Thomas Cook's European Rail timetable reaches end of the line

After 140 years, number 1,526 will be the last

Travel Correspondent

From Penzance to Palermo and Stranraer to Szczecin, train travellers have been able to rely upon the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable - formerly Cook's Continental - for the past 140 years. But the next edition, number 1,526, will be the last.

Thomas Cook has told The Independent that it is abandoning its flagship publication, along with its travel guidebooks, because of "the company focus turning to its core products".

Two years ago the market capitalisation of Thomas Cook collapsed, losing over 90 per cent of its value. The turnaround plan implemented by its new chief executive, Harriet Green, has seen hundreds of High Street travel agencies closed and thousands of staff lose their jobs.

While the share price has recovered, the "on-going transformation and strategic review" has led to Thomas Cook abandoning its publishing business, even though the timetable is thought to be covering its costs.

In the days when Thomas Cook was at the heart of the travel industry, the rail timetable was as much a marketing tool as a profitable sideline. Prospective travellers who were inspired to make a journey could research a trip using the "Red Book" and then invite Thomas Cook to book it.

Today the company has little interest in trains: a brief search on the Thomas Cook website for a Eurostar train to Avignon resulted in the message: "There may not be any flights available on the day you have requested - or change the airport that you fly from". The firm sees its future in selling package holidays by air, not bespoke train trips.

Although every piece of information in the European Rail Timetable is available online, the European Rail Timetable distils the most essential information. Mark Smith, the founder of the international rail website Seat Sixty-One, compared online offerings to "Looking at a large timetable through a tiny keyhole - you can only enquire for a limited time slot on a specific date".

Mr Smith cites the example of seeking a Paris-Moscow train: "If you happen to pick the wrong day it'll say there are no direct trains, only awkward options with multiple changes. To see the convenient direct three-times-a-week Paris-Moscow express, you have to run the enquiry for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. How are you supposed to know this? Well, it's printed right in front of you in the Thomas Cook."

The timetable has been used by generations of InterRailers [correct style] and has acquired the status of a national treasure.

Nicky Gardner, co-publisher of Hidden Europe, said: "It has helped shape our lives and our travels, just as it has widened horizons for thousands of others. Rail travel in Europe will never be quite the same without Cook's".

A small team of experts compiles the timetable at the Thomas Cook HQ in Peterborough. It is believed that a rescue plan is under way, possibly involving one or more wealthy rail enthusiasts.

"I sincerely hope a way is found to save it from the wreckage of Thomas Cook," said Mark Smith.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?