ONLY the main station is served: Milano Centrale, Roma Termini, Napoli Centrale and Torino Porta Nuova.

Local services: strongly reduced. Here is the link for all timetables of all regions.

Refund policies

Trenitalia refunds all tickets fully. Long and medium distance tickets are reimbursed as a voucher, local tickets are reimbursed in cash.

Italo reimburses you with a voucher that can be used for up to a year.

Click here for all the Trenitalia details.

Updated: 26th March. Outlook: Stable

France 🇫🇷

France is in total lockdown. You are only allowed out with a sound reason which you have to have in writing when the police stop you. This is the form you have to have with you.

SNCF has reduced its TGV, OUIGO and Intercités services drastically. TERs are likewise affected. Ticket offices in stations are closed (and I assume the SNCF Boutiques are as well)

International Services

TGVs and ICEs to Germany are cancelled. The Paris-Moscow and Nice-Moscow trains have long been cancelled.

Eurostars are running at a reduced rate.

Here is the link to Eurostar's updates

Thalys to Brussels, Amsterdam and Dortmund are still running at a low frequency.

Here is the link to Thalys's timetable updates.

National Services

Trains are still running, but at a sdtrict minimum Every day at 17:00 the timetable for tomorrow is made available at the link below.

All OUIGO services are cancelled from 27th March. 

Here is SNCF's Corona timetable. (French. English version is now error 404)

RER and Transilien are running at a 50% level.

Police are at the entrances to stations. You are only let into the station if you've got a ticket and your form stating your crucial reason for travelling.

Refund policies

All tickets for TGVs, OUIGOs and Intercités for journeys up until the 30th of April can be exchanged and returned free of charge.

Those affected by OUIGO cancellations will get their money back automatically within three days.

TER tickets issued on paper can be returned to the SNCF boutiques up to 60 days after curfew has been lifted.

Updated: 26th March. Outlook: getting worse.

Spain 🇪🇸

Spain is in total lockdown. This was extended until April 11th. You are only allowed out with a sound reason which you have to have in writing when the police stop you.

International Services

I can't find any services between France and Spain. Assume all suspended.

National Services

Long- and medium distance train services are now reduced by 70%. Only 1/3 of seats on each train are sold, so as to enable people to keep at distance.

The start of RENFE's Avlo service is postponed.

Here is the link to RENFE's corona page

Refund policies

All tickets from the 18th of March to the 11th of April have been automatically cancelled and the money automatically 100 % reimbursed. 

Updated: 1st April. Outlook: stable

Poland 🇵🇱

International Services

All international services have been suspended.

National Services

National services are severely impacted.

Many trains are completely cancelled, some have had their route curtailed. Other lines have been amalgamated. Some EIP services are being run with standard Intercity stock. 

Restaurant cars are closed.

Here is PKP's extensive corona page.

And here is Polregio's extensive corona page.

Refund policies

Tickets bought before the 4th of March whose date of validity has not yet arrived can be returned for a full reimbursement.

Updated: 1st April. Outlook: getting worse.

Czechia 🇨🇿

International Services

All international services suspended. NO TRAINS abroad AT ALL. Only Czech citizens are allowed into Czechia, and Czechs are not allowed out. Free movement of all Czechs has been curtailed until 24th March 

National Services

SuperCity Pendolinos between Prague to Ostrava/Český Těšín cancelled.

National services are being drastically scaled back. The Olomouc region is in quarantine and trains do not call at Litovel, Červenka or Uničov

Here is a map of all services running as of 28th of March.

RegioJet have adjusted their reservation system to ensure that there is enough space between travellers. Disinfectant soap is guaranteed in all loos. Free water now only in 1st class.

Leo Express is running one train a day between Prague and Bohumín in both directions. They provide every passenger with a face mask.

Refund policies

Tickets can be returned for a full reimbursement, even First Minute Europe promo tickets.

I haven't found RegioJet's refund policy yet. 

Updated: 1st April March. Outlook: stable

Slovakia 🇸🇰

International Services

All international services suspended. 

National Services

ZSSK, Slovakia's national operator, have introduced a drastically reduced timetable. All restaurant cars are closed.

Here is a link to the whole Slovak corona timetable (PDF download)

From 1st April, free travel for students is suspended. Everyone is urged to pay for tickets contactless.

Refund policies

If you bought your ticket before 13th March, 06:00 AM, you have until 30th June to exchange it free of charge or get your money back.

If you have bought your ticket after 13th March, 06:00 AM, administrative fees apply, but I can't find where they say how much. It won't be much.

Updated: 30th March. Outlook: stable

Bulgaria 🇧🇬

Bulgaria has closed schools and parks and discourages all but essential travel. Its borders are closed to foreigners until at least 13th of April.

Here is Bulgarian Railways' corona page (in Bulgarian)

International services

All international services are suspended.

National Services

Most national services continue to run as normal, though there are no trains to Bansko. Travel is discouraged. In sleepers, only single berths are being sold.

Refund policies

Refund policies are unchanged. BDZ assume no liability if you are prevented from making your journey.

Updated: 30th March. Outlook: stable

Russia 🇷🇺

Russia has had few cases so far and is hoping to deal with the coronavirus before it gets around.

International Services

There are NO TRAINS to

  • Italy
  • France
  • Czechia
  • Finland
  • China
  • North Korea
  • Uzbekistan
  • Tadzhikistan
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia
  • Azerbaijan.

Abkhazia appears to be reachable.

Trains to the exclave of Kaliningrad pass through Lithuania without stopping.

The most important trains from Moscow and Saint Petersburg to Belarus and back are running, but only Russian citizens are being let into Russia.

Trains to and from Kazakhstan are running, but Kazakhstan is letting in only Kazakh citizens or people with some narrowly defined connection with Kazakhstan.

National Services

National services are beginning to suffer. On March 30th, Moscow went into lockdown.

Expect more services to be cancelled soon.

Here is the link to RZD's corona page. 

Refund policies

Tickets for cancelled trains can be returned and fully reimbursed. On cancelled domestic passengers are offered an alternate train/date or full reimbursement. 

Updated: 30th March. Outlook: getting worse.

Ukraine 🇺🇦

Ukrainian Railways (UZ) have gone into suspended animation. 

International services

All international services are suspended until further notice. UZ are running special trains to bring Ukrainians back home from places like Poland and Czechia.

National Services

All national services are suspended until further notice. No long distance, no commuter, not even elektrichki. Nothing. 

Refund policies

All tickets are reimbursed free of charge.

Updated: 30th March. Outlook: can't get worse, so stable.

Estonia 🇪🇪

International services

The services to Russia and Latvia are cancelled. 

National Services

Elron, the Estonian national operator, is running a severely reduced schedule.

Refund policies

still looking for them, watch this space.

Updated: 25th March. Outlook: stable

Sweden 🇸🇪

My faithful reader Niklas has written in from Sweden. Thank you, Niklas, for sending  me the Swedish situation.

International services

NO TRAINS to 

  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Norway.

Denmark has closed its borders to all but Danish residents or people working in Denmark.

Norway quarantines ANYONE arriving in Norway for 14 days. All SJ trains to Norway are cancelled. Vy (ex-Norwegian Railways) services between Oslo and Göteborg run twice a day, from the 24th of March these are a bus replacement service.

National Services

Travel is discouraged. However, currently the whole network is still running, though SJ has reduced the frequency of its trains.

Here is SJ's corona page.

MTRX's Stockholm-Göteborg service continues to run. MTRX guarantee all passengers an empty seat next to them to aid social distancing.

Snälltåget is running about half its trains.

Refund policies

All operators have relaxed their refund policies. Non-flexible tickets have been made more flexible.

MTRX and Snälltåget refund non-flexible tickets as vouchers.

Updated: 1st April. Outlook: getting worse

Now what?

Well, I'm going to update this page every day. Truth be told, I'm up for some distraction now.

Why not have a look at one of my other posts and plan for better times? While you're at it, why not join my free Rail Guide Europe Club?

For the time being,

  • Keep washing those hands for 30 seconds
  • Stay at home
  • Be kind 
  • Be safe and be healthy.
Dec 19

What to get Yourself for Christmas

By Edward | Uncategorized

Four Ideas for Christmas or After

Transparency: none of the links below are affiliate links. 

This was supposed to be something about rail travel related presents you could get for other people. But then I thought, it is you, the reader, that is interested in rail travel. I assume, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, right? Right?


And I saw you selflessly getting other people other stuff. To reward yourself, here are a few rail travel ideas. 

Europe By Rail

by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Good if you are planning something in 2020. Must-have if you aren't leaving your cell in 2020.


Europe by Rail is written by the women behind hidden europe magazine. There may be the odd CIA veteran who has seen more of Europe, but he isn't allowed to write about it.

This book combines consummate rail travel knowledge with gripping travel writing.

Worth reading even if you stay at home.

Moscow to the End of the Line

by Venedikt Erofeev

My favourite book of all time. I read it in German and later in Russian. This is the English edition.


The Russian holy fool in Soviet reality. Man gets on train and gets drunk. This is what goes on in his head. Riotous and terrifying. A slow train journey beyond the edge of human consciousness.

My German readers: Look out for Die Reise nach Petuschki translated by Natascha Spitz.

Orient Express

by Graham Greene

Thriller set on the Orient Express. Known as Stamboul Train in the rest of the English speaking world.

Greene travelled from Oostende to Cologne on the Orient Express to get a feel for the train.

Orient Express captures the excitement of long European train journeys and the suspense of border checks.

Alois Nebel (film)

Based on the graphic novel by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromir 99. DIrected by Tomáš Luňák.


Set in Czechoslovakia at the twilight of Communism. A dispatcher at a small Czech station, Bílý Potok, starts having nightmares and flashbacks of what went on at Bílý Potok during and after WW2.

A black and white cartoon for grown-ups (in Czech!), bleak and eerie, bursting with searing images such as Nazi steam trains in winter landscapes.

Bonus present: treat yourself to the password to my e-guide library. It's free.

Join my free Rail Guide Europe Club.

Get the password to my free e-guide library and irregular updates

    I respect your privacy. No spam, ever. Unsubscribe at anytime.

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    11 Soundtracks for your Russian Train Journey
    Mar 20

    11 Soundtracks for Your Russian Train Journey

    By Edward | Uncategorized

    11 Soundtracks for your Russian Train Journey

    So you are now on a Russian train.

    Had enough of all the talking and eating and listening? Perhaps time for some you-time, yes?

    This is something I hadn't the cojones to put into my guest post on Miss Tourist.

    I wanted to have a chapter with lots of different Russian music for you to listen to on your journey, as you travel from city to city, to help immerse you in Russian culture. Well here it is. For each Russia 2018 host city I have chosen something for you to listen to.

    You are unlikely to like all of it - I've deliberately delved into old and new music, some of it more arcane, some of it less so. I've also striven to reflect that there are other nations in Russia apart from the Russians.

    Moscow

    Let's ease ourselves into this with some light Mussorgsky. Dawn on the Moskva River is the introduction to Mussorgsky's opera Khovanshchina. When Mussorgsky died, this opera was an unfinished heap of papers that had to be straightened out and completed by his friend and mentor Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

    Kazan

    Kazan is the ancient capital of the Tatars, originally a nomadic tribe from Central Asia. They were feared throughout Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages, when they made it as far as Poland.

    The Tatar language is related to Turkish and the Tatars are mainly Muslim. Famous Russian ballet dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Irek Mukhamedov are Tatars. Here is a Tatar pop song by Guzelem and Salavat Minnekhanov, in Tatar.

    Saint Petersburg

    Imagine the Russian aristocrats dancing to these waltzes in the salons of Petrograd, unaware of their imminent fate.

    Standard waltzes of the Strauss and Lehár kind have several happy themes with one sad one embedded - Russian waltzes are the other way round: unhappy themes with one happy moment. 

    My favourite, Autumn Dream, (49'20") is actually by an Englishman, Archibald Joyce. In England no one knows this piece any more, but in Russia every schoolchild can whistle it. 

    Volgograd

    Time for a war song. This is one of the most famous. It makes my eyes sweat terribly. It is the song of a lonely soldier in a dark night, listening to the whistling of bullets and longing for the tenderness of his wife. Here is a full translation. Volgograd is the erstwhile Stalingrad, the battle of which was the turning point of the Second World War.

    Soviet war songs are nearly all about individual suffering. I cannot think of one that celebrates how great war is.

    Rostov-on-Don

    Rostov-on-Don is in southern Russia, near Ukraine. This is Cossack territory. The Cossacks are a people that drew mainly on eastern Slavic stock in the Russian Empire's southern borderlands. They also absorbed elements from the mountain cultures of the Caucasus. 

    It shows in this song by Otava Yo, in which they use a beat that many of the tiny Caucasus nations use in their music. Otava Yo are a bizarre group that make wildly gripping music and wonderfully imaginative videos. Do look at their other videos.

    Sochi

    Sochi is even further south on the Black Sea. I thought for ages about what to put here and settled on some Circassians or Adiga dancing the dzhegu, more commonly called the lezginka in Russian.

    In the 1860s, while in America the Indians were being driven off their land and the British were plundering India, the Russians were busy ethnically cleansing the Circassians from the Sochi area. To this day there are Circassians all over the world, mainly in Turkey, but also in the Balkans, and even in America. 

    Now the Circassians have their own autonomous Republic of Adigeya within Russia.

    Nizhny Novgorod

    One of the host cities on the Volga river. The Volga is an integral part of Russia and Russianness, soul and artery at the same time. There are countless songs and poems celebrating the Volga. Here is one of them, sung by Lyudmila Zykina. This video also shows admirably what music videos were like in the 1960s in the Soviet Union.

    Kaliningrad

    For Kaliningrad I've chosen music from Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film Alexander Nevsky, written by Sergei Prokofiev. Both men had recently returned to the Soviet Union after emigrating and now had to produce something that pleased Stalin. Both succeeded. Not only did Stalin love it, but to this day the co-operation of Eisenstein and Prokofiev is considered a milestone both in cinematic and musical history.

    Alexander Nevsky tells of the war of Novgorod against the Teutonic order, a state of German crusader knights that dominated the Baltic in the Middle Ages. Königsberg, today's Kaliningrad, was once their capital.

    Ekaterinburg

    Ekaterinburg is the only Russia 2018 host city in Asia - just across the Urals. To reflect the nearby mountains and its former seclusion as a closed city, plus its history of making ICBMs, for Ekaterinburg I've chosen some electronic music from 1980, Morning in the Mountains by Vladimir Martynov. It sounds like the soundtrack of a nuclear winter. What people got up to with a synthesiser under communism, with only state- but no market censorship, was insane. I don't do electronic music, but this I love.

    Saransk

    I looked hard for something interesting in Mordovian, the language of the Republic of Mordovia of which Saransk is the capital, but found nothing that fits. Instead I have found something lovely played on the gusli, an ancient instrument more Russian than the balalaika and native to Russians and Finno-Ugric nations like the Mordvins.

    Samara

    Another Volga city, and the last of the Russia 2018 host cities. I'm going to let you go with the famous Song of the Volga Boatmen, sung by the Red Army Choir. 

    I've really enjoyed compiling this post. When you go on a Russian train, I hope some of this music will accompany you and become part of the memory.

    If you haven't got plans for going on a Russian train, I hope these soundtracks give you a bit of the feeling.

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