Every year, in December and June, the European train timetables are amended. There are seldom major changes to important routes, but the change allows for minor alterations and seasonal variation of international services. It affects most international trains in Europe (with the notable exception of Eurostar). Domestic timetables (i.e. those not crossing borders) can change at any point during the year and don't usually cause noticeable problems.
Usually the European train timetable changes on the second Sunday in June and the second Sunday in December. This means that 3 months before those dates, booking is disrupted as rail operators load the new data. While the timetable is revised and compiled, the booking window (how far in advance you can check timetables and buy tickets) is reduced.
The change is particularly noticeable in winter when lots of you are searching for ski trains or planning Christmas and New Years Eve breaks. Many people searching for trains in advance during the changeover will find few or no services available. These dates will come on sale after the changeover is complete, around mid-October.
Winter train timetable 2013 -2014:
The winter train timetable for 2013 - 2014 is due to commence on 15th December (the third Sunday of the month). This means that until mid-October the booking horizon for most trains will only go up to 14th December, and not beyond. Therefore, if you're searching 3 months ahead in the first couple of weeks of October you may not see the results you expect.
Tickets for travel in the winter timetable will start becoming available to buy from mid-October (around 17th October onwards). And there are likely to be extensions too, so some seasonal trains (ski trains from Paris to the Alps for instance) will be bookable further in advance than usual. Great news for the skiers among you!
What can you do?
If you search for trains now for travel after 14th December, and no results are shown then you will be given an opportunity to set an email alert for when booking opens.
We've made some changes to how our booking reminder functionality works so that it handles the winter timetable changes better. Most rail operators have already given an indication of when they expect their trains to open for sale, but there are often delays which can make predicting booking dates a bit tricky. The new functionality we've built allows us to "hold" email alerts until we receive confirmation that booking is open, then send them in bulk. We're keeping an eye on timetables and will alert you as soon as we are confident that your trains are available.
If you've already set an email alert for travel beyond 14th December then you have been automatically added to our winter timetable update list, even if the new features hadn't been implemented when you registered. So if you are expecting a reminder over the next week or two, be aware that the automatic reminders won't be sent but we haven't forgotten about you!
We're trying to keep tabs on the major rail operators in Europe, so that you can plan when you'll be able to book your trains. We'll keep this list up to date, and notify those of you who have subscribed to an email alert as soon as booking opens.
Booking trains in France:
- SNCF are opening on the 17th October 2013, with some extensions beyond normal 3 month booking horizon.
There is an extended winter booking horizon for SNCF trains as follows:
- Thursday 17th October 2013 at 5am UK time: SNCF domestic bookings (i.e. those wholly within France) can be made for travel from 15th December 2013 - 16th January 2014 inclusive (please note that the previously published date, 14th February, was based on inaccurate information supplied by the rail operator. For those travelling between 17 January 2014 and 14 February 2014 inclusive, the usual 3 month booking horizon will apply.)
- Friday 15th November 2013: SNCF domestic journeys and TGV Lyria bookings can be made for travel from 15th February - 30th March 2014 inclusive. This includes the super-peak period from 15th February to 17th March 2014.
Booking trains in Germany:
- From October 15th the new timetable 2013/14 is going to be published and available for booking.
- *Update 15th October* Booking is now open for trains within Germany, and some international train fares wholly operated by Deutsche Bahn (e.g. 'London Spezial' fares from London to Germany cities via Brussels). However, the majority of cross-border trains are subject to the booking horizon of the neighbouring countries, so it will be necessary to wait for booking to open there to buy these journeys.
Booking trains in Italy:
- The new Italian train timetable will be available for booking at the end of October/first week of November at the latest.
- The Thello night train will be available from 17th October 2013. However, it has been confirmed that the Paris-Bologna-Florence-Rome train will be discontinued after 15th Dec. Passengers can still travel overnight on the Paris - Venice service, alighting in Milan or Verona to meet onward trains to Bologna, Florence and Rome.
Booking trains in Switzerland
- The new timetable for Switzerland is available from 28th October 2013, at which point booking reverts to the normal 3 months in advance.