Verona has for many years had direct weekly trains to such exotic destinations as Warsaw, Minsk, Nice and Monte-Carlo. From mid-December 2017 these shift to more civilised departure times (photo © Sergej Borzov / dreamstime.com).
With the main annual updates to train timetables across Europe taking place on the second weekend in December, there are many changes to Russian Railways’ services to European Union countries. These include alterations to the two premium trains from Moscow to France. One runs to Paris, the other to Nice.
The Moscow-Nice service traverses the territory of eight countries. No other European train can match that!
The Moscow-Paris route will run to pretty similar timings as now, but an important difference is that departure from Moscow will now be on Tuesday evenings, rather than Wednesday evenings. The home-bound run will now leave the French capital on Thursday evenings rather than Friday evenings.
It’s a two-day journey by train from Moscow to Nice. And there are some striking changes on that route from 10 December.
The schedule and the routes taken by the direct RZD service from Russia to the French Riviera have chopped and changed over the years. The train has sometimes been routed between Vienna and Verona via the Semmering Railway to enter Italy at Tarvisio. Latterly the favoured route has been via Linz, Zell am See and Innsbruck to reach Italian territory at Brenner.
This December sees no changes to the route through the Alps, but there is a major revision to timings. Instead of leaving Moscow every Thursday morning, to give a Saturday morning arrival in Nice, the train will now depart Moscow on Thursday evenings at 20.00 and will roll into Nice on Saturday evenings at about 18.00 – just in time for dinner.
There are similar changes in the reverse direction with the Moscow-bound train now leaving Nice on Sunday mornings rather than on Saturday evenings.
Russian Railways (RZD) say that the changes were driven by customer feedback. There have been two key considerations. Under the current schedule, the train only arrived back into Moscow just before midnight – too late for many customers to make easy onward connections. But from December the train from Nice will reach Moscow just before midday.
Another factor is that the timings of the train until now have not been so good for the north Italian market. At the moment, the Moscow-Nice train stops at Verona, Milan and Genoa in the early hours of the morning, when most train travellers would prefer to be tucked up in their sleeping berths. No-one wants to disembark at Milan at 02.57. By switching the day/night pattern of the timetable, Milan suddenly becomes more attractive.
In the new order of things, the train from Moscow will now arrive in Verona at 10.35, Milan at 12.11 and Genoa at 13.49. The departure times from north Italian stations for the journey back to Russia will from mid-December be equally civilised.
Switching the Moscow-Nice schedule thus won’t please some Austrian resorts which have come to expect good Russian trade. Passengers from Moscow bound for Zell am See will now reach their destination at three in the morning.
One of the things we have always liked about the Moscow-Nice train has been its daytime timings through the Alps. The train takes an unusual route which is rather slow, but there is a feast of fine scenery. But from next month only restless sleepers will get to see the Kitzbühel Alps.
Yet this new schedule will create many new opportunities. Top of our list is that there will now be a really high-quality daytime train, albeit only on Sundays, from Nice to Verona. This is a fine journey of just under seven hours, and this Russian service is the only direct train between the two cities. The one-way fare is €70 although – as always with Russian Railways – there are generous discounts for seniors, young travellers, those celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, etc.
The revised timings of the Nice-Moscow service from next month mean that there will now be a new credible overnight option on Sunday nights from Verona, Bolzano and Innsbruck to Warsaw. For example, departure from Innsbruck at 22.31 will have passengers in Warsaw by early afternoon on Monday. The one-way fare is €147 for that leg, with the usual range of discounts on offer. That fare includes the sleeper supplement.
Some will see Russian Railways’ tendency to change timetables as capricious. Others regard it as a very canny marketing move which brings RZD services to new audiences around Europe.