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Photo: Caledonian Sleeper

Europe’s night trains are back on track

With growing concern over the environmental impact of flying, sleeper train services are set to experience a resurgence in popularity.

Overnight train routes have been in decline for some years, particularly in parts of Europe where low-cost carriers provide services.

The German rail operator Deutsche Bahn ended all of its overnight routes more than two years ago, selling off all its fleet of sleeper cars. Similarly, in France, the last Paris-to-Nice sleeping train service was discontinued in 2017.

However, a turn is possibly on the horizon, with new routes, cars and interest from travellers.

For example, Austrian Federal Railways has purchased Deutsche Bahn’s sleeping cars and has since reported increasing numbers of overnight passengers, even ordering additional units.

The Swedish government announced in March that it will fund the creation of overnight train services from Sweden to the European mainland and said it sees this low-cost, environmentally friendly travel option as key to “becoming the world’s fossil-free welfare country”.

Earlier this year, the well-known climate activist Greta Thunberg completed a speaking tour across Europe by train. This has helped bring the Swedish concept of flygskam, or “flight shame,” to a wider audience.

In fact, the difference between the environmental impact of rail and air travel can be quite significant, especially if, as in Austria, the electric trains run on power supplied by renewable means and no fossil fuels.

No-fly zone
Sleeper train service has fared better in regions with less competition from budget airlines.

The Czech train operator RegioJet introduced a new overnight line in 2017 with all-new cars travelling from Prague through Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains to the regional capital, a route that was later extended further east to the city of Humenne.

In late 2018, Austrian Federal Railways launched a new version of the Vienna to Berlin overnight route, which now travels through Wroclaw and other cities in southwestern Poland.

And the Serbian rail operator Srbija Voz recently modernised its overnight trains. Also there is also the new Caledonian Sleeper, offering upgraded sleeping cars for journeys between London and destinations in Scotland.

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Overnight trains from Berlin back on track

Sweden to launch night trains to Europe

“Shame of flying”: why Swedes are travelling less

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