Summer 2020 sees Trenitalia's chic Frecciarossa trains serving the Cinque Terre coast (photo © Markandkate8 / dreamstime.com).
Special summer holiday trains to the seaside and mountains have been a feature of European rail timetables since the 19th century. But what will happen in 2020, with holiday plans across much of Europe in uncertainty following the Coronavirus pandemic?
High-speed operator Thalys announced quite early that its summer Saturday services to Bordeaux and the Mediterranean won’t be running at all this season. Eurostar was not quite so decisive. Tickets for thrice-weekly midsummer trains direct from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille were released in mid-June. But a few days later they were quietly withdrawn again. Then Eurostar announced on 24 June that its direct services to the south of France would not run at all in 2020. What was more surprising was Eurostar’s suggestion that these trains won’t run in 2021 either.
But there are still plenty of summer holiday trains which will be running. Here we give a run down of some of the summer specials which are still expected to operate over the school summer hols this year.
The seasonal direct night train from Paris to Portbou in Spain will be running this Saturday (4 July), then again daily from 11 July on through the summer. This direct link from Paris to Catalonia will be especially welcome this summer as the alternative night train route through France to northern Spain via Latour-de-Carol is not on offer this year. The line from Toulouse to Latour-de-Carol is closed all summer as rebuilding work takes place, with buses replacing trains. So the nightly overnight train from Paris to Latour-de-Carol is cancelled.
Deutsche Bahn (DB) will have a trio of special ICE routes aimed fair and square at the holiday market. There is a direct train on Saturdays from Berlin to Innsbruck, which had its debut run on Saturday. It is geared at residents of eastern Germany who yearn for the Alps.
Then from 3 July, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, an ICE will run from Munich to Norddeich Mole on the coast of Lower Saxony. This station is the departure point for ferries to two of the East Frisian Islands (Juist and Norderney). This is the first time that DB have ever run ICEs to Norddeich Mole. The return runs from the coast will be on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday, with a late morning departure from Norddeich Mole giving plenty of time for homebound travellers to connect by ferry from the islands.
Another train, which surely anticipates the higher demand due to many people not travelling abroad this summer, is a new direct ICE from Stuttgart to the Baltic island of Rügen – which is linked by a rail causeway to the German mainland. It will leave Stuttgart on Fridays and Saturdays from 31 July. If that seems an unusually late start into the season, it is merely that school summer holidays in Stuttgart don’t start until Thursday 30 July.
A welcome innovation for summer 2020 is the new Alpen-Sylt Night Express, which offers a nine-week summer season from 4 July. The train will run from Westerland (on the North Frisian Island of Sylt, also linked by a causeway to the mainland) to Salzburg. It’s a canny innovation, one which might well pick up travellers from Hamburg looking for an Alpine summer break in the Salzburg region, as well as Austrians and Bavarians heading for the Sylt seaside.
The regular summer Eurocity services from Munich and Innsbruck to Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast are back for 2020. The once-daily service in each direction will operate until early September.
Italo is expanding its network with a new thrice-daily summer service from Milan to Ancona, serving Rimini and Pesaro along the way. This new route debuts on 2 July and will run until 5 September.
ÖBB has now reinstated its seasonal direct Nightjet from Vienna to Pisa and Livorno. It will run twice weekly until early October and, in addition to passengers will also transport motor vehicles.
A very welcome summer special is a rare Frecciarossa 1000 service from Milan to Rome via Genoa and the Cinque Terre coast. It will run most days through to early September. With a seven-hour journey time from Milan to Rome, it is clearly not aimed at passengers travelling end-to-end. The target market is those heading off on holiday to Cinque Terre and other coastal resorts.