Wed, 06 Oct 2010 08:57:00 GMT
In Germany they call it the Grosser Fahrplanwechsel – the great change of train timetables. Late on a Saturday night, the old schedules are cast aside and from early Sunday morning a brand new timetable comes into effect. And this year, the big day is Sunday 12 December. That’s when the 2011 schedules start for rail operators across much of Europe. Even British train companies stick to that date for major timetable revamps.
The Rail Europe team has already been taking a peek at the new schedules which will bring big gains for British travellers bound for the continent. For the first time, there will be French TGVs speeding over the Spanish border to Cataluña, faster trains from Paris to Geneva and a number of useful new night train connections across Europe.
So now is the time to get planning for the Christmas period. Eurostar tickets for the New Year are already on sale, but 13 October is the day that bookings open for many onward journeys across France. From 05.00 on that Wednesday morning, you can book tickets on French TGV, Téoz, Lunea and Intercité services as well as on Elipsos trains (to Spain), Lyria (to Switzerland) and Artesia (to Italy) – all for travel from 12 December.
During the switch over to the new schedules, there will be a period when SNCF relaxes the usual rule that booking for most French services can only be made from three months in advance. So Rail Europe customers wanting to escape the British winter in late February and early March can book journeys right up to 14 March from 0500 on Thursday 4 November. Spring comes early to many parts of Provence and Languedoc, most particularly the coast, so why not start planning now? Here is a great chance to shake off those winter blues with a dose of Riviera sunshine.
Set your alarm clocks early for the days that ticket sales open, for, when it comes to booking, the early bird catches the worm. The best fares sell out quickly. The release dates for new bookings quoted above do not apply to Thalys trains that operate from Paris and Brussels to Amsterdam and Cologne. Thalys are already selling tickets for the new timetable period. So you can already book Christmas journeys with Rail Europe from London to all Thalys destinations.