Europe is experiencing a rebirth of the sleeper train


“Transport is perceived by travelers as a commodity, but with night trains, the journey is as important as the destination”, explains Romain Payet, co-founder of Midnight Trains.

It’s not just private companies that are betting big on the return of European night trains, governments across the continent are also investing in the idea. The most notable initiative is the relaunch of the Trans-Europe Express, the first-class overnight service that connected 10 Western European countries at its peak in the 1970s. Service on the original route has been discontinued in 1995. The new project, a joint effort between Germany, France, Spain and Poland, is expected to align international timetables so that high-speed and night trains can more easily cross European borders and connect big cities like Paris, Warsaw, Munich and Barcelona. A proposed opening date, as well as a conceptual overview of the trains, have not yet been released.

The .BB Nightjet

Harald Eisenberger

Additionally, a growing number of European countries, including Austria, France and the Netherlands, are banning short-haul flights where train travel can be made instead. These bans have prompted existing rail companies to improve their connectivity and add longer overnight routes. Czech company RegioJet, founded in 2009, has extended its overnight offers from Prague to connect to Košice, Slovakia; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Split, Croatia; and Lviv, Ukraine. Amenities are best suited to budget travelers: For less than $ 50 one way, travelers receive a bunk in a shared bunk compartment and breakfast. In Austria, Ö.BB’s Nightjet has been offering night connections across Europe since 2016. From December 2021, new connections will link Vienna to Paris; Innsbruck, Austria, with Amsterdam; and Amsterdam with Zurich. For around $ 100, you can take the latter route – dubbed the “A-to-Z Line” – in a shared cabin that includes a welcome drink, toiletries, and a la carte breakfast.

In 2019, more than 1.5 million people traveled aboard the .BB NightJet, a number the company expects to double after the pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, said Bernhard Rieder, head of corporate relations. media for Ö.BB. The Nightjet has proven to be so popular that Ö.BB has ordered 33 new sleeper trains, worth over € 600 million, which will be presented in spring 2023. The order is based not only on ridership , but also on a commitment to the environment, said Rieder. He notes that on average, traveling with the Nightjet is 51 times more environmentally friendly than traveling by plane. I experience it firsthand: the carbon footprint of my trip from Inverness, Scotland, to London was responsible for five kilograms of carbon dioxide; if I had flown, the same trip would have freed nearly 200 kilograms.

On board the Caledonian Sleeper, as we stepped into witch hour, I lowered the blind and slipped into bed, happy and warm. When we arrived at Euston Station in London eight hours later, I woke up feeling exceedingly better than when I left; a rare event during the trip, but a virtual certainty on a night train.


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