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The most exciting new train journeys across Europe for 2024

Letting the train take the strain is about to become much easier, thanks to a flurry of exciting new rail routes connecting various European hotspots. Tamara Hinson tracks down the current hot tickets for slow-travel fans

Thursday 28 December 2023 14:22 GMT
The mountains are calling with this new train service to Cortina, northern Italy
The mountains are calling with this new train service to Cortina, northern Italy (FS Treni Turistici Italiani)

It’s getting increasingly easy to travel around Europe flight-free, thanks to a host of new train routes launching at a time when certain governments are going all out to reduce aviation-related emissions. France, for example, has banned domestic flights where rail journeys of less than two and a half hours are possible, and the EU plans to double its spending on high-speed rail by 2030.

New routes launching in 2024 range from inter-city services making twin-centre holidays in Europe a breeze to sleeper trains putting top ski resorts in easy reach of cities such as Amsterdam. On this occasion, our focus is on routes between destinations on the continent, although new rail connections will soon benefit those of us in the UK – Eurostar rival Evolyn recently announced plans to launch a high-speed Channel Tunnel rail service between London St Pancras and Paris Nord in 2025.

Here are the current hot tickets for anyone planning to ride the rails in 2024.

Read more on rail travel:

Brussels to Prague with European Sleeper

Launch date: 25 March 2024

European Sleeper is launching more routes in the coming years (European Sleeper)

European Sleeper’s night train service from Brussels launched in early 2023 but rail infrastructure work meant it could only reach Germany’s capital – until now. From March 2024 it will run from Brussels to Prague, with a journey time of around 15 hours and stops in Amsterdam and Berlin. Keep an eye out for more European Sleeper routes – including ones between the Netherlands and the French Alps, and Amsterdam and Barcelona – in 2025. A word of warning – don’t expect turndown services and chocolates on your pillow. There are three classes of cabin, and the trains are best described as pre-loved – European Sleeper has relied largely on decommissioned train carriages which have been given a quick spruce-up and brought back to life. On the plus side, the company has promised new trains – and perhaps even a chocolate on your pillow – in the near future.

Berlin to Paris with ÖBB Nightjet

Launch date: 11 December 2023

Nightjet has an extensive network of overnight routes (Nightjet)

If a decommissioned German train carriage doesn’t do it for you, this next option might sound more appealing. In early December 2023 ÖBB Nightjet launched its new Berlin to Paris route, which operates three times a week and stops in Strasbourg, eastern France. Cabin options range from a seat in a standard compartment to slick bunkbed couchettes with room for up to six people and, at the top end, mini cabins for solos and couples. It’s also worth noting that ÖBB Nightjet plans to turn the route into a daily one in late 2024.

Amsterdam to Austria via Germany with TUI’s Ski Express

Launch date: 23 December 2023

Reach the Austrian ski slopes with the Ski Express (Tui)

Getting to Austria’s ski slopes will become even easier this winter, thanks to TUI’s new Ski Express service, which connects Amsterdam with Austria via Cologne and Frankfurt. Cabin options range from economy to comfort private – book one of these and perks include a sink (OK, not necessarily the most exciting of amenities, admittedly) and steward service. But a word of warning for those prone to missing their stop – if you’re Austria-bound, it’s worth remembering that the train splits in the Austrian city of Wörgl, before serving two different skiing hotspots: Austria’s Tyrol and Salzburger Land regions.

Liège to Maastricht via Aachen with Arriva, SNCB and NS

Launch date: December 2023

A tri-country train takes travellers to Maastricht (Alamy)

This particular train, which will operate a tri-country route between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and is a collaboration between three train companies, has been a long time coming. The route was unveiled in 2019 but Belgian authorities scuppered plans for it to pass through the country due to safety concerns – more specifically, the insistence that all trains would need a European safety system known as ETCS. It’s finally being rolled out in December 2023, and Liège and Aachen’s status as major hubs for high speed trains means the service will make it much easier for travellers to access a large number of additional cities, including Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and Paris.

Brussels to Amsterdam with SNCB and NS

Launch date: December 2024

Brussels to Amsterdam train services are doubling (httpsnieuws.ns)

Full disclosure – this one has been around for a while, but its status as one of Europe’s most popular train routes is the reason train companies Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) and Belgian carrier SNCB have announced the number of services will be doubled this time next year. New trains have also been ordered for the route, and fewer stops on the additional services launching in December 2024 will mean shorter journey times. Passengers can expect to travel between the two cities in just under two hours, slashing 45 minutes off the current travel time.

Rome to Cortina d’Ampezzo with FS Treni Turistici Italiani

Launch date: 15 December 2023

Dine in style onboard the Rome to Cortina d’Ampezzo train (FS Treni Turistici Italiani)

Getting to Italy’s powder stashes is much easier from winter 2023, thanks to a new night train which connects Rome with Cortina d’Ampezzo, one of Italy’s most snow-sure ski resorts. Cabin options on this new route range from single-bed cabins to six-person sleepers, and the train has a dining car and bar. The 220-bed sleeper train will leave Rome at 9.40pm every Friday, arriving in Calalzo, a short bus ride from Cortina d’Ampezzo, at around 8am the next morning (this early start is why we suggest resisting grappa-fuelled all-nighters at the train’s bar).

Paris to Madrid with FS Italiane Group

Launch date: late 2024

A new Paris to Madrid route is launching (Getty/iStock)

The exact launch date of this new service is yet to be confirmed, although we know it’s currently due to launch in late 2024 and will be run by Italy’s national state-owned railway, Trenitalia – a subsidiary of FS Italiane Group. Trenitalia’s high-speed Frecciarossa (meaning red arrow) trains will be used for the route and with a top speed of 249mph, it’s thought journey times will come in at just under seven hours. Brioche for breakfast and torrijas at tea time? Sounds like a no-brainer.

Northern and southern Italy with Orient Express

Launch date: late 2024

First, to clear things up: this particular Orient Express isn’t the Orient Express company which became Belmond in 2014 but a separate entity (owned by hotel behemoths Accor) which specialises in luxury trains and will soon branch out into hotels.  Confused? Us too. But back to the important stuff. Orient Express will launch a new seriously luxurious train, La Dolce Vita, in 2024. The exact dates are yet to be confirmed, but there will be six routes on offer and this luxury train line won’t be about high-speed train travel, but about carefully curated itineraries which meander between destinations in northern and southern Italy, including Rome and Venice, where the Orient Express group will unveil its first hotels in 2024.

Read more on our selection of rail trips

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