While major revamps of European rail timetables normally take place in mid-December each year, there are also mid-year revisions of schedules. This year sees some significant changes in western France with the opening of two high-speed lines on 2 July 2017.
The 300-km stretch of new line from Tours to Bordeaux trims the fastest journey time from Bordeaux to Paris to a shade over two hours; that’s 70 minutes faster than the previous schedules. The new route brings other cities in western France that little bit closer to the capital with Toulouse and La Rochelle both benefiting from much faster TGV links to Paris.
The new line does not render the classic route from Tours to Bordeaux through Poitiers redundant. Shifting the fast TGVs onto the new railway frees up capacity on the old line for both freight and slower regional trains (TERs). There are thus new TER timetables on many routes from 2 July. The line south from Tours to Châtellerault, for example, will see much improved TER services from the beginning of July.
The other new route in western France is a highspeed link from Le Mans to Rennes, which cuts 35 minutes off the journey time from Paris to Rennes, Quimper, Brest and Saint-Malo.
New opportunities in the Alps
Additional stops in Austria have been introduced this summer on the Moscow to Nice direct train which takes a beautiful but slow route from Linz to Innsbruck via Zell am See, following the Salzburg-Tiroler-Bahn. A stop at Zell was introduced a year or two back, but now three more are added including one at diminutive Kirchberg in Tirol, which, with a population of only 5000, now has the distinction of direct trains to both Minsk and Monaco (in addition to its long-standing afternoon train to Zürich). When it comes to trains, Kirchberg is now one of the best connected small communities in Europe.