Sweden seems perfectly set up to invest in overnighters, though, as the article notes some theoretical routes. Norway and Denmark would benefit too, I think; at one point I was investigating doing a trip that would involve going from Oslo to Copenhagen, and the only reasonable non-flight options were an overnight _ferry_ (which, all things considered, was surprisingly cheap, though I'm sure they gouge you on food and the on-ship shopping mall), or a 7 and a half hour train trip that'd take all day. If Sweden were running overnight service along that route through Gothenburg, connecting those countries, it'd be a pretty awesome way to get between places.
Ignoring the price, I'd choose an overnight ferry over an overnight train. The worst room on a ferry is probably as large as the best room on an overnight train.
The food menu for Oslo-Copenhagen is , the prices seem in-line with what I'd expect to pay at a restaurant in either city, though I don't know what the quality is like.
Until then, I wasn't so sure I wasn't in a rail yard or sci-fi movie.
I really liked the ferry experience. The ferry part is only about 40 minutes, but it's just enough time to have a quick meal in the on-board restaurant. Unsurprisingly it's not exactly a bargain price for a buffet, but it did break up the train journey nicely. It's pleasant to sit in a comfortable booth and stare out at the sea for a bit.
The pickings seemed pretty slim for vegetarians, though, which took me by surprise as nearly every restaurant these days has at least one vegetarian option. I ended up having some plain fries with ketchup.
Also a really cool view if you take the bridge from Denmark to Sweden, windmills in the sea almost as far as the eye can see.
Was the portion over the Oresund Bridge by bus then? It is indeed an impressive bridge. You get a good glimpse of it flying out of Copenhagen as well.
In contrast, overnight ferry has been mostly a delight. The room are smaller than hotel but much better than train, they don't shake (and I only appreciate a gently rocking movement of the ocean), and unless you buy the cheapest tickets you tend to get a mostly quiet night (the ac can be a bit loud through). The only drawbacks is that it is much slower than air travel, and the food prices in the restaurants are about as atrocious as those on planes and trains.
Sadly ferries is basically limited to traveling over the Baltic sea and Norway. I would very much like the option to travel to other costal nations in EU, even if it would take a day or two, but there simply isn't any lines.
I've been on an overnight snabbtåg (SJ) from Köpenhamn to Stockholm to Norrköping and it wasn't that bad (however, I was the only one in my [train] car).
Overnight ferries are quite nice, I'll concede, such as from Holyhead to Dublin or Dublin to Cherbourg; however, that falls to the wayside when the seas are quite rough. In that sense, I would prefer the rickety train to the heaving ship.
Then of course there are the local ferries like you mention. IMO, one of the best ways to visit Venice is to stay in Rovinj, Croatia and ferry over for the day.
Cell signals (at least in the Baltic) apparently travel super far over the water so you also get cell service for a freakishly longer time than you would expect. I think we had ours for about 3-4 hours after we left and 3-4 hours before we arrived back at shore.
Food was not great by any means, but edible.
The other kind of hilariously infuriating thing is that they wake you up at 7 am with an incredibly loud announcement that they are serving breakfast with an intercom piped directly into your room. And you can't turn it off. Was more funny than anything, though I can imagine that if it was a multiple-day endeavor that I could learn to hate it pretty quickly.
If you take a ferry up from Washington state to Alaska, they have sleeper cabins of course for the rich but you are also allowed to pitch a tent on top in a designated area.
Tents all go on deck, looks like duct tape is used.
Since the ferries travel mostly between the coast and islands, it isn’t anywhere as windy as the open sea.
Edit: If you're wondering what I find unfair about it, I'm mainly concerned about the lack of taxes on kerosine.
At least in Portugal, querosene is also exempt from the ISP (tax on the petroleum products). VAT and ISP make up more than half of the retail price of diesel and is almost 2/3 of the price of gasoline. Interestingly, the VAT rate of 23% is applied to the price with ISP included. So you effectively pay a tax on the tax. Finally, there's the fact that we're emitting free 2009/29/EC directive carbon allowances for aviation.
If they did't extempt kerosene, Spain would get its share of its tourists.
It's an informal subsidy at best in that local policymakers create these regional Airports in the first place, then struggle to find Airlines without large numbers of existing traffic. So they reach out to the likes of EasyJet and Ryanair, which are happy to book slots if the price is cheap enough. Their added volumes of traffic alone can make up for other costs an airport incurs (operations etc.) in that they can rent retail space for example. And it's a chance at attracting other carriers as well.
Every shopping mall (or new district) works the same way: Without anchor tenants (who attract large amounts of traffic) it's hard to get the venue off the ground. Which is why these anchor-tenants get huge discounts (for instance in German inner-city locations an ALDI gets to pay 3€/sqm, whilst the hair salon next door pays 20€/sqm).
The question of course is: Do these regions need Airports? Or is it morally flawed for urbanites to condemn flyover-people wanting to become better connected?
Especially since in many areas, long-distance air travel is pretty much a zero sum game: more small airports doesn't mean more people flying, it's just shifting people around between airports.
In truly remote areas I believe that's different and worth supporting (paying for infrastructure so people can travel more easily, when it'd otherwise be a day or two in the car to get to an airport), but e.g. in Germany there's a bunch of places that have good train connections to bigger airports, but regional airports with extremely limited air connections are still funded. E.g. one example I'm thinking of is less than 2 hours by train from 2 big airports, but apparently needs an airport that serves a few holiday flights each week. Every few years there's big announcements of new airlines coming in, which either get cancelled again after a few years, the airline goes bankrupt or ... While the running subsidies aren't that high, the initial investments were and IMHO would have been better used for other infrastructure.
Yes. But based on EU regulation this won't be allowed anymore in the near future. (2020? 2022?)
Yeah, the sweet spot is definitely 8+ hours en route.
I took a fantastic service from Nice to Paris which ran about twelve hours, which was plenty of time to sleep. It was weirdly cheap at €87 for a first-class sleeper car, or €157 including an extra €70 supplement to be guaranteed to be the only occupant in a room with four berths. The service started at Nice (8pm), made a few local stops to pick up more passengers, finally got to Marseilles (10:29pm), then ran nonstop from 10:30pm Marseilles to 7:38am Paris.
I had been expecting a very low-key cut-rate service designed for locals to travel comfortably overnight in dedicated beds but got a very modern train instead -- apparently operated by Russian Railways (RZD) with 2014-built passenger carriages that RZD also uses for their Paris to Moscow service (same equipment as the "sleeping cars" shown here). The onboard shower was an unexpectedly nice touch and it was an awesome ride.
Sadly the train I took no longer exists -- when I took it in July 2016, the French government had already begun to withdraw subsidies for the service (https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/may/10/france-waves-... , https://www.seat61.com/lunea.htm ) and it vanished.
The logistics can work out really well. My calculus was that (1) I was in Nice visiting family and wanted to stay as long as possible, but I needed to catch a 10am flight out of CDG the next day; (2) it would have cost €300+ to book a flight NCE-CDG and an airport hotel, and departing the city center at 8pm let me see the city for longer than heading to NCE in the late afternoon.
Unclear if it was a good deal from a point of view of national priorities. My trip kept one person from taking one domestic flight -- is that a good deal considering the externalities of shorthaul plane rides versus train rides? I have no idea.
It left Florence (Santa Maria Novella station, in the centre) around 19:00-20:00 and arrived in Paris (Gare de Lyon) if I recall correctly around 9:30 the morning after.
The plane required:
1) being at the Pisa airport (which is a 1:30 hour train/bus away from the center of Florence) 1:30 before departure
2) roughly 1:30 boarding and flight
3) 15-30 minutes to collect luggage (if any)
4) 40-60 minutes from the Charles De Gaulle Airport to the centre of Paris
All in all 5-6 hours total.
Choosing the train (which - depending on the arrangement could also be cheaper, including the dinner, than the plane) was a no brainer for me.
It’s a shame that they killed off the dozen other night train destinations from here over the years. If Sweden and Norway open up as possibilities, I’ll be dragging the family up there the first sunny weekend.
Then again, I have also travelled the length of the Trans-Mongolian railway (St Petersburg to Beijing) and across the States (California to New York) by sleeper train!
On great way to do that is to buy an interrail pass:
I did it about 10 years ago when I was a student, I left the day before, with a backpack, a rough idea of the itinerary and a few tourist guide books, and visited in the course of 3 weeks Bruxelles, Bruges, Amsterdam, Lubeck, Copenhagen and Berlin (and a small stop in Cologne).
Definitely something I would recommend to any student in Europe.
At that point an American in Europe would ride the train as much as he could, but the Europeans I knew thought taking a plane was cooler and it was a good experience because the plane had competition from the train.
Try Middle Europe. Take a train from Prague to Vienna to Zurich and on to Paris .. or Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, I mean if you plan things properly, its a very, very comfortable way to ride around see Europe properly: slow enough to grok the landscape.
The ferries are also known as booze cruises since Scandanavia has such high alcohol tax/gov. monopoly on alcohol, people buy a ton of it from the duty free store on board.
I've been on a few of these ferries and remember what looked like locals buying suitcase carts full of beer and liquor. On the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn I met a nice couple who explained how it was cheaper to take a day trip to Tallinn to shop than it was to shop in Helsinki. Much like when Americans drive to the outlet stores.
If you get the cheapest tickets, some fights, noise, sex and/or vomit is something you'd expect... Of course you need to be very drunk to do that.
- get to the airport about 1 hour in advance - about 1.5 hour drive
- The flight with all the procedures takes about 2 hours
- All the exit procedures can take up to 0.5 hours easily if no longer
- Wait for a train and ride to the city on the train - about 1 hour.
- Once in the city get on subway and ride to destination - usually 1 hours as well.
Compare it to the train, the fastest one is 14 hours:
- 0.5 hours to get to the trains station in the middle of my hometown. (or less than 0.5 hours if you live near by)
- 14 hours laying down on a relatively ok bed with clean sheets
- BOOM! you're in the middle of Moscow
No check-ins, luggage management, no nothing.
6pm you lay down on a bed, have a much, read a book, go to sleep and next morning you wake up at 7 am, do your morning rooting and at 8 am you're almost in the middle of the city.
I take this train over a plane any day. The only problem with that is that it twice or more as expensive compared to plane tickets.
I also remember that it was always a painless experience. My mother, who is usually rather anxious, never really worried about the train rides, whereas airplane trips now freak her out because of all the crap that surrounds them.
I miss that sort of access to train transport in the US. It just doesnt feel as good to travel by train in California as it did in Russia.
RZD started checked luggage recently.
BTW, "The Man in Seat 61" has lots of info on it:
My issue was more with recent tickets I’ve seen being pretty expensive.
That train departed late evening, got us there in the daytime. I figured if I'm paying to sleep, I might as well be moving. I only wish that there was bunks on that train.
I took the sleeper from Stockholm to Kiruna in Lapland not too long ago. Definitely takes a while but it was a really nice experience!
In Western Europe, low-cost flights and buses essentially won the market.
But there are not as many direct flights between Central and Eastern European cities, and the roads are often not that good, either.
Therefore, in any direction from Budapest overnight trains are still very popular, and in countries like Ukraine it's probably the single most important way to travel long distances.
The overnight trains in Central and Eastern Europe are much cheaper, too. For instance, a seat in Budapest - Belgrad costs 15€, and a bed in Kiev - Lviv starts at around 8€.
Also, the launch of Polski Bus (a localized Megacoach) a few years ago means you can get between Poland and various Central European destinations for as little as 5€, again cheaper than the train.
P.S. Polski Bus has been absorbed into Flixbus.
Last time I checked the only way to have a 9:00 meeting in the center of Copenhagen, leaving from Aalborg (400km away) is by leaving at 23:00 the day before. It's a 6.5 hour train ride. Flying is 20 minutes and you have multiple departures and airlines every morning (granted you have to be at the airport 20 minute early and it a 30 min trip for the airport to the center of Copenhagen).
When people talk about how great trains are in Europe, I assume they never had to used them. Trains absolutely suck, they aren't fast enough, not frequent enough and they are expensive. It cheaper and faster to fly or drive.
When people generalize across Europe, which you've just done, it should often be ignored. They tend to pick the best or worst examples.
Denmark (and Greece) have the least favourable geography for land transport. That favours flying, but doesn't mean flying from Nuremburg to Berlin is necessarily the best option.
Norway would like a word with you there. Denmark’s got a lot of annoying coastline but at least it’s flat, small and relatively densely populated. One of the things I miss most here on the Norwegian west coast is the lack of useful rail connections.
At the same time, I was delighted to travel with trains in Czech Republic when I lived there for one year. Not sure about other Eastern European countries.
It sounded much better to me than spending an actual day commuting to/from far away airports and waiting in queues.
Unfortunately such train does not exist, but neither does the platform that would allow searching and booking such trips across Europe.
There's no official (government/public run) website, so Seat 61 is probably the best resource.
You had to lookup the schedule on another website (oui.sncf) to do the booking.
Then Iberia airlines kept showing a different date at the top menubar, which was a day before what I was actually booking. Thankfully the date in the body was correct.
Edit: 1994! The page: https://www.remote.org/frederik/projects/railserver/history.... , and it was just an email address where you could send an email with a special syntax
The (German) how it worked page is even more fascinating: https://www.remote.org/frederik/projects/railserver/technik....
"If we are at step 4 for a long time, I'm probably personally at the machine and doing some tinkering.". I love that there's no separation between a developer and productive system.
Conversely, there are some trips that are best booked online on the web site of the national railway of a third country. For example, the site of the NMBS (Belgian Railways) knows about some Dutch fare reduction cards that the DB (Germany) doesn't know about, while it also knows about more German stations than the NS (Netherlands) does, so some (admittedly fairly obscure) tickets from the Netherlands to Germany can only be bought online on their site.
You wake up at Gare du Nord. At least you think it's Gare du Nord. This can't be Paris, surely?! You think to yourself. You quickly leave the train to try and find out what horrendous 3rd world shithole your wrong train has taken you to... You immediately step in dog shit. You try to hop on one foot and clean it off. An tour group barge past you and knocks you over. A commuter flicks his cigarette toward the floor, hitting you in the face. He doesn't see you. Or maybe he just doesn't care. You can't tell. 'I need to get back to civilisation' you think to yourself as you get up and dust yourself off. You go to grab you suitcase. It's not there. It's in the hand of a Romanian running off down the platform. Welcome to Paris.
https://www.rome2rio.com/ can come in handy as well.
> Rail doesn't seem prepared to international travel.
There is some truth to that. You used to be able to buy a single ticket from Lisbon to Kiruna, and travel leisurely all the way, knowing you would arrive there even if you missed a train somewhere; you could just take the next one. Nowadays, you can't. You'll have to split up your trip into several tickets, and if your first train is delayed and you miss the train on your second ticket, you cannot just jump on the next train with it: each ticket is treated as a separate trip.
Also, if you buy your ticket online, you will probably have to visit multiple web sites to buy the separate parts of your trip. International ticket offices in most countries on the continent can book an entire trip for you, but will charge you extra booking costs for that.
Actually, for really long trips it's probably best to buy an Interrail/Eurail pass.
Basically, my understanding is that countries subsidize air travel because it's good for the economy. Business and trade and all that.
Now that long distance train becomes more fashionable and comfortable (and it does! A 1st class ICE across Germany is like a moving office, wow), you could make the argument that (long distance) train should be similarly subsidized for the exact same reasons: a country with great international train connections will be better at trade. I wonder what would happen to price and availability if that would happen.
eg in the UK
>Air Passenger Duty (APD) for flights leaving the United Kingdom, and not for inbound flights. You are charged £26 per person on short haul economy flights to most of Europe, and £150 per person on long haul flights
Though you could argue that air-travel is not billed for the damage to the environment it causes in CO2 which is an indirect kind of subsidy.
An interesting future tech may be electric airliners eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zunum_Aero which could be cheaper than both and greenish.
finally the one issue that stands out, is that while European members use rail at over five times the average of Americans it only works out to approximately 600 miles per year versus 100. Urban transport usage is only double the average use in American but that is a 120 uses per year versus 60. 
Then to make it even worse by focusing so much subsidies and expense on trying to convince people to take rail it has caused much more freight to end up on roads. In the US over forty percent of freight goes by rail, in the EU it is around eleven percent. So for the limited gains of moving people by rail are slaughtered by the losses in resulting environmental and financial impact of moving freight over roads.
The truth is many have this romantic view of rail travel which is not supported by facts. Politicians in the EU, where the lines are almost all government owned, love rail because its very visible and people don't look below the surface to see the reality of actual cost, debt load, and lack of real usage.
I didn't mean subsidized in the sens of "tax money is given to airlines" I meant energy taxes for other means of transportation are much higher than for airplane fuel, which pay very low CO2 taxes compared e.g. to cars. That is: they are given an advantage through the
If planes paid for their CO2 emissions, we'd be closer to having the train be cheaper than flying.
Obviously we want both more passengers and freight to go by rail. To get there requires investments in infrastructure. Sweden being the most blatant example of where in the last 2 decades, rail infrastructure maintenance was the first thing cut to compensate whatever budget hole needed to be filled. It's now decades behind, and that's the main reason I can't take a train between Stockholm and Gothenburg and expect to make my meeting in time - instead I have to fly or drive this quite short bit, even though both the the time it takes and the cost is similar. The train simply isn't reliable enough to use to go to an important meeting.
> Then to make it even worse by focusing so much subsidies and expense on trying to convince people to take rail it has caused much more freight to end up on roads.
Actually EU laws forbid countries to favour certain industries. That is exactly why freight go by road instead of rail despite causing more traffic and pollution.
E.g. people commonly compare cheap plane tickets to the "regular" train ticket price, not to a savers ticket (which is bound to a specific train) booked early, which is more comparable to how you typically book a plane ticket. Similarly, the rebate cards quickly can make sense if you're not only traveling once. On the other hand, it certainly does happen that you can find cheap plane tickets on a connection where the cheap train tickets are already gone.
Time also depends, e.g. on where you're going in the destination town etc. If you take into account time to go to the airport, waiting and security time there, time to get from the airport into the city, ..., the train often isn't that much worse than it appears at first. Especially since e.g. a 6 hour train ride means I can sit down for 6 hours and work or nap, whereas the plane alternative is lots of short trips/wait times, which I personally find more stressful. I've flown inside Germany, but think it only makes sense in exceptional cases or if it's making a connection to an international flight.
Currently you can go to most places with 30-50€ if you play it right.
(It's important to cancel immediately though.)
The cost of airport security etc should probably also be thought of as infrastructure costs.
There's two viable, existing routes for trains between the Central Sweden and Northern Germany. One's through the Fehmarn Belt rail ferry, and another is the long way through Jutland. Both ways take a long time compared to the distance covered. Stockholm is already ~5 hours by fast train from Copenhagen -- this segment of the journey stays the same. It's after that things get complicated and slow. Operational issues remain with changing voltages and train protection systems (ETCS Level 2 will be built out in a few years), or with the ferry.
A Fehmarn Belt fixed link would be a boon for such a service, like the article says. But it remains to be seen whether that will be built.
The "new economy" made popular round the turn of the millennium didn't deliver on it's promise of solving everything imaginable, just by turning maintenance of public assets over to lowest bidder private entrepreneurs. Go figure.
Rome to Turin would have been fine, except the air conditioning barely worked, which would have also been okay except (unlike 20 years ago) the window only opened about an inch. We had been backpacking all day in the hot sun. If you have trouble sleeping when it's hot, and you're traveling during the summer, this is something to consider. It made the night pretty miserable. I can't imagine how bad this would have been in a 4 or 6 person couchette. The Italian train was about $200USD total for both of us.
For Budapest to Prague we were able to book one of the three deluxe sleepers with a private toilet and shower. The trains were both newer, cheaper ($150USD total for both of us), and the AC worked better. Whether the deluxe is worth it is a toss up. You'll get bounced around a lot in the shower (part of the charm?) and having the private toilet, while convenient, gives the whole room a vaguely gross smell similar to sitting near a restroom on a plane.
- Sleepers will not save you money vs a cheap hotel + day train (although the 4 or 6 person couchette might save a bit), and the trains shake and vibrate a lot.
- Booking tickets is a pain until you get used to it (for each new country). The "English" version of whatever train site is often about 60% English at best (cough, ItaliaRail...). The Hungarian website (MÁV-Start) is a UX disaster. But you can often book on the destination country site, as well as the departure country. Luckily, we were able to book on the Czech site (CD) instead.
- You will sometimes need a printed ticket that can be physically stamped for part of the journey. Check in advance.
- Sleepers on popular routes book up quickly. They often
either get very expensive or sell out completely at peak times.
- seat61.com is an absolute lifesaver.
Still, with all of the "challenges" there are tons of little charming elements about overnight trains: differences in the layout of the spaces, the adorable/offensive gendered gift boxes (I got a razor and my girlfriend got a pink sewing kit), disposable paper slippers that I ended using for 2 months...
Anyway, happy to answer any questions from my limited (but enthusiastic) experience.
Really? I thought all these locks can be opened from the outside by railway personnel using a "special key", which of course means that the thieves have access to that "special key" as well.
If you want to get into the Highlands it's a lot more convenient, too: Fort William is hours from a major airport.
Going from Edinburgh to London it's really useful as you end up right in the heart of the London.
The cooler night train story is what is going on in Asia -- lots of projects in the works such as an Istanbul-Baku luxury sleeper train and major new Chinese routes such as Dushanbe-Kashgar and Lhasa-Yunnan.
In Sweden a flight from the northern parts to the southern is about $100 and takes an hour. The train cost $100-200 and takes about 16h depending on where you depart from.
I believe a requirement for people choosing to take the train is that they add some facilities (you feel pretty nasty after 16h on a train) and reduce the price. Raising the price on flights won’t help unless it’s drastically, around 2-300%. And if you do this on domestic flights then nobody will afford international flights.
Couple of months back, I tried to buy a ticket to the car-train to Lapland (I can take the car with me to train in the evening, sleep in a cabin, wake up in the morning and set off for the remainder of the journey with my car). When booking the car slot, the booking system required me to enable flash and when it got started, it just rotated that thing on the browser window.
I got bored, checked out flights. In 5 minutes I had flight tickets, with extra bags paid, and a rental car, at half the total cost of what the car-train would have been. I returned to the booking window, it still had that rotating thing on the browser window. I closed the window and did not miss it.
The general problem is the lack of competition. Between two destinations you usually have the choice between multiple airlines, but for trains there is usually only one. Between malmö-göteborg-stockholm there is the fast train alternative but it is arguable if that actually serve as competition. With air-travel you got multiple airlines and multiple resellers.
Swedish rail operate like a monopoly, which is in my view the main reason why its both expensive and terrible at the same time.
The author meant to say "11-mile-long rail tunnel between Denmark and Germany" as Denmark and Copenhagen do not need to be connected with a tunnel since they are already quite closely connected.
You get what you pay for. There was probably an option of a 4-person compartment (2 double bunks), or perhaps even a first-class option with a two-person compartment. FWIW, I personally have never had a problem sleeping even in the 6-person cars; people are generally respectful of each other.
> with the passport checks at border crossings, it's difficult to get a good night's sleep.
Where was this with passport checks with border crossings? Were you somewhere in Eastern Europe? There is plenty of room for overnight trains within Schengen where passports are not generally checked at border crossings.
But before that, it was stop for Croatian exit controls, deal with Slovenian EU immigration, then Slovenian/EU customs, then Schengen once entering Austria.
A lot of interruption for an overnight train when travelling solo.
Then the equipment problems where I had to board a coach train and transfer to a bus before getting on the sleeper some hours later.
Don’t worry, MEPs won’t do anything more than talk about it.
To me, the 140EUR would be very much worth a private room, bathroom, and shower. It's travel + hotel, or some decent approximation. If you booked other forms of travel and an overnight hotel, you'd surely spend as much money and more time.
What trains have you found that offer this? As an American unaccustomed to such trains, I'd be super interested to try them.
> What trains have you found that offer this? As an American unaccustomed to such trains, I'd be super interested to try them.
Just FYI, we have those in America on Amtrak long-distance trains; the Bedroom and Bedroom Suite (on both Viewliners and Superliners) have these features, as does the Accessible Bedroom on Viewliners. Roomettes don't have the shower (or the bathroom, on Superliners.)
The only problem is that the schedule is kinda of aspirational. The train from NYC attaches in Albany, and the times often don’t line up.
When the economy is good, the westward tracks are busy with frieight traffic so you wait.
I enjoyed the trip though and got a lot of work done.
I’m built like a gorilla and airplane seats are often pretty tortuous for me.
The train experience is pretty cool in many ways, despite with the problems that exist. Even in NYC, I can show up 5m before the train leaves and be good to go, while airports have all sorts of bullshit to deal with. It’s a shame that the circumstances of the mid 20th century prevented us from having good, integrated transportation for passengers.
If there's a change in leadership and some changes in US mentality regarding trains vs cars/planes, there might be hope for Amtrack in the future. If not, then I would expect more services being eliminated until there's nothing left.
Sleeper cars are great—I have fond memories of travelling up the coast of Norway in 1990, as well as travelling in the seventies in Sweden with my father.
I mean yeah, the trains themselves are slow as shit and might not go where you want, but superliners and viewliners have some interesting accommodations.
- The 4 or 6 person compartments (couchettes) are quite cramped indeed, but the good part is they only cost 10 or 20 euros extra compared to a plain seat. https://www.vagonweb.cz/fotogalerie/SK/WSBA_Bvcmbz.php
- The actual sleeper wagons with 1 to 3-berth compartments cost more, with their prices around a hotel stay, but are quite comfortable in my opinion.
Sleeper trains to Scandinavia were a thing not so long ago. When German DB scrapped their CityNightLine system around year 2014, Copenhagen was being served with a sleeper train that had carriages to Basel, Amsterdam and Prague. The carriages were shunted between trains somewhere in Germany. It only takes few hours to reach Copenhagen from most inhabitated parts in Sweden - actually Copenhagen's airport is the main airport for many leisure travellers in Sweden. Nevertheless, a decade or two earlier there was a similar sleeper service that reached Stockholm.
I'm finding it hard to believe that sleeper services are not economically feasible since Europeans think of them quite fondly but of course, if they were feasible they would not have lost to discount airlines and even buses. Maybe sleeper trains could be operated more efficiently or marketed and priced more aggressively? In addition, it's currently a lot easier to buy a plane ticket than to plan a long railway journey and figure out which companies will sell the tickets.
There's still a Stockholm-Malmö-Berlin sleeper, though only in the summer. There's also a year-round Stockholm-Malmö sleeper, and in Malmö you just take a 20-minute ride by Öresund train to hop over to Copenhagen.
It was pretty hard to fall asleep on a slowly, but slightly rocking train, then add in other strangers you are sleeping around, and it makes it even less comfortable.
I ended up just sleeping in 30 minute intervals, woken up by the rocking of the relatively smooth train. I would imagine it might be a good experience if friends/family took a cabin together, but with strangers it's not very comfortable (although some might disagree). Additionally, being on the top bunk made me subject to wider rocking then the people below me. I can imagine the experience being terrible if you don't have completely silent bunkmates like I got lucky with.
I think it might catch the attention of people who haven't done it before, but I didn't think it was anything to write home about.
That sounds like a couchette (i.e. no real mattress, just a bunk). My experiences with those are also quite bad. A bed in a real sleeper cabin (with an actual mattress) is much more comfortable.
Early on I took day trains but they took so much time that I never had wiggle time and since the Deutsche Bahn got private they are notoriously late which meant that most of the time I wouldn't catch the last train from Copenhagen and needed to take a expensive taxi for the last hundred of kilometers late during the night after a 16 hour journey.
The weird thing is that the flights just go on time and even though it takes time to get to and from the airport it's possible to calculate the time when you will arrive, ect. which is really important with businesses. With Deutsche Bahn you basically never know if you will arrive on the day they promised or not.
I mean, I would have preferred to take the train, but I'm not going to pay more to get there slower...
If you could have a slightly faster train with first class airline interior and a matching, not too expensive, hotel on top of the train station it would be a competitive proposal. But while I can appreciate that people like to talk about trains on hacker news the story really is that the future isn't happening in Sweden. Rather we seem to be on a seemingly predictable path following countries like the US and the UK were we are incapable of making long term investments and everything of value is getting expensive.
> a expensive taxi
You should be able to get refunded for that, if you had a through ticket, and maybe even without a through ticket if you ask nicely (for travel to/from Germany, DB sells through tickets to Sweden via their website).
That being said, I remember taking the sleeper from Stockholm to Elsinore in Denmark as a kid. Boarding the ferry while on the train was pretty awesome to a ten year-old. :P
With trains there is no hassle of going to the airport, as they are mostly around city center. Also, I found people to be more friendly in trains, unlike in airplane, where most people have their headphones on, and do-not-disturb expressions.
But when you factor in all the hassles of air travel, the opportunity to arrive well rested, possibly with some work done, the city center to city center scenario is superior to air (because though travel time itself is shorter, there's all the security hassles, getting to the airport, checking into a hotel for a brief nap, etc).
Note: I can sleep through stops, equipment changes etc. I don't know if that is common or not.
There was a Wall Street Journal article about it recently.
Sorry the link is Apple News, but that's where I bookmarked it from: https://apple.news/AdFPGWf-GTmOabJK30Za0ZQ
"In Europe alone, several new affordable options have materialized too, running more utilitarian services (no guided excursions, just overnight schedules). In 2017, the United Kingdom’s Great Western Railway (GWR) relaunched the Night Riviera, traveling between London and Cornwall, one of England’s sunniest corners. Also in 2017, Italy’s Trenitalia-owned Thello debuted new sleeper cars with en suite showers on their Paris to Venice route. And in June 2019, Scotland’s Caledonian Sleeper will debut highly anticipated new cars with routes from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh and Highlander routes to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William with en suite showers, double beds and plenty of whiskeys in the bar car."
I used both of these trains as a student (late 2000s), so I'm not convinced that they weren't affordable before the relaunch.
I wish the EU would invest heavily in trains. There should be high speed and sleeper trains all over Europe. Single rail cars could have different destinations with automatic coupling/decoupling outside of cities. You can run trains easily on Thorium generated electricity, so the tech is future proof.
Cargo should also be moved to the tracks: https://www.cargobeamer.eu/
But it would be wonderful to have them restored and have international overnight services added. Hoping, with some skepticism, that the politics translate to reality here.
In many Major towns and along those routes can and do become developed upon. You then face noise factors that you did not have before in reintroducing night trains and for introduction upon new routes - more so potentially an issue.
Whilst night trains don't need to go full speed and for many, more viable for comfort and running costs to run them slower. But in area's of urban sprawl, and noise regulations can and will prove an issue in such usage. Which is a shame but a major consideration today.
But equally, many transport avenues are under utilised and overlooked. Canals for one were a big thing decades ago and all but now abandoned in many parts as a means of transporting goods. Which is a shame as sometimes you just don't need it moved as quick as possible.
"A sleeper is the most civilised, comfortable, and romantic way to travel... " https://www.seat61.com/sleepers.htm
Paris<>Venice sounds tempting.
Sure, airlines are faster, but the time to go in and out of the airport, security checks, boarding, etc... Your one hour flight easily translates into 3-4 uncomfortable hours.
With the train, it is usually downtown to downtown, just hop into the train and you are done. The journey may last 10 hours, but it is relaxing. Trains are much more comfortable than planes and sleeping is less of a problem, even with a standard seat.
With sleeping cars, you have what is essentially a moving hotel room, making your travel time effectively zero.
It was a great experience, maybe not the most comfortable, but I thought it was worth it.
Let’s say I want to travel from Stockholm to Hamburg. It will cost an arm and a leg. And it will require a ridiculous amount of layovers (5 IIRC, with bus travel between some trains) if you can a website to actually plan such a route properly.
It gets even more ridiculous the farther you travel.
2 transfers (although routes exist with only one), 11:37 travel time. Saver fare still available: 99,90 € (regular would be 225 €). And it's not the only connection tomorrow.
That said, your point somewhat stands: it really depends on the route if good options are available, I've also looked at trips that seemed possible but I couldn't make work at all. Biggest problem is often the lack of overnight connections/night trains, which mean you're limited to what you can do during the day unless there's one of the exceptions on your route. Not fun if the only overnight "connection" means spending 2:30am to 4:45am on some train station.
So I need to somehow know that Deutsche Bahn ofers the search capability. True two to three train changes, 90 to 220 euro.
I guess I’ll use bahn.de from now on (and learn some German :) )
If you search for "now", it's 22:52, so you may get odd connections as the journey planner tries to make an overnight journey.
Wow, how does a train go on a ferry? A full, long train with many cars? Then the ferry would have to be that long too, which seems unlikely. Or is it that one or a few cars of the train go on each trip of the ferry, and the cars are all connected back together when back on land?
Larger ferries on other routes have multiple rails next to each other, and long trains are split up across those.
>Larger ferries on other routes have multiple rails next to each other, and long trains are split up across those.
As the Wikipedia article says, there are very few routes left in Europe, although there used to be a lot.
reiseauskunft.bahn.de knows several languages, including of course English.
There are also some pan-European booking sites, like loco2.com, happyrail.com and a few others. But these don't always manage to find the saver tickets, so you're sometimes stuck with full price.
For non-residents, check out Eurail instead.
I've no experience with Eurail but Interrail worked fine back in the days and saved a lot of money, too. As horribly cliché as it may sound, it truly was a great eye-opening experience which made me appreciate Europe (culture, people, cuisine, geography, history, and so on) more than I did before.
My cousin (Indian) had toured Europe a lot, cheaply, back in the day, on Eurail, when working for the Indian Tea Board in Brussels for 3 years.
>I've no experience with Eurail but Interrail worked fine back in the days and saved a lot of money, too. As horribly cliché as it may sound, it truly was a great eye-opening experience which made me appreciate Europe (culture, people, cuisine, geography, history, and so on) more than I did before.
Cousin said the same about the experience.