The Anonymous Widower

These New Sleeper Trains Are Basically Luxury Hotels On Wheels

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Time Out.

French startup; Midnight Trains, aims to update sleeper trains for the twenty-first century.

What Routes Are Being Offered?

The Time Out article says this.

Centred around Paris’s Gare du Nord train station, routes will stretch as far as 800km in a star shape across Europe, encompassing major destinations such as Madrid, Lisbon, Porto, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen and even Edinburgh.

A map on the Midnight Trains web site, shows these individual routes.

  • Paris and Barcelona
  • Paris and Edinburgh
  • Paris and Madrid
  • Paris and Porto
  • Paris, Brussels, Hamburg and Copenhagen
  • Paris, Brussels, Hamburg and Berlin
  • Paris, Milan and Venice
  • Paris, Florence and Rome

I’m sure this list will grow.

Some Detailed Looks At Routes

I shall give a few notes about some of the proposed routes.

Paris And Barcelona

Crows would fly 831 kilometres or 516 miles.

I have gone by train between Barcelona and Paris twice. One trip is described in From Barcelona To Paris.

It looks like it takes 06:40 in a TGV without a change.

The service leaves from Barcelona Sants and arrives at Paris Lyon.

Time Out says journeys are centred on Gare Nord, so could the train access that terminal from the South?

An eight or nine hour sleeper journey would probably be convenient for train operators and passengers.

But I suspect that this route may need trains that can take advantage of the high speed nature of much of the route.

Paris And Edinburgh

Crows would fly 873 kilometres or 543 miles.

  • I have gone by train between London and Edinburgh many times and four-and-a half hours would not be an unreasonable time.
  • I have also used  Eurostar between London and Paris many times and two-and-a-quarter-hours would not be an unreasonable time.

An eight or nine hour sleeper journey would probably be convenient for train operators and passengers.

The most efficient way could be for the Paris and Edinburgh service to operate would be with a reverse at St. Pancras.

  • It could be at between one and three in the morning, as sleeper trains run slower than high speed services.
  • It would take about ten-fifteen minutes for the driver to change ends.

Would they be allowed to pick up passengers on the way through London?

  • I doubt they would be able to do this universally, but there must be a market for passengers needing to get to Edinburgh or Paris early in the morning from London.
  • During the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, on one day, I used the Caledonian Sleeper to return to London. It was packed and a sleeper train leaving for Paris and Edinburgh might pick up a substantial number of passengers after sporting or cultural events or business that finished late in the evening.
  • Timings could be arranged, so that both the Edinburgh and Paris legs were sufficient for say four or five hours sleep.

Caledonian Sleeper would probably object. But competition of this nature is often mutually beneficial.

There is also an alternative fully-electrified route that avoids the reverse at St. Pancras.

It winds its way through East London between Barking and Holloway using the North London Line.

It is feasible, but wouldn’t have the commercial advantages of a reverse in St. Pancras.

Would the Paris and Edinburgh services call at other stations?

The Lowland Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh and Glasgow calls at the following other stations.

  • Watford Junction – Pick up Northbound – Set down Southbound
  • Carlisle – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Carstairs – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Motherwell – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound

Would the Midnight Trains do something similar. Perhaps they would call at the following stations.

  • Stevenage – Pick up Northbound – Set down Southbound
  • York – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Newcastle – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound

This would create three extra sleeper services.

  • Paris and Newcastle
  • Paris and York
  • Stevenage and Edinburgh

Commercially this must be attractive, as it would require no extra rolling stock.

I also suspect providing Customs and Immigration for outgoing passengers at York and Newcastle would not be an expense, that made the stops unviable.

Paris And Madrid

Crows would fly 1057 kilometres or 657 miles.

In 2014, I used trains from Madrid to Paris and on to London, which I wrote about in From Madrid To London.

That was a trip that I planned on the move, so it could have been done faster.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Barcelona – 6:41
  • Barcelona and Madrid – 2:45

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. A direct service without a change at Barcelona must be possible.
  3. Would this service pick up and set down at Girona, Barcelona, Camp de Tarragona and Zaragoza?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

But when I look at the route map on the Midnight Trains web site, their route between Paris and Madrid appears to go further to the West.

I have a strong feeling that they are proposing to use the currently closed route via the iconic Canfranc station.

But then Wikipedia says this about plans for the future of the route and the station.

The government of Aragon has long held various ambitions for the rehabilitation of the station. Plans have been mooted to redevelop the main station building into a hotel, which would involve the construction of a new station beside it to replace it. There have been explorations of options to reopen the through line as the “western trans-Pyrenean line”; this initiative would reportedly involve the assistance of the government of Aquitaine, the adjacent French region. In February 2020, it was announced that funding from the European Union had been made available for the purpose of reopening the through line and relaunching international services.

Note.

  1. A regular rail service between Pau in France and Zaragoza in Spain would tick a lot of boxes.
  2. On the French side the Pau-Canfranc railway is a fifty-eight mile electrified single-track, standard-gauge railway.
  3. On the Spanish side, the railway is Iberian gauge.
  4. It would probably be a useful freight route.
  5. If it could take a TGV, it would enable faster TGV links between France and the Iberian nations.

It looks to me, that if it was properly rebuilt, it could be a useful standard gauge line between the high speed networks of France and Spain.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Pau – 4:24
  • Zaragoza and Madrid – 1:35

If Pau and Zaragoza could be achieved in three hours, times would be as good or better, than the Barcelona route.

Paris And Porto

Crows would fly 1213 kilometres or 753 miles.

This is a challenging one to find the route, but I did find a current time of just over fourteen hours with lots of changes.

But from Zaragoza, there does appear to be a route via Burgos and Vigo.

It could be up to sixteen hours, so would probably be the better part of a day.

Could the Madrid and Porto services, provide a service to and from Canfranc?

Consider.

  • Canfranc station is a spectacular station in the Pyrenees.
  • It has been blessed by St. Michael.
  • I suspect many people would like to visit.
  • The station might be converted into a hotel.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see innovative arrangements in the Madrid and Porto services, so that passengers could have a visit to Canfranc.

Paris, Brussels, Hamburg And Copenhagen

Crows would fly 1027 kilometres or 638 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Brussels – 1:32
  • Brussels and Hamburg- 6:49
  • Hamburg and Copenhagen- 5:06

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. When I went between Hamburg and Copenhagen by train, I used the Bird Flight Line which involved a train ferry, where passengers had to get on the ship for the crossing. I described that trip in From Copenhagen To Hamburg By Train.
  3. The ferry is being replaced by a tunnel by 2028.
  4. It looks like it might be possible to go between Hamburg and Copenhagen by a longer route further to the North.

An eleven or twelve hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

I was initially surprised that the service didn’t call at Amsterdam.

  • But then there are a lot of big cities between Brussels and Amsterdam; Antwerp, Rotterdam, Schipol Airport and The Hague.
  • There is generally one train per hour (tph) between Brussels and Amsterdam.
  • Paris and Amsterdam are only 3:20 apart by Thalys, so perhaps there wouldn’t be many takers for a sleeper train.
  • It would appear that the best route between Paris and Hamburg is via Brussels and Cologne.

From friends in the area, I also get the impression, that it would take forever for the Belgians and the Dutch to decide on the calling pattern.

Paris, Brussels, Hamburg And Berlin

Crows would fly 876 kilometres or 545 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Brussels – 1:32
  • Brussels and Hamburg- 6:49
  • Hamburg and Berlin – 1:36

Note that all times are given in hours:minutes.

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

I was initially surprised that the service didn’t call at Cologne.

  • Thalys runs a high speed service between Paris and Cologne.
  • DB runs a high speed service between Cologne and Hamburg.
  • NightJet runs a sleeper service from Brussels and Cologne to Austria.

It could be that the demand isn’t thought to be there.

Paris, Milan And Venice

Crows would fly 845 kilometres or 525 miles.

I have done much of this route before and wrote about it in From Novara To Paris.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Milan – 7:22
  • Milan and Venice – 2:29

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. Would this service pick up and set down at Turin and Verona?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

Paris, Florence And Rome

Crows would fly 1106 kilometres or 687 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Turin – 5:42
  • Turin and Florence – 3:00
  • Florence and Rome – 1:36

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. Would this service pick up and set down at Turin and Verona?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

What Rolling Stock Will Be Used?

In recent years sleeper train sets have been ordered as follows.

  • Austrian Railways from Siemens.
  • Caledonian Sleepers from CAF of Spain.

But as Midnight Trains is a French Company, I suspect the train order could go to Alstom.

On the other hand because of European procurement rules and quality, the order could go to CAF.

The CAF Mark 5 Coaches are capable of running at 100 mph and there are pictures in On The Caledonian Sleeper To Glasgow.

I do wonder, though if we’ll see a radical design, which is different to current locomotive-hauled sleeper trains.

  • Electrical multiple unit rather than locomotive hauled.
  • 125 mph capability, which could be useful on some routes.
  • A fleet of identical train sets.
  • Ability to use all the voltages on the routes.
  • Ability to work in pairs or singly dependent on the needs of the route.
  • Ability to split and join automatically in a station.
  • Ability to use the signalling on all routes, including high speed ones.
  • The trains would be built to be suitable for all loading gauges on the routes served.

Note.

  1. Given that French-designed Class 373 trains used by Eurostar, could trundle all over South London into Waterloo, I don’t think it will be difficult to design a train, that fitted the Edinburgh service.
  2. Get the design right and there could be other customers.

They would be true Pan-European trains.

When Will The Trains Start Running?

2024 is the date given by Time Out and the Midnight Trains web site.

Conclusion

I like the proposed service.

These are reasons why.

The Proposed Level Of Service

When travelling for between eight and twelve hours, you need a quality train.

Over the years, I must have used sleeper trains run by Caledonian Sleeper at least twenty times,

When they have been good, they have been very good.

The new trains from CAF don’t need for anything more.

If Midnight Trains can match Caledonian Sleeper for quality on trains, service and food, they’ll attract passengers.

The Service Is Easy To Expand And Extend

Consider, these extra services could surely be added to the  proposed network.

  • Paris and Munich
  • Paris and Switzerland.
  • Paris, Nice and Genoa

If some of the plans to connect the UK and Irish railways come to fruition, there could even be a Paris and Dublin service in the distant future.

Consider, these extensions to the proposed services.

  • Edinburgh and Glasgow 1:12
  • Rome and Naples – 1:10
  • Barcelona and Valencia – 2:40

Note that all times are given in hours:minutes.

The Service Is Very UK-Friendly

Because of Eurostar, with its two-and-a-quarter hour journey between two of Europe’s largest cities, London and Paris can almost be considered twin cities with respect to long-distance transport.

Suppose a resident of Paris wants to go for a weeks holiday birdwatching in the North of Scotland, a late afternoon Eurostar to London and the Caledonian sleeper to Inverness is a very-feasible way to travel.

Suppose, I wanted to go from London to Berlin, in the future, I will be able to get a Eurostar to Paris and a Midnight Train to Berlin.

A Good Food Offering

I would hope that the food is of a quality nature.

I am coeliac and must have gluten-free food, like probably up to one percent of people.

I have found that the higher the quality of the food, the more likely it is, that the chef knows their allergies.

Before the pandemic, the best train food in Europe on a regular service was Great Western Railway’s Pullman Dining. But because of the restrictions, I’ve not tried it lately.

 

 

June 30, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. On You Tube look up La Petite Cienture Paris for details of the line round the city which connected the main terminii.
    Canfranc may be a non-starter because of the change of gauge.
    As you will have read in Modern Railways TGV lines are again being extended in France and new tunnels like the St Gotthard base and the Brenner base will enable the acceleration of day time services to the extent that many sleeper services will be unnecessary except for journeys of more than 8 hours. For a good nights sleep flying will be preferred if the alternative is 8 hours in a sleeper cabin for , say, Munich to Rome.

    Macron has a point about discouraging domestic air routes but the answer is unlikely to be sleepers even for Nice to Lille once the Nice -Marseilles TGV route is open.
    I expect you have seen ( on You Tube) the sleeper stock that was ordered for the Edinburgh -Paris channel tunnel service.It was not needed and was bought by the Canadians.

    Comment by Thomas Carr | June 30, 2021 | Reply

  2. Thanks! I used a German sleeper from Munich to Paris in 2013.

    The train was OK, but the customer service was appalling and gluten-free food was non-existent. If I would give the Caledonian Sleeper an overall 8/10 with the old Mark 3 stock, I’d have give DB no more than 4/10.

    No wonder, it wasn’t well used and they gave it to the Austrians.

    I use Munich regularly, but I’ve found a good three-star hotel by the station, just as I’ve found one at Hamburg.

    I wonder, if German hotels don’t get the business, that say Premier Inn do in the UK, as Germans just get in their Mercs and drive on.

    Comment by AnonW | June 30, 2021 | Reply

  3. The Class 373 Eurostar trains were used for a while on London to Leeds services so the southern section of the ECML is already suitable for classic compatible trains it depends on what work would be needed at the northern end of the ECML to allow this type of train to run through to Edinburgh or maybe beyond!?.

    If the trains do run into St Pancras International and then leave for Europe or Scotland then if tge time could be brought forward to nearer 11pm then a market for boarding passengers to Europe could be developed allowing passengers to leave late at night and arrive refreshed in the morning ready for a days skiing….

    As for the covid19 virus well it could actually work in favour of rail travel longer term as passengers get far more space on trains and a degree of isolation on sleeping trains compared to planes where passengers sit more closely than on commuter trains !

    The famous crossing between France and Spain was covered by Michael Portillo in his continental rail journeys .

    Comment by Melvyn | June 30, 2021 | Reply

    • The problem with the Eurostars to Leeds was that they bashed the hell out of the overhead wires. That’s all been uprated since and it’s stopped going up and down like a whore’s drawers.

      Comment by AnonW | July 1, 2021 | Reply


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