Once again we have reached the time of year when railway operators across Europe introduce new timetables. The next round of changes will take effect on 14 December 2008.
According to an announcement on the Serbian Railways website, a second daily train is being introduced on the Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki route. Or rather reintroduced, as this restores the situation prior to December 2007. Any improvement to the poor public transport connections between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece is very welcome.
The IC "Avala", which currently runs from Vienna via Budapest to Belgrade, will now operate on the route Prague-Bratislava-Budapest-Belgrade. There will thus be no direct daytime Vienna-Belgrade service, although it will still be possible to travel between these cities by day with a change in Budapest, and the direct overnight "Beograd" service is retained.
The overnight train from Niš (Serbia) to Podgorica and Bar (Montenegro) will now leave Niš in the morning, at least during the winter - it is not clear what will happen in summer.
These are the only major developments in Southeast Europe that I have noticed so far. There are also numerous minor timing alterations.
Sadly there is no sign of any improvement in the rail links between Italy and Slovenia. Since TrenItalia withdrew their leg of the "Casanova" service earlier this year, the only direct train has been the "Venezia Express" from Venice to Budapest, which passes through Ljubljana at an inconvenient hour of the night. This seems a very strange state of affairs between neighbouring countries within the Schengen zone.
As happens every year, the various online train timetables are struggling to deal with the changeover - apparently this is too great a challenge for the current state of computing technology. So for the next few weeks, care will be required when using online timetables to plan journeys in advance.