Trains are great – greener, more spacious and generally a load less hassly than flying. Once viewed as belonging to travel’s past, rail is now starting to look a lot like the future. In the USA, a huge expansion of the Amtrak network is beckoning under the leadership of Joe Biden. And in Europe, some very cool plans have just been revealed for a whole new generation of sleeper trains.
Sleeper services, which operate overnight between major destinations, eliminate the main downside of train travel: the lengthy journey times. Like a red-eye flight on rails, you can board the train in the centre of one city and wake up in another, ready to grab an espresso and explore.
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Once numerous, Europe’s night trains have gradually been cut back over recent decades. But that trend is reversing, and we’re super excited about the announcement of at least six new European night train routes, launching over the next four years.
Five of these new routes are run by Nightjet, an international consortium of railway companies led by Austria’s ÖBB. The first, launching this December, will link Vienna, Munich and Paris. At the same time, Amsterdam and Zurich will get a new overnight ‘A-to-Z’ link, with a stop at Cologne. The new routes will link up to the Eurostar in Paris and Amsterdam, as well as existing night trains to Venice and Graz.
From December 2022, you’ll be able to catch another new Nightjet train from Zurich to Rome, via Milan. In December 2023, further new sleeper routes will launch between Berlin, Paris and Brussels (providing further links to Eurostar).
Finally, in December 2024, a route will open between Zurich and Barcelona. That’s a total of eight European countries linked by the new Nightjet routes.
Another new sleeper service from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin launches in June. The same company, Snälltåget, will also run night trains from Sweden and Denmark to several Austrian ski resorts.
Then there’s a very cool new route by new operator European Sleeper, working with Czech company Regiojet (which already offers a whole network of night trains in Central Europe). This one runs from Brussels to Prague, via Amsterdam and Berlin, and is set to begin in 2022.
Meanwhile, the new Brussels-Vienna overnight service, previously launched in January 2020 and temporarily suspended last year, is due to restart operations in May. The overnight service from Paris to Nice will also restart in April, with around ten brand new French night-train routes due to launch by 2030.
In short: your European travels over the coming years are going to involve a lot less hanging around at airports, and a lot more sashaying through railway stations. Needless to say, we’re into it. All aboard!
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