Milano Centrale station is the most important station in the city, but don't assume that all trains leave from there (photo © Saiko3p / dreamstime.com).
Missing a train can be a source of much grief. And we know from feedback from readers of Europe by Rail that it happens all too easily. One reader shared with us his enthusiasm for taking the once-weekly direct train from Milan to Warsaw (a service run by Russian Railways). He booked, and evidently then missed the train, having not appreciated that this Sunday afternoon departure to Warsaw leaves not from Milano Centrale but from Rogoredo station which is well away to the south-east of the centre of Milan. It all had a happy ending as our reader hopped on a fast train to Verona and was able to board his Warsaw-bound train there.
Milan, Budapest and Berlin are spots where hapless travellers are prone to make for the wrong station, but of course it can happen in any city with multiple stations, and particularly where visitors are perhaps not familiar with the local geography and the various station names.
There is no railway axiom that dictates that all trains must stop at the main station. The thrice-daily direct trains from Berlin to Szczecin never serve the main city-centre station which is called Berlin Hauptbahnhof. They leave instead from Gesundbrunnen.
Sometimes a train may be diverted away from its regular route through a city, even for some months, and that may affect which stations are served. In recent years, we have worked on the basis that all trains from Berlin to Prague and points beyond serve the main station in the Czech capital. But just now, and for many months to come, the Railjet Vindobona and the Eurocity Hungaria, bound respectively for Graz and Budapest, will make just a single station stop in Prague, and that’s at Holešovice station rather than at the much larger and more central Praha hlavní nádraži.
Sometimes such diversions may be just for a day or two, so it pays to check the schedules just before departure. There’s a popular night train from Sczcecin to Przemysl which normally leaves from the main station in the middle of the port city of Szczecin. But yesterday and today it stops only at Szczecin Dabie.
We have already noted the scope for making mistakes in Milan. Most long-distance trains do indeed use Milano Centrale. But there are so many exceptions. The overnight trains from Milan to Vienna and Munich used to leave from Centrale, but since last year their departure point has shifted to Porta Garibaldi - and that station, rather than Centrale, is also the Milan departure point for the direct TGV services to Paris. For years, all trains to Zürich left from Centrale, and it’s still the case that most do, but we note that occasional Zürich-bound Eurocity trains now leave from Lambrate and / or Rogoredo rather than Centrale.
There are twice daily direct trains from Budapest to Mukachevo in Ukraine. The daytime train leaves from Nyugati station in the Hungarian capital, but the overnight service departs from Keleti. And, as it happens, just the same applies to trains from Budapest to Berlin, where again there are two services each day: the daytime Eurocity leaves from Nyugati and the overnight train starts at Keleti.
Even in London there is scope for confusion. While direct daytime trains to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness all start at King’s Cross, the Caledonian Sleeper overnight services to those destinations leave from London Euston.
The moral is check your ticket and seat reservations, and then double check whether there may be any last-minute change of departure station for your preferred train.