The Epic Railway Journey

England to Sweden by Train

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Day 3 - Hamburg to Göteborg

31st July: 0928 Hamburg to København:
Hamburg - Puttgarden 153km, Rødby - København 183km

German flag Danish flag
IC3 - interior IC3 at København

Our train, the "Jens Nielsen", draws into Hamburg just a few minutes before it was due to depart, to a chaotic platform. Although we have first class reserved seats, we have to struggle to get to them through all the backpackers in second class. However, once aboard the Danish IC3 train (no relation at all to the splendid German ICE3!), we find it clean and comfortable (even if the toilets are beginning to suffer a little from overuse by the end of the journey) and - what we think is a particularly nice touch - a pot of hot coffee left at the end of the first class saloon, from which you can help yourself throughout the journey. A trolley service of snacks is available, but the main refreshment facilities are provided on the ferry. Yes, there is a short sea crossing involved, but since the train actually goes onto the ferry and you do not even have to leave your seat if you do not wish to, we decided that this would still satisfy our steel wheel on steel rail criterion.

This route, the so-called "Bird's Flight Line" between Germany and Denmark is an extremely popular tourist route at all times of the year. There is a serious problem with capacity on this route (hence the scrimmage with the backpackers!), with no possibility of relief in the short term: it is simply not possible to run longer trains because they would not fit onto the ferry, nor is it possible to run more trains because of extensive single line sections. Proposals are in hand for a fixed rail and road link to replace the Puttgarden (Germany) to Rødby (Denmark) ferry (the last remaining of several ferry links that used to interrupt the route), but this must still be some years away. There is an alternative overland route via Odense, used by freight and overnight sleeping car trains, but it is much longer and has traffic constraints of its own.

Puttgarden to Rødby ferry

The short break on the ferry is actually quite enjoyable, with time to stretch the legs and purchase a quick snack. Once in Denmark, we are then literally island hopping, with some very fine views, on the way to København, which we reach just a few minutes late. However, we have plenty of time before our onward connection and on this occasion we are able to avail ourselves of the left luggage facilities, so we take a little stroll around the city centre as a taster for a longer visit on our homeward journey.

1652 København to Göteborg: 350km

Danish flag Swedish flag
X2000 - interior X2000 at Göteborg

The Swedish X2000: another sleek, modern and impressive train, even though not as strikingly so as the German ICE3. On leaving København, we have the whole of the first class accommodation to ourselves! We are offered a drink, and told that our food will be served shortly after Malmö. We are also offered a pair of headphones each, so that we can enjoy the on-train audio system. The train calls at København Airport, but nobody gets on or off; in spite of the apparent convenience, this does not appear to be anywhere near as busy a station as Schiphol. Maybe it is just a bit too new to have generated a serious amount of traffic yet.

We cross the Øresund by the new bridge, with impressive views both sides. Quite a few more people board at Malmö, and the stewards very soon bring our snack - a very tasty Swedish style open sandwich. They return frequently throughout the journey with coffee, cold drinks, fruit and chocolates. Everything is free except for alcoholic drinks: I under­stand that Swedish law prohibits them from giving away alcohol.

The coastal scenery on our journey north is delightful. Our progress is a little slow because of engineering works on the track, but when the train does get a chance to show its paces, the rapid ride is extremely smooth. Only on the very sharpest bends do you become aware that this is actually a tilting train, and then only because the horizon appears to be at an odd angle; there is very little sensation of movement.

Because our scheduled arrival in Göteborg is fairly late in the evening, we hope to get something more substantial to eat, so we investigate the Bistro car. Disappointingly, although there are a few hot snacks on offer, it is really little more than a buffet car, so we decide not to bother. As it turns out, we have no difficulty in getting a meal at our hotel when we arrive.

Eventually, the train runs close by Göteborg's historic Lion Tower and into the Central station: about 20 minutes late, owing to the engineering delays, for which there are profuse apologies from the staff and keen attention to those who may have ongoing connections.

Göteborg has a very good tram system (of which more shortly) but, as we are newly arrived at a quiet time of evening in a strange city, we decide to compromise our principles on this occasion and take a taxi to our hotel.

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