There’s nothing quite like falling asleep in one country and waking up in a completely different one - 2021 looks like being the start of a pan-European railway renaissance for night trains.
Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland agreed to boost night-trains on their rail networks last week, with a host of new services connecting cities across Europe due to launch at the end of 2021.
Transport ministers and rail firms confirmed at a special press conference that Vienna-Munich-Paris and Zurich-Cologne-Amsterdam services will launch in December 2021, in the first stage of what Germany has dubbed “Trans-Europ Express 2.0”.
In 2022, Zurich will be linked with Rome and in 2023, Berlin, Brussels and Paris will get sleeper services. Barcelona will join the network via Zurich in 2024. The routes had previously been suggested but today’s announcement confirms that planning is moving ahead.
Austria is at the forefront of the sleeper service renaissance, with the country's climate minister Leonore Gewessler saying that “the night train is one of the most environmentally friendly and comfortable means of transport. It has to become the transport means of choice.”
Swiss railways, which is keen to collaborate with its Austrian neighbours, said that “we are happy to contribute along with our colleagues in developing this new night train network so we can get people off planes and onto trains. We can make 30,000 cars redundant this way.”
The Swiss added during the announcement that in order to build a night-train network, a number of cities will have to become hubs, where feeder trains link other cities to the sleeper services.
According to the route map released by the four railway companies, these hubs are likely to be Brussels, Vienna and Zurich, as well as Berlin if more services are eventually added. Links with Scandinavia are likely to take off once new infrastructure is ready.
The UK will be linked to the network at Brussels and Paris by the cross-Channel Eurostar service and French rail operator SNCF is likely to relaunch its Paris-Nice service later in 2021.
According to the Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the EU executive wants to see high-speed rail use double by 2030 and triple by 2050.