Author Topic: Train to cologne  (Read 1843 times)

Train to cologne
« on: January 22, 2019, 08:34:29 pm »
Assuming we're still allowed abroad in May me and the rabble are hopefully visiting friends near Cologne. Last time we drove and was honestly really easy but I've got a lot of driving this winter and spring on top of the 1000 or so miles I seem to do each month at work.

Wondering about taking the train. Google has it looking rather simple but is it likely to cost a fortune and be more stress then expected? As a cost comparison I reckon 100 roughly for ferry and £60 in diesel for the drive

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2019, 08:36:30 pm »
https://www.seat61.com/Germany.htm might be an interesting read. It'll be more expensive than driving a family.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2019, 08:36:53 pm »
Not sure how up to date this is but it's a starting point: https://www.seat61.com/Germany.htm#London%20to%20Cologne%20by%20train
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2019, 08:37:41 pm »
Ooh, snap! with LWaB.
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2019, 10:04:21 pm »
First!
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2019, 10:18:59 pm »
Jan and I made a train journey from London to Vienna in early September. Eurostar to Brussels, DB train to Koln, sleeper to Vienna.

It wasn't that costly*, but we cut it pretty fine in Brussels as the Eurostar train was a bit late. We only had about 30 seconds to spare.

Our experience on the German trains was generally rather disappointing. We were subject to some quite long delays and on the return, from Salzburg, the train from Frankfurt-am-Main to Koln was jam packed as half of it should have been going to Brussels and the other half to Amsterdam. But one bit didn't arrive.

*The London-Koln bit. The sleeper was first class and it cost a bloody fortune.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2019, 10:41:23 pm »
Seat61 is pretty up to date.

I've used both Thalys and ICE, and I'd recommend the ICE.

You can use the DB website to get tickets for the whole journey, but tickets go on sale 6 months in advance for the Eurostar so your chances of getting a 19 euro each London Spezial are pretty low.
https://www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/europe/saver-fare-europe.shtml

Having a play on the DB website, there's a limited number of cheap tickets available for the 4th of May (using it as an example) from Brussels to Cologne
2 adults, 2 children (6 to 14) for €49,80 on ICE 15 am 1025 uhr.

Eurostar Fares are structured differently as a Child is 0-11 and a Youth is 11-25
And putting in 2 adults and 2 youth it's an eye watering 268 quid for the only one that lets you catch ICE 15 and would include a 25minute transfer at Brussels Midi (that's doable)
And that's just out bound...

Throw in a bit of a curve ball now
On National Rail's interrail site
https://www.myinterrail.co.uk/interrail-passes/

You can get a Family pass for 2 adults and 2 children with 3 days validity anywhere in the Interrail system (most of western europe) for 394 quid (they usually do a winter sale but no sign of that this year), you'd need to buy the appropriate seat reservations from Eurostar, and you'd probably need to pay for seat reservations for german trains too (very easy to do on their website)

What's more, with that you'd use 1 day to travel to Cologne, one day back so can travel anywhere in Germany (some local operations not included) quite easily on that other day because except for international journeys in Summer, DB just like in the UK don't have any mandatory reservations. Oh and the global pass is valid for travel to and from a destination port in the UK provided each journey is in a single calendar day (which always messes me up for my outbound journey as I tend to use either the sleeper or a train that gets to london after midnight).

So if you add all that up, it's way higher than your 160 quid ferry estimate, throw in cost of Green Card... oh and your insurance does cover it aye? I've noticed a lot have dropped automatic 90 day EU cover and green card from their premiums, and the cost of both types of IDP? Exactly which countries are signatories to which of the Geneva and Venice conventions on road traffic I don't know, but they are UN conventions and the Venice one is responsible for the blue band on number plates...

On the plus side of the train option, you'll be travelling at 300kmh on a couple of occasions.


quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2019, 11:12:58 pm »


If you can buy the tickets as a single transaction, then if the Eurostar is late coming into Brussels, you're covered by the international conditions of carriage, and will be put on the next train without any issues with your ticket.

NS-International's website works in English, and will sell you a ticket from London to Koeln. Haven't tried bahn.de.

The standard connection between the morning London to Brussels train, and the Brussels to Koeln train is not ideal, doesn't give you much time, esp if the Eurostar is late (quite common). If you are willing to spend some time in Brussels, consider getting the next Koeln train. Be aware Brussels Zuid station is a dump, and the surrounding area sucks...

Good luck

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2019, 09:21:29 am »
Absolutely correct about the conditions of carriage.

I quite often buy my tickets via bahn.de, they're also available in English.
I suppose you don't take a bike,  otherwise more options are available.

If you run into troubles with the ICE or simply want to be more free in your planning, there are also trains which don't need to be reserved.
There's an Intercity from Oostende to Welkenraedt, which stops at Brussels South. And there are lot's of trains between Aachen and Cologne. And then there's the small crossborder railroad from Welkenraedt to Aachen.  1h25 slower as the ICE but quite often and no reservation needed. Plus it takes bikes.

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2019, 01:21:43 pm »
Eurostar tickets are covered by CIV rules as standard; not exactly sure of the interaction with other tickets when bought as individual journeys however if you posses a Eurostar ticket from London, you are able to obtain under National Rail ticketing a CIV ticket to London, that's not as part of your Eurostar booking.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIV_(rail_travel)

I'm fairly sure Mark covers in on Seat61 though.


Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2019, 01:30:14 pm »
It's much more fun than flying or driving - and I'm something of a petrol head and aeroplane enthusiast - and more relaxing too so I find the higher cost is worth it as long as you consider it part of the holiday.

Whilst on Bahn.com (or Bahn.de but the .com is for international - I would hope the prices aren't different) You can go into options in the journey search function and add in a minimum transfer time. That way you won't be legging it from one platform to the other with kids in tow for a 2-3 minute transfer. Also allows for slight delays.

We are heading to the Danube on our bikes this summer and I'm using the minimum 15 minute transfer for that.
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2019, 10:30:53 pm »
We prefer the Eurostar etc. for going to the Continent. We did however have a spectacularly bad experience going to Köln last year. The Eurostar was fine. The ICE had apparently being having a bad patch.

Ours never really got going out of Brussels. Eventually, after chuntering along for a long time, we made our way into a tunnel at (I believe) Chaudfontaine, still really on the outskirts of the city, and broke down completely. I think they chose that because it had a gangway alongside.

We waited for an hour and a half or so, and were then evacuated. Walking a couple of hundred metres out of the tunnel, we were greeted by half the Belgian fire brigade. This which happened a week or so before may be the reason (look at the pictures; they are all you need).

After another hour or so, a load of buses turned up and took us to Aachen, where we got on a local train. We were something like four hours late into Köln. Not that that mattered, because there wasn't much water in the Rhein, and our cruise ship was having trouble going anywhere. It had eventually headed off in the wrong direction, towards Amsterdam and Rotterdam, instead of up river. But that's another story.

The trip back was fine, apart from a small matter of losing my camera bag, with my passport and (obviously) all my holiday photos,  in Köln HBF. Although, miraculously, it arrived back by post a couple of months later, after a call from the finder. Which is another story again...

But we still like the high-speed trains, and would use them again.

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2019, 10:37:49 pm »
My mother in law lives near Cologne so we sometimes get the train.  We did at Christmas.  We booked via DB so that you have a single transaction to cover the connection.  You only have 20 minutes in Brussels and the Eurostar was 11 minutes late. Lots of people running for the DB ICE, but we all made it, and it was a comfortable ride on to Cologne.

On the way back the connection time is more generous, but the ICE was having an off day and terminated at Liege, and we had to make our way to Brussels via local trains.  There was enough time and the Eurostar back went ok. 

The stress of the tight connection on the way out meant that we were worrying about it for most of the way out on the Eurostar.  And we learned how DB has earned its poor reputation for reliability on the way back (German investment in rail infrastructure is about half UK levels.  The political culture of fetishising budget surpluses means that much of the infrastructure is crumbling).

We decided we'd fly next time. 

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2019, 01:04:32 pm »
There was the ski trip to Inssbruck we attempted by train when high winds started rattling the glass roof panels at Munich station to the point it was decided to close the station entirely. We were due on the now defunct night sleeper from Amsterdam to Munich (now owned by Austrian Railjet and starts in Dusseldorf). We finally arrived in Amsterdam on Thalys which was limited to 100km/h the whole way from Brussels. DB immediately cancelled the night sleeper to free up access on the main lines and put us in a hotel.

The following day we had a frustrating time on full ICE trains - we had a first class ticket allocated to us but we got to sit on the floor in first class - they first diverted us to Frankfurt, we then ended up on a coach to Munich and still couldn't get anywhere. They finally found us another coach to somewhere near the Austrian border where we finally got a train to Innsbruck and got to our hotel in Otztal a full 14 hours late.

It could have been worse, there might have been a drone at the airport. We did receive a 50% refund on our tickets. I'm still using European trains.
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2019, 01:14:25 pm »
Thanks for the advice everyone. As much of an adventure as it sounds not sure I fancy it with the two monkeys. Think I'll end up driving Brexit not withstanding!

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2019, 01:42:49 pm »
I was speaking to my mate in Bergen, NH about weather issues last winter when NS took all their trains off in the north and DB significantly reduced their service because of the forecast "high" winds, the forecast wasn't strong enough to cause a closure of the pedestrian walkway on the Tay Road Bridge.

His initial statement was "people need to calm their t--s", afterwards he saw why it was a big deal, trees uprooted at what he as someone from the Tay Valley would consider sensible enough to walk to Dundee in.

The MET office also last year mentioned in the passing that a Red "Danger to life" alert for the South of England would potentially be triggered at a level that could be a Yellow in the North of Scotland for the same reasons, everything's designed to take more wind, more snow and more rain, and people are used to it.


Travel chaos is always going to occur when conditions exceed the normal "worst" for where you are.

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2019, 01:53:11 pm »
Travel chaos is always going to occur when conditions exceed the normal "worst" for where you are.
See my Austrain husband's annual rant about the British inability to cope with snow... (he does understand why we don't cope, that doesn't stop him grumbling). They had a lot of snow in Austria just after New Year and roads were bein closed - not because of snow on the road, but because of avalanche risk.

(I seem to recall a yellow wind warning one summer when the Met Office said "it isn't going to be that windy by winter standards, but this is summer and we just want to make people aware that it will be rather windy for summer".)

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2019, 01:58:56 pm »
Thanks for the advice everyone. As much of an adventure as it sounds not sure I fancy it with the two monkeys. Think I'll end up driving Brexit not withstanding!

It really isn't an adventure, it's catching one train and changing onto another.

I've done the trip twice - once was entirely uneventful, the other the Cologne-Brussels DB train was late but I had no problem getting my ticket endorsed for the Thalys (free of charge). In the end I think both arrived in Brussels at the same time, with reasonably time to catch the Eurostar.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2019, 02:25:37 pm »
It really isn't an adventure, it's catching one train and changing onto another.

I've done the trip twice - once was entirely uneventful, the other the Cologne-Brussels DB train was late but I had no problem getting my ticket endorsed for the Thalys (free of charge). In the end I think both arrived in Brussels at the same time, with reasonably time to catch the Eurostar.

Agreed. Train travel has become so denormilised. With stupid yield management pricing, it's become even worse. Miss the correct train, and you're lumbered with extra pricing.

I haven't flown since 2005, and have managed to get from the UK to Crete, to Lithuania, to Barcelona. The issues described above such as the winds closing lines etc... Air travel is no better (see Gatwick Drone issues), and with rail travel there are usually reroute options that aren't available when flying. On one trip from Koln to the UK, there were strikes for DB, so they put us on a bus to Brussels. We made out connection just fine. This doesn't tend to happen for air travel.

Ferry's and driving, can be simpler, but you're still at the mercy of P&O/DFDS/Eurotunnel, you only need a French strike, or winds in the channel, and you're stuck on the M20... At least with rail travel once you start your journey, they are legally required to get you to your destination (hint, carry a copy of the international conditions of carriage in both English and the local languages).

Train travel shouldn't be an adventure, it should be normal, and common. It should have transparent pricing, and sensible conditions. Unfortunately too many train companies think that what we want from travel is the airport experience. You see this with the likes of Eurostar, and Thalys. What people actually want is to get from a to b, affordably, comfortably, and without faff. I don't want to have to arrive an hour before hand, I don't want to have to book 3 months in advance, and I don't want to have to be confined to a single journey or suffer a large financial penalty. Alas, this quixotic view is not shared by the powers at be :( When I first moved to .NL I suffered massive geographic compression. In Canterbury the departure board lists Ramsgate, Margate, and London. Even in the likes of Kings Cross, the number of destinations is limited. Yet, you walk into Utrecht centraal, and a long side the departures for Maastricht, and Rotterdam, and Den Helder, there's also the train to Moscow, and Prague, and Frankfurt, and Zurich, and occasionally Paris. Travelling by train you can walk in, and buy a ticket from the machine and just get on any of these trains (tho it's quite expensive if you don't book in advance). If they could fix the pricing, this is how rail travel should be. It would also help if they brought back the night trains. If we are going to reduce the amount of short haul air travel, we're gonna need to do so.

Sorry, that became quite a rant... Take the train, you'll enjoy it more.

J

--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2019, 04:45:03 pm »
Train travel shouldn't be an adventure, it should be normal, and common. It should have transparent pricing, and sensible conditions. Unfortunately too many train companies think that what we want from travel is the airport experience. You see this with the likes of Eurostar, and Thalys.
It started long before that with the TEE, which was first class only.

Quote
In Canterbury the departure board lists Ramsgate, Margate, and London. Even in the likes of Kings Cross, the number of destinations is limited. Yet, you walk into Utrecht centraal, and a long side the departures for Maastricht, and Rotterdam, and Den Helder, there's also the train to Moscow, and Prague, and Frankfurt, and Zurich, and occasionally Paris. Travelling by train you can walk in, and buy a ticket from the machine and just get on any of these trains (tho it's quite expensive if you don't book in advance). If they could fix the pricing, this is how rail travel should be. It would also help if they brought back the night trains. If we are going to reduce the amount of short haul air travel, we're gonna need to do so.
To an extent this is geographically inevitable, it's the result of living on an island with only one rail connection in/out. And it's not quite that easy anyway. When I lived in Poland (various cities), I considered getting the train for visits to UK, but while it was easy to get to Berlin (or Moscow, Kiev, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, I think even Bucharest), having to change there and again in Brussels made it slower than the coach and more expensive than flying (and this was before the likes of Ryanair had discovered Eastern Europe).

Anyway, getting back to Cologne: I took the Eurostar then a regional express type train from Brussels. All went very well on the outward journey and had a great time with German friends. On the way back, the Eurostar broke down not far out of Brussels. Can't remember the cost but can't have been much as I was a penniless not-quite student oaf. But that was twenty years ago, so not terribly relevant.
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2019, 11:40:58 pm »
I'm not sure comparing Canterbury to Utrecht is a particularly good comparison.
Kings Cross to Utrecht still isn't that great either.

All the London Terminals except for Waterloo are really fairly small stations on the end of provincial lines. Waterloo is of course a fairly large station on the end of provincial lines.

Utrecht Centraal is a fairly important through station on the European rail network as well as the Dutch.
The only Dutch city with two major stations (until Amsterdam Centraal is taken off the main route with the Zuid station taking over) is Den Haag with Centraal and "Hollands Station" (which is normally shortened to HS which is confusing these days as HS usually means High Speed, and it's not on the HS network!)

If you wanted to find a similar level of traffic to Utrecht for London, you'd need to take all of the Terminals as a single destination, you then start changing the destinations of the boat trains, from the ports they terminate at to where the Sail-Rail tickets ultimately take people, Holyhead to Dublin, Harwich to Hoek and Hull to Zebruggee. 


You could compare Canterbury to Den Helder I suppose, but the way the Dutch Intercity network is set up to run through the country, you still get a fair bit more destinations.
Taking a Den Helder train from Alkmaar to Maastrict, I got on as commuters that were going to work in Alkmaar were getting off, with commuters heading mostly to Amsterdam, where the commuters swapped with Utrecht bound commuters, where they swapped with Eindhoven bound, where it was eventually just me and a few others heading south.

Whereas the UK network is largely about shuttling people from commuter towns to the cities and back rather than running through.


quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2019, 11:00:25 pm »
I'm not sure comparing Canterbury to Utrecht is a particularly good comparison.
Kings Cross to Utrecht still isn't that great either.

Depends what you're trying to compare. The station nearest where I was living, vs the station nearest where I was living... That was the comparison I was trying to make.

Quote

All the London Terminals except for Waterloo are really fairly small stations on the end of provincial lines. Waterloo is of course a fairly large station on the end of provincial lines.

I often feel that London would benefit from a London Hbf. Changing trains in London relies on the circle line, which is just a massive faff.

Quote

Utrecht Centraal is a fairly important through station on the European rail network as well as the Dutch.
The only Dutch city with two major stations (until Amsterdam Centraal is taken off the main route with the Zuid station taking over) is Den Haag with Centraal and "Hollands Station" (which is normally shortened to HS which is confusing these days as HS usually means High Speed, and it's not on the HS network!)

If you wanted to find a similar level of traffic to Utrecht for London, you'd need to take all of the Terminals as a single destination, you then start changing the destinations of the boat trains, from the ports they terminate at to where the Sail-Rail tickets ultimately take people, Holyhead to Dublin, Harwich to Hoek and Hull to Zebruggee.

It's the diversity of destinations I was referring to, and the corresponding realisation of just how close everything is. Just getting to an airport from Canterbury takes bloody ages, at the right time of day, Brussels airport is faster by train than Heathrow...

The geographic compression has got even greater in the last year as not only has it occurred to me that I can just hop on a train to some of these far flung locations, but actually I can ride my bike there...

Quote
You could compare Canterbury to Den Helder I suppose, but the way the Dutch Intercity network is set up to run through the country, you still get a fair bit more destinations.
Taking a Den Helder train from Alkmaar to Maastrict, I got on as commuters that were going to work in Alkmaar were getting off, with commuters heading mostly to Amsterdam, where the commuters swapped with Utrecht bound commuters, where they swapped with Eindhoven bound, where it was eventually just me and a few others heading south.

Is Den Helder more like Margate? If you wanted a more accurate like for like comparison, then Canterbury would be a bit like Alkmaar...

Quote

Whereas the UK network is largely about shuttling people from commuter towns to the cities and back rather than running through.

There are many many many many things wrong with the UK train network... That is just one of them...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2019, 12:57:29 am »
I've never made it to den helder, if it's anything like Hoorn then it's nothing like Margate!

Canterbury to alkmaar is probably a good comparison,

Sent from my BKL-L09 using Tapatalk


hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2019, 10:34:53 am »
Thanks for the advice everyone. As much of an adventure as it sounds not sure I fancy it with the two monkeys. Think I'll end up driving Brexit not withstanding!
It really isn't an adventure, it's catching one train and changing onto another.

Having been the eldest of four or five monkeys on long overland continental train and boat journeys, I can see where Johnny is coming from re 'adventure'.

Keeping hold/track of luggage, monkeys and their essential comfort toys is challenging at the best of times!

(My siblings are 1.4, 3.2, 5.5. 8.8 and 19 years my junior. Grandparents were in Copenhagen. Alien Danish Mum and British Dad. Dover, Ostend, Köln, Puttgarden, Rødby etc.) Bridges and tunnels came after our trips. Sister left dolly on ferry and Dad nearly missed onward train retrieving it. Had to shepherd 3 sibs through Passports while Alien mother went through with the Aliens, etc.)

Re: Train to cologne
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2019, 01:10:48 pm »
It would also help if they brought back the night trains. If we are going to reduce the amount of short haul air travel, we're gonna need to do so.


The night trains do run, Railjet of Austria now operate them but they only go as far north as Dusseldorf these days. When they went from Amsterdam it was far more useful. For me it's still quite simple getting the Harwich Hoek Ferry (I live in Ipswich so it's simple train down to Harwich but you can get the Dutch Flyer tickets from London), a change to Arnhem and then onto Dusseldorf. Central/Southern Europe awaits in only 24 hours.

Yes you can fly there in 3 hours but you've spent three hours getting to the airport, checked in two hours early and an hour+ transit at the other end so you lose a day anyway. All this with all the hassle that comes with going to an airport and being treated as a number with a weight unit against you rather than a person.

Trains a just more enjoyable. And I'm a plane spotter and aviation enthusiast!
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped