Expect delays on the East Coast Main Line from London's King’s Cross station (photo © Rob van Esch / dreamstime.com)
The prospect of effective COVID vaccines has encouraged many to start anticipating renewed travel opportunities for 2021. At the moment, conditions still don’t really permit many of the journeys described in the 16th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide to be safely attempted. Travel in many parts of Europe is still much restricted.
But, looking ahead to 2021, we can see real scope for improvement and the prospect of once again being able to set off to explore Europe by train. Let’s assume that full train services are restored. Yet there will still be some issues surrounding routes 2, 10 and 45 in the book. Here’s a heads-up on points to remember if you are travelling on those routes in the first half of 2021.
The route numbers used refer to routes in the 16th edition of Europe by Rail. Here is a list of all 53 routes. The routes in the book are arranged in 12 sections, each with a focus on a different part of Europe.
There is a major programme of rebuilding taking place on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) from London to Edinburgh. It affects King’s Cross station, the London starting point for Route 2, and also the first 200 km of the ECML out of London. There are some dates over winter 2020/21 and on through spring and summer 2021 when King’s Cross station is completely closed. You can check for details on the East Coast upgrade website.
If you want to follow Route 2 at the time when lines out of King’s Cross are closed, you may consider travelling instead from London Liverpool Street via Cambridge and Ely to rejoin Route 2 at Peterborough (but do check carefully that the section of the ECML through Peterborough is running normally). Alternatively travel from London St Pancras via Sheffield to rejoin Route 2 at York.
The main rail route from Nantes to Bordeaux has been closed for rebuilding for some months now, and we hear that the project is taking much longer than anticipated. It could well be that this line will remain closed until at least mid-summer 2021 – and perhaps longer.
Thrice daily replacement buses are running from Nantes to Bordeaux with a stop at La Rochelle along the way. The bus journey takes upwards of five hours. Note that these replacement buses are incorrectly shown as trains on some journey planners, but our colleagues at the European Rail Timetable have been very good at tracking developments on this route. Table 292 in the latest monthly edition of the European Rail Timetable has all the gen you need – and that table is usually spot on in identifying which services are buses and which ones are trains.
Alternative routes by rail are available from Nantes to Bordeaux via Saint-Pierre-des-Corps.
Route 45 in Europe by Rail runs south from Budapest to Belgrade and then follows a rural railway south-west to the Adriatic port of Bar in Montenegro. The northern half of the route, from Budapest as far south as Belgrade, is being upgraded. At the moment, no trains are running between Novi Sad and Belgrade.
Throughout 2021, this major project will affect the line from Subotica to Novi Sad and beyond. We understand that rail-replacement buses are not being provided, but there are also fast long-distance coach services which more or less parallel the railway.
An alternative for dedicated travellers really wanting to stick to trains is to follow Route 46 from Budapest to Zagreb, connecting there onto Route 47 for the onward journey to Belgrade.
Europe by Rail (Susanne and Nicky), 29 May 2021
Just to add an update on Route 10 in the latest edition of our Europe by Rail book. We say in the post above "The main rail route from Nantes to Bordeaux has been closed for rebuilding for some months now, and we hear that the project is taking much longer than anticipated. It could well be that this line will remain closed until at least mid-summer 2021 – and perhaps longer." So it's perhaps worth a mention that, although we have not received official confirmation, we think it very probable that the through train service from Nantes to Bordeaux via La Rochelle will be reinstated on Sunday 1 August 2021.
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 17th edition of that book will be published in mid-April 2022. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.