Swiss Railways train in Zurich Station
BY INTERRAIL & FERRY FROM BRIGHTON TO CORSICA
It is fairly easy to get from London to one of the 3 main ports of Bastia, Ajaccio & Calvi within 24 hours. This is done by taking a Eurostar to Paris, then a TGV to Marseille, Toulon or Nice and then an overnight ferry. These routes also have day ferry crossings, depending on the time of year and your destination in Corsica.
If you want to spend more time getting there and back, you have a whole range of other possibilities by using an Interrail Pass, as you can also catch ferries to Corsica from Savona, Genoa and Livorno in Italy. Interrail gives you a wide choice of possible stop-overs on both the outward and return journeys. This is what I did in September 2023, with a stop-over in Karlsruhe (DE) on the way out and in Lucerne (CH) on the way back.
My first outward leg was from Brighton to Karlsruhe in Germany via London St Pancras and Paris. I took a mid-day Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord which should have given me about 1 hour to connect with a French TGV from Gare de L’Est to Karlsruhe. Normally, this would be an easy 10-15 minute walk between the 2 stations in Paris. Unfortunately, due to an object on the track, the Eurostar was held for an hour at Lille. As I knew that I would then miss my connection for Karlsruhe, it was fairly easy to find the train manager in the Café Bar and get my ticket endorsed to confirm the delay. Upon arrival at Gare de L’Est, I then managed to catch a fully reserved a German ICE, leaving 2 hours later than planned and arriving in Karlsruhe at about 23.30. I quickly located one of the last vacant seats in the Restaurant Car and had an evening meal. Only after about one and a half hours did the train empty out at Forbach, when I could then move to a more comfortable seat.
Originally, I had planned to spend 3 nights in Karlsruhe. Unfortunately, with only 2 weeks notice Corsica Ferries cancelled my planned night crossing from Savona (IT) to Bastia. The only practical alternative was to take a night crossing from Toulon in France on the previous day. In the end, the journey from Karlsruhe was completed on time with connections made at Strasbourg and Lyon Part-Dieu. The Ferry Terminal in Toulon is a pleasant 30 minute walk from the station through the town. Upon arrival in Bastia next morning, I was pleased to see that the Ferry Terminal was next to the Bus Terminal and only about a 5 minute walk to the train station.
EXAMPLE ONE – THE FLEXIBILITY OF INTERRAIL
This is where Interrail, became such an asset for services where reservations & supplements are compulsory. Although I had to pay more supplements for new reservations from Karlsruhe to Toulon, I managed to get partial refunds from supplements paid for some of the trains I had to cancel from Karlsruhe to Savona. Due to worries about late-running Deutsche Bahn trains missing my connection at Strasbourg, I also reserved 2 different TGV services from Strasbourg to Toulon. If I had not had an Interrail ticket, the cost and hassle of changing my route to the ferry port would have cost a lot more.
Originally, I planned to return from Bastia to Savona (IT) by an overnight ferry, after spending a week in southern Corsica. Due to the ferry aircon system badly irritating my sinuses on the way out, I decided to re-book onto a day crossing from Bastia. The only available crossing was to Livorno (IT) instead of Savona as planned.
EXAMPLE TWO – THE FLEXIBILITY OF INTERRAIL
This is where Interrail, again became such an asset for services where reservations & supplements are compulsory. As I had booked onward travel 3 days later from Milan to Lucerne, this reservation was not affected by the change of plan. The only reservation that had to be changed was from a Savona-Milan service to a Livorno-Milan service. This was easily done using the user-friendly Interrail app which links in with Trenitalia and all the main train operators.
The journey from Livorno ran on time with a change from a Regional train at Florence onto a High-speed train for Milan. The Eurocity from Milan was in one of 2 11-car Swiss Intercity Stadler units joined together. It really is quite impressive watching these trains follow the “mountain route” over the Gotthard, as the high-speed tunnel was closed due to damage from the accident in August 2023. They are similar in layout to the trains used by Greater Anglia from London to Norwich.
The final journey involved taking one of the regular Swiss trains to Basel, where I had a brief stop for lunch. There is then a regular fast regional service to Strasbourg which runs every half-hour. Normally this service is very reliable, but it seemed to be disrupted by engineering works around Mulhouse. I did, however, make my connection onto an afternoon TGV to Paris (Est) and an early evening Eurostar from Paris (Nord) to London & then back to Brighton on Thameslink.
So long as the trains run roughly on time and you do not mind changing trains in Paris, Strasbourg and Basel this is an easy and quick way of getting to Switzerland from the UK. Why is this? All of the services you need to use run generally once every hour or more often throughout the day, 7 days a week. So, if you happen to miss a connection, it is not too bad as there will usually be another service fairly soon after.
Nigel Perkins – Jan 2023