My 2023 projects might not have had the one-off “wow, some dude is crossing all of Europe’s borders in one go!” effect that 2022 had, but looking back the past 12 months have both been a lot of fun and has been politically interesting too. After the 83* borders crossed in the main 2022 project, I have been to 113 further cross border railway lines – so 196 in total so far.
The trip in September to Ireland with Ciarán Cuffe MEP resulted in some interesting ideas about how to combine trains, buses and ferries, and is summarised in this excellent video made by the Greens-EFA Group:
Earlier in the year my trip to all of Germany’s borders resulted in some new thinking about how to sort out ticketing on regional trains in border areas. My trip in October as far as Santiago de Compostela meant that I have now been to every active railway line at the Portugal-Spain and Spain-France borders, two of the borders in Europe that make me the most frustrated – because everything ought to work a whole lot better at both! My Photostream on Flickr tells the story of these trips, visually, and the Live Blogs report each day.
However at the moment I have this nagging thought in my mind that I have not yet done enough systematic analysis of what I learned in 2023. By contrast I produced a “Top 20” things to fix (2 of which have subsequently been fixed – although not thanks to me!) based on what I experienced in 2022, and I need to do the same for 2023, with text and images, and perhaps also with a 2 minute video explaining each problem that needs fixing. Medium term I want to keep an eye on all of these places I have identified where solutions are both necessary and achievable. But that systematic analysis is going to have to wait for sometime in early 2024 – right now I have neither time nor money nor mental capacity.
But there is one thing that always keeps me going: thinking about the next places I want to go and visit.
My focus has been resolutely on the internal borders of the European Union for the past two years. Now it is time to switch my attention a bit, and look at South East Europe. Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo all want to one day join the European Union, and EU money – part channelled by Transport Community – is earmarked for transport projects. But there are massive challenges for railways in the region that need to be overcome – poor infrastructure, weak finances, and operational difficulties. These challenges apply at the borders between EU and non-EU countries in the region, between the non-EU countries in the region, and even between Croatia and its EU neighbours as well.
So my plan is to do a #CrossBorderRail South East Europe in May 2024. I will cross every border in South East Europe you can cross by train, could in the past cross by train, and even go to places where it is one day seriously intended you could cross by train. Borders I have crossed recently will not be crossed again. My focus will be on the non-EU countries Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo, and the borders between them, and their borders to their EU neighbours. And there will be a little extra attention to Croatia, as it is one of the EU countries with the most international rail potential.
Crowd funding for the project will start in early 2024, and the detailed planning is already ongoing.
There might be further projects later in 2024 (I still want to investigate Rail Baltica a bit more for example), but at the moment those are just ideas, not concrete plans.
* – stated numbers from 2022 have sometimes been a little higher, but I now have a more established methodology as to what constitutes a cross border line. They are all mapped here.