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2019-12-24 00:25:00 +0100
european train systems

I plan to go to two upcoming debian/FLOSS events, & I'd rather go by train than by plane or car. & that's quite difficult, in central europe, in 2020.

the events I want to go to are:

  • FOSDEM, the "free & open source developers' european meeting", the probably hugest FLOSS conference in europe, held in bruxelles, belgium; with a MiniDebCamp before.
  • SnowCamp, a small cosy DIY MiniDebCamp in laveno-mombello, italy.

now what about the trains? bruxelles is the capital of europe, & laveno-mombello is just approx. 400 km from here (i.e. closer than the capital of my country). still, no train company would sell my a ticket to these destinations.

no train company? well that's slightly exaggerated. for one of the destinations (bruxelles), one company (DB) would sell me a ticket, if I trick the web interface into showing me the connection I want by adding some 'via' entries with appropriate durations. ÖBB fails because it doesn't sell thalys tickets, & also no ICE tickets, for the last leg. – so either DB with some trickery, or ÖBB plus either thalys or DB, & hope that there are no delays.
ÖBB is also very proud of their new nightjet connection to bruxelles (from vienna & innsbruck), starting in january 2020. what they don't announce widely is that this train goes only 2 times per week. (of course not the days I need.)

for the trip to laveno-mombello I could either go via verona/milano & buy a ticket from ÖBB until verona & a ticket (actually three) from trenitalia for the rest; or go via switzerland & buy a ticket from ÖBB until bellinzona, a ticket from SBB for the 10+ minutes to cadenazzo, & a ticket from trenord from cadenazzo until laveno-mombello. (that's already the summary; neither ÖBB nor DB nor SBB nor trenitalia nor trenord would sell me a ticket for the whole journey. trenitalia also doesn't know cadenazzo, btw. ÖBB would also sell me a ticket to cadenazzo, it's just roughly 100 EUR more expensive than the sparschiene-ticket to bellinzona.)
two years ago I did the former; & 8 of the 8 trains were delayed on departure or arrival or both. obviously the trip with its three changes per direction took almost twice the time of just taking the car.
last year, a friendly soul picked me up with their car after one train trip, & probably we'll do it the same way again this year.

so what is it that I want to say?

first of all I'm looking forward to the MiniDebCamp+FOSDEM & to SnowCamp, & I thought I should promote those events a bit more :)

& second, the state of train companies in europe is a big FAIL:

  • ÖBB & DB on the one hand, & trenitalia on the other hand have some fight since a couple of years; they don't even list each others' train connections in their respective online schedule, let alone offer tickets; & there are also less&less connections on the münchen/innsbruck/verona route;
  • ÖBB (in its terrible new app/website) happily shows connections for which they then don't sell tickets ("attention: ticket only covers part of the journey");
  • SBB & DB happily let you spend lots of time in their online ticket webapps, & then are very sorry in the end that they can't sell you the ticket you've clicked together;
  • I'm aware that there are still "national" train companies, & that there are still so-called "borders" between so-called "nation states" but frankly, I don't care about either;
  • mostly because those virtual lines on the maps have no significance to me; but also practically because in a part of the world where there are so many of them close to each other it's just ridiculous that they have any practical impact on travelling by public transport (remember, going to laveno-mombello via the "west route" I go through austria, liechtenstein, switzerland, & italy; for just roughly 400km);
  • I mean there's schengen, & at least until 2015 noone asked for any passports on these routes; still the train companies have the tunnel vision of their "national" territory;
  • I don't want to spend literally hours on more or less (typically more) broken train company websites to find out about possible connections & typically find no possible tickets for those connections;
  • if I want to go from A to B in europe, I want to go to one website & just buy the <insert-appropriate-adjective-here> ticket there;
  • either one of the legacy national ones or a combined european train system website (btw, rail_dot_eu & train_dot_eu are both squatted);
  • & don't tell my about etc., they don't know about half of the existing connections;
  • interim summary: can I please just buy a train ticket? could you please just take my money?;
  • in the end this is a political question. the EU has regulated roaming mostly successfully (crossing the swiss border: calls 2 EUR/min. out, 1 EUR/min. in, sms: 0.4 EUR, data: 1.5 EUR/100kb (!));
  • it's about time that the EU regulates "cross-border" train travel as well;
  • & I'm not talking about prices, I JUST WANT TO BUY A TICKET FROM A TO B ON ONE WEBSITE; pretty please; in europe; in 2020.

ok, end of rant.
& I'm looking forward to the aforementioned events, even if it's a major pain to sort out the transportation to get there.
(could we have teleportation please? the quantum physicists say no. too bad.)

update 2020-01-06: for the trip to bruxelles, I ended up buying a nightjet ticket from ÖBB, & a thalys ticket directly from thalys. let's hope I don't miss a connection …

permalink | tags: computer, planetdebian | 6 comments

comments on this entry

  1. [gravitar] Lucas
    Hi Gregor, Did you look at companies that only do the "ticketing" part, such as trainline?
  2. [gravitar] niq
    I sympathise. I routinely battle to book travel, and find the flight-booking sites are the only ones who seem to want to sell me anything I could use! One site always worth checking is an enthusiast "The Man in Seat 61", . He often has incredibly useful information that somehow fails to appear on the regular sites (even google) - and his coverage extends around the globe! I've found better journeys to several countries through seat61 over the years: for example, for ApacheCon in Amsterdam ( ) or a barcamp out in the sticks near Dublin. London-centric, but works well for me 400km away, and maybe even for you half a continent away!
  3. [gravitar] Mark
    Hi. FOSDEM organiser here, and avid public transport user. I wonder if there's a business opportunity for a company that will cater to this need, ducttaping over the gaps between national companies by insuring and/or manually rebooking the lost connection bits...
  4. [gravitar] gregoa
    hi lucas, yes I looked at trainline, and they don't have the connection I'd like to take.
  5. [gravitar] sam
    Seat 61 is great for info. Usually I end up buying from (used to be called LoCO2).
  6. [gravitar] Carsten
    Hi Gregor, you might also have a look at I've used this for organizing and booking train ticket for attending MiniDebCamp in Vaumarcus.

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