WA travellers have discovered Europe rail travel in a big way. On some routes, train travel has particular advantages over air. It's often cheaper, there's no waiting around at airports for hours before the flight and it also allows the chance to see more of the countryside.
Railbookers' media and communications manager, Sheila Manzano, says the company has had a very good response from our readers.
Railbookers, based in London since 2002 but now with offices in Australia, offers bespoke holidays by rail in Europe and beyond.
While there are some set packages, holidays can also be based on individual plans. A spokesperson explains: "Our website gives some inspirational holiday ideas with itineraries we think offer the best combination of destinations and great scenic rail journeys. But it's your holiday - the choice is yours." Once travellers have decided where, when and for how long they want to go, an experienced Railbooker consultant will put together a tailor-made itinerary.
Railbookers has an Earlybird deal, with 15 per cent off some prices for trips booked before October 31.
As examples of set itineraries, its Essential Europe takes travellers to Amsterdam, Paris (two nights), Zurich (two nights), then through the Alps to Venice and Rome. It is from $1840 per person. Railbookers' six-night Essential Italy is from $650 and includes Venice, Florence and Rome. The London to Venice via Switzerland itinerary travels through the Gotthard Pass and includes a three-night stay in Venice. It is from $1070 each.
Visit railbookers.com.au or phone 1300 938 534.
Another booking company, Rail Europe, says that for the third year in a row, Australia is its top country for ticket sales. Australian travellers made up 25 per cent of Rail Europe's global sales from January 1 to June 30.
Overall, Rail Europe saw passenger numbers increase by 23 per cent over that period, compared with last year.
Richard Leonard, Rail Europe's manager Australasia, says there's increasing awareness of the convenience, comfort and efficiency of Europe's train services. "Rail travel has been on a consistent and healthy rise in Australia over the past few years," he says. Pre-purchasing tickets can save up to 60 per cent of the cost.
Mr Leonard is looking forward to new trains, new routes and improved services. A major development coming up is the launch of direct connections to the important European railways of Deustche Bahn and Trenitalia. For Rail Europe, see travel agents.
The new Italo high-speed rail network has 300km/h services between Milan and Napoli via Bologna, Florence and Rome, and there is a non-stop Milan-Rome journey that extends to Salerno. The first private rail company on the Italian high-speed network, Italo's new-generation trains are both complementing and competing with government-owned trains.
Each of Italo's new trains has 11 coaches and 450 leather seats, with individual electric sockets. Interiors are designed by Italy's Guigiario studio. Prices from Milan to Rome start from $65 for a 14-day advance purchase fare.
There are live bookings for Italo and tickets can be booked through Rail Plus, with fares available up to 50 days before departure. railplus.com.au