After around 8 years of trains in bad condition and huge delays, Greece is getting back on track. TRAINOSE is now owned by the Italian railway Operator “Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane”, the new Thessaloniki-Athens high speed line is finished, and the future’s looking much brighter.
TRAINOSE introduced their new timetable in the past Monday (20/05/2019), slashing the times between Thessaloniki and Athens by about 1 hour. The fastest service (InterCityExpress) manages to do the trip in a little less than 4 hours. Let’s have a look at the journey:
The train we travelled (InterCity Express 51) on consisted of an electric locomotive (OSE Class 120) and 8 modern air-conditioned carriages, fitted with TRAINOSE’s new livery. There were two 1st class cars, one with 6-seat compartments, and one with 4-seat ones. The remaining carriages were open-seating ones, and a restaurant car operated by the Greek catering company “VENETI”. All carriages are fitted with power sockets, and the first class ones have wi-fi, limited-mobility resereved seats, and even a playground.
The journey from Thessaloniki to Athens takes 3 hours and 57 minutes, opposed to 5 hours required by car, and 6 by bus. The train only stops at the city of Larissa and Palaiofarsalos station, connecting with train to/from Western Thessaly. There are wonderful views of the Greek countryside throughout the entire journey, as the train speeds through the region. Starting at 6.27 in the morning from Thessaloniki, we arrived at Athens Central Station at exactly 10.22.
If you’re taking the morning express service (IC 51/50), taking a short nap would be useful if you have a long day ahead, as the early morning departure time can be rough. If not, a short walk to the restaurant car is recommened, where you can find several snacks/beverages and small meals. The prices seemed reasonable, and the quality was far better than the last time we travelled on an InterCity train. Free coffee and cookies are served in 1st class, and there’s also a food trolley passing, if you prefer to remain in your seat.
Tickets cost 45euros one-way on 2nd class, and 55 euros on 1st, but several discounts may apply. Return tickets come with an 20% discount which is added automatically when purchasing your ticket. Using the TRAINOSE app will give you a 10% discount, and you’ll have your digital tickets in a handy ready-to-scan form. If aren’t able to buy your tickets online, you can either use the ticketing desks or the (recently installed and still being tested) automatic ticket selling machines (just in Athens for now, being installed in the rest of the country soon.
Thessaloniki station is the largest railway terminal in Greece. It’s accessible from either the main entrance (from Egnatia avenue) or by the backroad (Margaropoulou str.). Inside the station you’ll find several small shops and cafes, aswell as many ticketing desks. An arrival approximately 15-20 minutes before your train’s departure is enough, as many times the information boards aren’t working, and you’ll find yourself panicking over which line your train is in if you’re not on time. If you’re arriving in Thessaloniki, I would suggest using the city’s bus lines (OASTH) to get to the centre of the town, as the taxis stationed there are not the most reliable ones in town. The bus terminal is located on the far end of the small “shopping centre”.
Athens station, despite being the capital’s station, is much smaller in size, and currently undergoing renovations. You can use the reliable metro system to get here or leave, taxi or bus. Inside the cramped station you’ll find a few ticket desks and a couple of cafes, and that’s about it. Accessing the trains is fairly easy (only a handful of platforms are being used), but be sure to ask any employee around to confirm your train as the electronic displays are often out of order.
In both Thessaloniki and Athens, keep an eye on your personal belongings, as you would in any major station, and don’t leave any luggage unattended. Luggage lockers are provided in both stations.