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Always Annoying’: Hassles of Cross-Border Trains Hamper E.U.’s Green Ambitions


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Sorry an nyt article so need to file for a free account. Interesting looks at barriers to cross boarder passenger train traffic in Europe.



or try googling “Always Annoying’: Hassles of Cross-Border Trains Hamper E.U.’s Green Ambitions”





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Thanks for sharing!

I'm actually one of the strangers that would join Jon on his travels for CrossBorderRail 🙂 And we discussed a lot about the part of EU that is mentioned in the article (as he was so perplexed the first time that he just had to visit again). If you are interested in more insight from a local, keep reading. From east to west:

  • Harrachov - Szklarska Poręba-Jakuszyce (CZ-PL). My "hometown" border crossing. Used to be electrified, but closed altogether after WW2 (when this part of the world became Poland). There has been a lot of pressure to reopen this border crossing since 90' as there is a lot of potential, mostly touristic, but also to connect people on both sides of the border, including my own family. There were some cross-border rides in 1992 (90th anniversaary) and 2002 (100th anniversary). Regular traffic finally happened in 2010 (regular short-distance cross-border trains - there were two, sometimes three, transfers between Liberec and Jelenia Góra) and later got improved in 2015 (direct trains from Liberec - only one intermediate transfer remains). It now serves as a great local example how border reopening can go. Still can be improved by introducing direct trains on Polish side, however local authorities want to keep electric operations on this side of the border. No freight traffic at all - the line contains the highest railway in Poland and the most inclined railway in Czechia. Not much more to discuss with Jon here.
  • Mirsk - Jindřichovice pod Smrkem (PL-CZ). Local border crossing that was cancelled after WW2, after the lands here became Poland. There were never any considerations of reopening and there aren't much remnants of the line on the Polish side, except a bridge and one station that is now a communal center. Even though the surroundings are sparsely populated, the trains run up to Jindřichovice pod Smrkem on the Czech side (only few morning trains on working days, every two hours on weekends). Other (national) railways around Mirsk were also cancelled in the past, but has been in reconstruction since spring 2022 and it seems trains are going to be running again there, up to Świeradów-Zdrój when completed. Unfortunately this does not include the cross-border branch. There are seasonal busses between Frýdland/Raspenava/Nové Město pod Smrkem and Świeradów-Zdrój that are enough for the demand here and are more direct and serve a mountain resort too.
  • Zawidów - Černousy (PL-CZ). The place where I met with Jon. He noticed that there is a pretty big station in Zawidów but just a small building and one dead-end spur in Černousy. That's because Černousy are just a stop where a train can end/start. Cross-border freight traffic is kinda regular, albeit not as heavy as few years ago. Cross-border passenger operations were ceased after WW2, after the lands around became Poland. Even though the surroundings are sparsely populated, the trains run every hour (working days) / every two hours (weekends) on the Czech side; there are no passenger trains on the Polish side. There are some talks underway to extend the Czech-side trains to Zawidów - Zgorzelec - Görlitz. I don't think these are going to go out anytime soon as there just isn't enough demand near the border and longer distances are already covered by Liberec - Zittau & Zittau - Görlitz trains and seasonal Frýdlant - Zittau busses.
  • Hrádek nad Nisou - Porajów - Zittau (CZ-PL-DE). Part of privileged transit Hrádek nad Nisou - Varnsdorf (CZ in DE and CZ in PL). The one crossing me and most of other locals use the most. Used to be a pure German railway (even on the Czech side), but after WW2 a little section of the line found itself in Poland. After extensive talks and negotiations, the Polish section reopened under very strict rules and without any stops (after a bilateral CZ-PL agreement was signed). Fun fact: up until today it is still forbidden to take photos or shoot videos from the train, even though nobody takes it seriously anymore. The Polish part is very poorly maintained, as little as possible by the agreement; recently the allowed speed was improved from 30 to 40 kmph. Polish side seems to use it like a cash cow, accepting payments but not using them for large improvements. Poland refused to handle maintenance to CZ or DE and refused to improve their part of the line free of charge, offering to do it themselves only for a large sum of money (even though the line is even not accessible from PL). CZ and DE still struggle to do something about that even though negotiations are going for few years already. Fixing this would allow to move the train passing from Hrádek nad Nisou to Zittau, making other connections in Zittau more stable and direct trains much faster. Passenger trains run approx. every hour (some trains are express). Freight traffic ceased some time ago. Jon added this "double" border crossing to the TOP20 ones that have the most potential when fixed. After he rode the line for the first time, he just wanted to return there again to make some drone videos of this section, he just couldn't believe something like this is possible in this part of EU. I too hope the section is fixed as soon as possible!
  • Hirschfelde - Krzewina Zgorzelecka - Hagenwerder (DE-PL-DE-PL-DE) / Turoszów - Krzewina Zgorzelecka (PL-DE-PL). Part of privileged transit Zittau - Hagenwerder (DE in PL) and probably also Turoszów - Krzewina Zgorzelecka (PL in DE). The railway winds around the Neisse river here and, after WW2, the right bank of the river became Poland. This line is in much better condition than the previous one, as it is also used by Polish trains that serve Turów mine and Turoszów power plant. Unfortunately it is also the line that the article talks about regarding stolen wires and where Jon had to reroute, two times. Passenger trains run every hour, Zittau - Görlitz and beyond. No passenger service on Polish side, except the fact that the German trains stop in Krzewina Zgorzelecka station (mostly for Ostritz town which is just over the border river. Seems that there is a nice synergy between German passenger services and Polish freight services in regards to maintenance of the line. No particular regards about this to Jon, but he noted that it is unfortunate that the line is out of order for months just because of cable theft.
  • Großschönau - Varnsdorf (DE-CZ). Part of two privileged transits: Hrádek nad Nisou - Varnsdorf (CZ in DE) and Großschönau - Seifhennersorf (DE in CZ). Because of that unique feature, it doesn't have any problems regarding cross-border traffic. Before 2010, there were trains running under both privileged transits that stopped in some stations of their hosting country; since 2010 all passenger trains are running as international trains and stop in all stations, however the prices are comparable to normal local fares or you can even use some integrated tickets for cross border travelling. Freight traffic ceased some time ago. I did not discuss this one with Jon as there are other problems on this line (both other border crossings on this line are in Jon's TOP20).
  • Varnsdorf - Seifhennersdorf (CZ-DE). Part of privileged transit Großschönau - Seifhennersorf (DE in CZ). Most of the above applies here as well. But what is different is that there are no trains running on the German side! At the beginning trains run via Varnsdorf and Seifhennersdorf to Eibau. Because of the lack of financing, the trains ended at Seifhennersdorf station. In 2010, the German part of the line was leased to Deutsche Regionaleisenbahn (DRE), which for some reason also included removal of road crossing signals just before Seifhennersdorf station (done by DB Netz just before the lease), so a simple temporal platform was erected on the other side of the road. However due to many problems with DRE, mostly legislative ones, traffic ceased in 2015 and a replacement microbus is in place ever since. It runs approx. every two hours. In 2020, the tracks were repaired, trees inside rails were removed, and a new road crossing signals were installed. However DRE still did not get an operating license, rumors say that it's because of the road crossing signals that are of a completely new type (they look like road signals even on the train side and are to be operated remotely by train driver). Even though everyone still wants the trains to run and there are perfectly fine tracks to use (after a little maintenance), they can't. Jon added this border crossing to the TOP20 ones that have the most potential when fixed and it is also the border crossing that he visited with the writer of the article.
  • Seifhennersdorf - Rumburk (DE-CZ). The only border crossing that does not exist yet. It has been proposed many times before and is currently on top of new border crossing list in this part of CZ, however the expenses are still very high for it to be built in a foreseeable future, hopefully some EU funds might help with that. Currently a bus must be used between Varnsdorf and Rumburk, but all other main transit directions are covered by rail so it would make sense for mid-distance travel like Liberec - Rumburk.
  • Jiříkov - Ebersbach(Sachs) (CZ-DE). Short line connecting Rumburk with Germany. Passenger operations ceased in 2010, but the line is used by freight trains. Even though there is just a little regular freight traffic, however it is also used as a backup border crossing, so in case of failure in Děčín, the line is used more. German tourist steam trains sometimes run here. The passenger traffic was replaced by a bus line that better serves the intermediate settlements, yet still runs to Ebersbach station (using Czech integrated tariff). There aren't much calls for reinstantiating trains as the current state is pretty much enough for most people. However there are some thoughts on the German side regarding Ebersbach - Löbau line - if this line gets reactivated, it might be joined together with Děčín - Bad Schandau - Sebnitz - Rumburk line using this line to connect them together. This would only happen to lower a required amount of vehicles needed to operate the one line when compared to two different lines, not to replace the bus line.
  • Neusalza-Spremberg - Taubenheim(Spree) (DE-CZ-DE) privileged transit and Dolní Poustevna - Sebnitz (CZ-DE) border crossing were not discussed as they run very good. The only noteworthy problem is that tariff on the Rumburk - Sebnitz - Bad Schandau - Děčín line is not very cross-border friendly - cross-border tickets are more expensive than local ones and even though CZ-CZ tickets are sold, they explicitly forbid you to get off earlier while still in Germany (except Schöna; but no one is going to physically stop you doing so).

I very much thank Jon for his work regarding CrossBorderRail project and all his efforts to make Europe railways better 👏

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