The aim of this project is to make it clear what needs to happen in the European Union with regard to cross border rail. So the starting point was to examine cross border rail between EU countries.
It soon became clear that adding Switzerland was very easy (and indeed Switzerland offers some examples for others to learn from) and that it made political sense and only took a day longer to add Norway. Non-EU countries Monaco and Liechtenstein are also transited during the trip, more by luck than judgment.
But what about the UK and Ireland? For me both the channel tunnel (with its technical hurdles and security and passport conundrums) is a very atypical cross border rail link, and is also one that has been examined over and over. Taking the Belfast-Dublin train would have been interesting, but here the Brexit headaches and the lack of investment in infrastructure, and Ireland being cut off from the rest of the EU’s railways, mean it is rather atypical, and a trip to get there would have added 3 days to my journey. So I decided to not include it.
While the EU pays comparatively little attention to Britain and Ireland when it comes to rail, it does pay attention to the Western Balkans. However the state of railways in that region is so bad – both in terms of broken infrastructure and political problems leading to international services getting the axe – I calculated I would need 9 days to cover Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania alone, and would need to take loads of bus trips – something I am not keen to do in the pandemic. So at some point in the future I am going to do a Western Balkan #CrossBorderRail, but it will not be in 2022.
And then there are the eastern external rail borders of the EU – to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. Given the current political and conflict situation only the Romania-Moldova border would be possible to assess. So here too my conclusion is to wait to explore these on a future trip.
Oh – and because it’s amazing – here are some pictures from the Belgrade – Bar train, the grand old cross border connection in South East Europe!