Murder of the Orient Express

End of the line for celebrated train service

The most celebrated train service in European railway history will not see out the year. The Orient Express has run in various guises for 126 years, with occasional interruptions for wars. But Europe's new railway schedule, which comes into effect shortly before Christmas, has no room for the train that connected East with West and injected intrigue into international travel.

The much-truncated international service presently shuttles each night between the Austrian capital, Vienna, and Strasbourg in eastern France. But when the final westbound service arrives in the Rhine city at one minute to nine on the morning of 12 December, the Orient Express will have reached the end of the line.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – a luxury private train that use 1920s rolling stock – continues unaffected; it runs from Calais (with connections from London) via Paris to Venice. As its one-way fare of £1,550 demonstrates, it is not a conventional component of the European rail network – unlike the Orient Express, which appears in timetables as a regular "EuroNight" train.

At its height, the Orient Express provided a trans-European artery, linking Paris with Istanbul, with onward connections to eastern Turkey and Syria. The service to Turkey's largest city ended in 1977, but the Orient Express continued from the French capital to Bucharest in Romania. Then, in 2001, the eastern section beyond Vienna was abandoned. Even so, this left rail romantics with the 915-mile stretch between Paris and Vienna that Georges Nagelmackers, founder of the Wagons-Lits sleeping-car company, had pioneered in 1882.

Two years ago, however, the portion from Paris to Strasbourg was severed, leaving passengers with only a short overnight link between the Rhine and the Danube. Even this is less grand than it sounds: barely an hour after leaving Strasbourg the carriages are connected, at Karlsruhe, to an Amsterdam-Vienna express (itself to be withdrawn in December).

John Potter, a compiler of the Thomas Cook timetable, said: "I think closure was inevitable, once the section from Paris was cut."

As an advance copy of the September edition reveals, other notable night trains are facing the axe. They are expensive to run, and – as the Continental high-speed rail network expands – progressively less appealing to travellers. Rail Europe has withdrawn its overnight "Snow Train" from Paris to the Alps, which was run for the benefit of British skiers.

Christian Wolmar, the leading rail commentator, was one of the last passengers to experience the Paris-Vienna service. He said: "It's a great shame in this age when there's a renaissance of rail travel that they can't keep such an important Central European link going. High-speed trains are all very well, but trains that are the equivalent of a gentle drive through the country should be preserved. It's tragic that it's going, and I'd love to see some way of saving it."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments