News: Ferry chaos for Athens; European rail network

The best deals, the latest hot-spots and the what's new in travel goodies


Ferry chaos for Athens?

Ferry chaos for Athens?

One of the more bizarre twists to the increasingly frantic saga of Greece's preparations for the Olympics is the impact that the bed shortage in Athens is threatening to have on ferry services. With city centre hotels already block-booked for games officials and the world's media this August, the main Athenian port at Piraeus is gearing up to take some of the tourist overflow. Berths will be set aside for 11 large cruise ships which are to be used as floating hotels. Several of Greece's new high-speed ferries are also likely to be redeployed, running day-trip services for games visitors who will be staying on nearby islands.

This will put considerable pressure on the ability of Piraeus to handle its regular heavy ferry traffic at the peak of the tourist season; in a normal year close on one million passengers pass through the port in August. With quay access restricted, and thousands of extra visitors residing in the harbour itself, there are fears that services - including the metro and bus systems into the city centre - could be overwhelmed by the demand.

The plan is to move some ferry services to the remoter ports of Rafina and Lavrio. These lie well outside the city environs on the eastern Attica coast, and both have had their harbour facilities enlarged in the last two years. Despite being closer to the islands than Piraeus, they have seen relatively little ferry activity in the past, due to poor overland links that resulted in longer journey times. A motorway building programme linking both with the new airport should be complete by the summer, and connecting bus services will also be in place. This should enable some island hoppers to avoid entering Athens altogether, before taking ferries (with significantly shorter journey times) to the Cyclades islands.

Regular travellers are in for something of a shock this August. In a part of the world where accurate printed timetables are a rarity, the primary problem will be in establishing which port your desired ferry will be departing from. Those looking to make connections as part of an island-hopping trip could also find that their next boat operates from a different Athenian port from their place of arrival.

There is a proposal to link all three ports via four fast passenger boats, but like most ferry activity in Greece, advance information is thin on the ground before a service actually appears. The result is a maddening lack of detailed information: with less than 200 days to the Olympics, the extent of this ferry migration isn't yet clear, and is unlikely to become so much before the summer.

Once in the islands, moving around should be as easy as usual but there is a lot to be said for avoiding Athens this August. If you plan to travel to the islands via Athens airport, make a point of visiting the Greek National Tourist Board (EOT) information kiosk for the latest information on ferry departures before catching the next bus to Piraeus.

Frewin Poffley

The writer is the author of 'Greek Island Hopping' (Thomas Cook, £12.99)

Rail ways: how the Continent is moving closer

Fed up with flying? Thanks to acceleration on the rail network of Europe, you can now get surprisingly far in a day. David Gunning, of the specialist agent Trainseurope, has calculated the number of places that can be reached in a reasonable day of travel: starting no earlier than 7.30am from London Waterloo, arriving at the destination no later than 11.30pm.

Any station in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France is accessible with a connection in Lille, Paris or Brussels. So too are almost all stations in Switzerland (even high-altitude Zermatt) and Germany. But faster services through the Channel Tunnel also bring more easterly destinations within reach. The Austrian cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck are accessible in a day, as is the Czech capital, Prague - as long as the connections in Brussels go according to plan.

"If only the train operators would improve the connections at Lille and Brussels then a same-day link with Vienna is a distinct possibility," says Mr Gunning.

For travellers prepared to catch the 6.29am from Waterloo (which requires check-in before 6am), the range extends still further. Changing trains in France, you can reach Milan and Turin in Italy, and even the Spanish cities of Barcelona and San Sebastian.

Trainseurope: call 0900 195 0101 between 9.30am and 4.30pm, Mon-Fri; calls cost 60p per minute (the charge is refunded if you book); www.trainseurope.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice