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Coronavirus pandemic: some cross-border trains reinstated

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Regional train operator Eurobahn, part of the Keolis group, offers hourly services across the German-Dutch border to Venlo (photo © hidden europe).

Regional train operator Eurobahn, part of the Keolis group, offers hourly services across the German-Dutch border to Venlo (photo © hidden europe).

While most of Europe’s international trains remain suspended, there is a limited number of local and regional cross-border services operating, and even a handful of longer-distance international trains. Indeed, that number is now increasing from week to week with more trains likely to be introduced in early May.

By noting that these services are operating, we don’t want to encourage readers to now embark on unnecessary journeys. Follow the advice of the authorities – and, in many parts of Europe, that advice is still most definitely to stay at home.

Simplon services

Six local trains each day are running between Domodossola in Italy and Brig in Switzerland, with some trains continuing beyond Brig to Spiez or Berne. A similar number of trains is running in the reverse direction. These services are operated by Swiss operator BLS and are geared to the needs of cross-border commuters. There are four early morning departures from Domodossola, and then two trains in the early evening.

Luxembourg links

The Grand Duchy still has hourly trains across the Belgian border on the lines to both Athus and Arlon. A limited number of trains are still running on the Ardennes route from Luxembourg Ville via Troisvierges into Belgium.

Trains run every two hours from Luxembourg to Trier in Germany, with the frequency on that cross-border line increased to hourly at peak times.

Services also still operate across the shared border with France. This week’s schedules show about a dozen TER trains each day from Luxembourg Ville to Thionville and Metz. The CFL service to Longwy is very sparse and limited to peak hours. But hourly trains will be running from Esch-sur-Alzette to Audun-le-Tiche and from Bettembourg to Volmerange-les-Mines.

The Riviera route

Although the Thello Eurocity trains between Nice in France and Liguria in Italy were among the first long-distance trains to be suspended in March 2020, a small number of French TER services continue to run beyond Menton to Ventimiglia in Italy. Timetables are subject to variation from day to day, but it looks as though a basic service of three trains per day will operate this week.

Léman Express

This week will see a very limited service on the L6 line of the Léman Express, with half a dozen trains each day leaving Bellegarde in France for Geneva Cornavin station in Switzerland. This is another route which continues first and foremost to serve the needs of cross-border commuters.

Léman Express services have also been restored on the main cross-border axis from Geneva to Annemasse in France, but only about one third of the normal number of trains is operating.

Trains to Hungary

This week will see five trains each day running from Vienna to Budapest, and two of these – one a daytime Railjet and the other the EuroNight train – actually originate in Munich. This Munich to Budapest night train (EN463) is one of the few overnight services still running within the Schengen area.

German international trains

A much improved regional train schedule comes into effect in parts of Germany on Monday 20 April. Regular cross-border services will run from Münster to Enschede, Mönchengladbach to Venlo and Emmerich to Arnhem – all three destination cities are in the Netherlands.

Long-distance ICE and Railjet services from Bavaria into Austria via either Passau or Salzburg have continued to run throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. This week will see minor tweaks to the timetables, but it is going to take a long time for other international routes to get back to normal. There are still no trains from Germany into Denmark, the Czech Republic or Poland. Long-distance trains into France from German cities are still all cancelled, limited local services are operating. This week for example will see over a dozen daily local trains from Offenburg to Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, local trains are also running over the German-Swiss border. While the hourly direct trains from Konstanz to both St Gallen and Zürich are still cancelled, an hourly cross-border shuttle from Konstanz to Kreuzlingen (just three minutes away on the Swiss side of the frontier), allows passengers to connect between the German and Swiss networks.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
hidden europe
About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 16th edition of that book was published in October 2019. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.

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