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

Bang Goes My Holiday!

There are various things I want to visit in Germany and I felt that the best thing to do would be go for a few days,

But the BBC are reporting these facts about travel to Germany.

  • From Sunday, people travelling from the UK will not be allowed to enter Germany
  • The decision is down to a rise in cases of the Indian variant in the UK
  • German citizens and residents, plus people with an exceptional reason, can still enter – but face a two-week quarantine

So bang goes my holiday!

I particularly wanted to go to Hamburg to take a few pictures of the Siemens Gamesa ETES trial installation in the city.

However I’ve been able to locate the installation on Google Maps.

Note.

  1. The wind-turbine towards the South-West corner of the map.
  2. Siemens Gamesa ETES trial installation is the prominent odd shaped building towards the South-East corner of the map, just below the shadow of the turbine.
  3. The installation seems to have lots of pipes connected to it.

This second map shows the installation from an angle.

 

This page on the Siemens Gamesa web site describes the installation.

  • The nominal power is 30 MW.
  • The capacity is 130 MWh.
  • 80 % of the technology is off the shelf.

The picture on the front says “Welcome To The New Stone Age”.

If anybody should find themselves in Hamburg with some time to waste, I’d be very grateful for a copyright-free image.

The installation appears to be just off the VollHöfner Weiden.

 

 

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Energy Storage, Health, Transport, World | , , | 2 Comments

Hydrogen Ambitions For The Port Of Hamburg

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Seatrade Maritime News.

This is the introductory paragraph.

In January Hamburg announced that Vattenfall, Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and municipal heat supplier Warme Hamburg had signed a Letter of Intent to develop a 100MW electrolyser to produce green hydrogen in the port area.

A few points from the article.

  • Hamburg believes that ships will be running on green hydrogen.
  • Buses and trucks will need the hydrogen.
  • They may build a terminal to import green hydrogen, as the Japanese are doing at Kobe.
  • The green hydrogen might be produced in places like Africa and Morocco.

100 MW strikes me as a large electrolyser.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , | Leave a comment

Hamburger Hochbahn Launches Tender For 50 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

The title says it all!

But it does show how hydrogen buses are proliferating around the world.

This makes the third hydrogen or energy project from the German city, that I have detailed.

August 7, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Eurostar To North Netherlands And North West Germany

I have now taken Eurostar to Hamburg twice, with a change at Amsterdam Centraal.

The first time, I took two German Inter City trains, with a change at Osnabruck. I wrote about it in From Amsterdam To Hamburg The Hard Way.

On my latest trip, I took the following route.

  • An overnight stay in Amsterdam
  • Train from Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen with changes at Almere Centrum and Zwolle
  • An overnight stay in Groningen
  • Rail Replacement Bus from Groningen to Leer
  • Train from Leer to Bremen
  • Train from Bremen to Bremerhaven
  • Train from Bremerhaven to Hamburg

Note.

  1. There are no direct trains between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen. Most involve a quick interchange at Almere or Utrecht.
  2. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen is electrified.
  3. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen takes two hours six minutes on the fastest train.
  4. When the bridge over the Ems is rebuilt, there should be an hourly train between Groningen and Leer, rather than a two-hourly bus.
  5. Leer to Bremen is electrified and takes under an hour and a half.
  6. I took a roundabout route from Bremen and Hamburg, as I wanted to check that the hydrogen-powered trains were running.
  7. There are direct trains between Bremen and Hamburg.

Could The Slower Route Be Improved?

My thoughts are as follows.

Between Amsterdam Centraal And Groningen

Consider the following.

  • The Dutch probably planned the timetable before Eurostar served Amsterdam.
  • Eurostar is going to three trains per day between London and Amsterdam
  • There are new Dutch InterCity trains on order for other routes.
  • A direct service between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen could probably be under two hours, with perhaps two stops.
  • On my trip, the trains trundled along at 50-60 mph, which isn’t very fast.

For these reasons, I would rate it highly lightly that the Dutch will think about a direct service.

Between Groningen And Leer

Without doubt, the problem on this section is the bridge over the Ems.

I estimate the following.

  • The mainly single-track railway without electrification between Groningen and Ihrhove near Leer is about seventy kilometres.
  • After the bridge is rebuilt, one of Arriva’s Stadler GTWs could do the journey in perhaps 30-35 minutes.
  • A bi-mode Stadler Flirt, like one of Greater Anglia’s  Class 755 trains, which have a top speed of 100 mph and bags of grunt could probably break the half-hour.

Some web sites put the opening of the new bridge in 2024. I’m reasonably certain, that by that date, an electric train with these power systems would be able to handle the route.

  • Dutch electrification
  • German electrification
  • Batteries

Bombardier and Stadler are certainly aiming to have battery-powered trains in service by the bridge opening date.

Between Leer and Bremen/Hamburg

This electrified double-track section has the following timings.

  • Leer and Bremen – 1:24
  • Leer and Hamburg 2:23

There doesn’t appear to be any major improvements needed.

Times On The Two Routes Compared

How do the fastest times on the two routes compare?

Via Osnabruck

This is the only route available and the fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – 4:16
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – 5:14

It appears that most services go to both Bremen and Hamburg.

Every time, I’ve changed at Osnabruck, the second train has been late.

Via Groningen

I would estimate the best fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

I am very surprised that the route via Groningen could appear to be over an hour faster.

Trains For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

At present, this service would not be possible, because of the bridge over the Ems.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • Dutch electrification at 1.5 KVDC between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen.
  • No electrification from Groningen between Groningen and Ihrhove, which is seventy kilometres.
  • German electrification at 15 KVAC between Ihrhove and Bremen/Hamburg

There are several trains that can handle both electrification systems at the two ends of the route, it’s just the seventy kilometres in the middle.

In my view there are several ways to bridge the gap.

Electrification

The Dutch or the Germans can probably electrify the line on time and on budget better than we could.

But which electrification system would be used?

Diesel

Using a dual-mode bi-mode train, that could also run on diesel would be a possibility and I’m sure that Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler could supply a more or less off-the-the-shelf train, that could run at up to 200 kph where possible and handle the section without electrification on diesel.

But using diesel in an area developing a green economy based on wind power and hydrogen, is probably not a good marketing idea.

Hydrogen

If diesel can handle the route, I’m certain that hydrogen could be used on the section without electrification.

Battery

The section without electrification is only seventy kilometres and in a few years time will be totally in range of a battery train, that charged the batteries on the end sections. Power changeover could be arranged in Leer and Groningen stations if this was thought to be more reliable.

Note that in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I write that Hitachi are claiming a battery range of sixty miles or a hundred kilometres with a Class 385 train with batteries in a few years time. Hitachi won’t be the only train manufacturer with the technology to build a suitable product.

I have to conclude that Groningen and Leer is a classic application for battery power.

Intermediate Stops For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

Obviously, the Dutch and the Germans, should know their market and would know where the trains should stop.

Having experienced the route in the last few days, the following stops could be possible.

  • Almere Centrum
  • Zwolle
  • Groningen
  • Leer
  • Oldenburg

But with modern trains, that have a minimum dwell time at stations, there may be more stops than some might think.

Which Company Would Run The Service?

I don’t know anything about the complications of running international trains, even when they are totally in the Schengen  Zone.

In the UK, Amsterdam to Hamburg is the sort of service that would be proposed by a well-funded Open Access Operator.

The company, who would benefit most from this service is Eurostar.

So could we see Eurostar operating or sponsoring Open Access feeder services in Europe, using say 200 kph trains?

Conclusion

It would appear that the following journey times are possible.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

For this to be possible the following is needed.

  • The bridge over the Ems is rebuilt.
  • Battery power works as its developers hope it will.

How many other routes in the world, would benefit from a similar philosophy?

 

March 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamburg

I took these pictures in the centre of Hamburg, after taking a U-Bahn train to the Rathaus.

I should say that it took me under thirty minutes to get to the Airport from this area. So it was a good place to kill some time, rather than wait at the Airport.

March 29, 2019 Posted by | World | | Leave a comment

Hamburg S-Bahn Trains

These trains of the Hamburg S-Bahn are fairly typical of Germany.

Note.

  1. They have step-free access from platform to train, which is rare on the German rail network.
  2. There are no phone charging points or wi-fi, but on the surface there is a good 4G signal.
  3. The seats are not as comfortable as those on a Class 378 train.

They seem to cope reasonably well with heavy traffic in the Peak.

March 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

My Hotel In Hamburg

These pictures show my hotel and my room in Hamburg; The Europäischer Hof.

My room was unusual in that it was a proper single room, with everything I needed.

Except one thing; a BBC channel for the News.

I have now stayed in Hamburg in two hotels, where I got a free bus, U-Bahn ans S-Bahn ticket.

The ticket covers the main city zones including the |Airport.

That is an idea I like.

October 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

The Relaxed Pace Of German Commuter Stations

I am at Buxtehade station on the outskirts of Hamburg and the area looks like it could be a suburb typical of those around big cities all over the world. But it is so relaxed compared to others I’ve visited.

Note.

  1. The diesel-hauled commuter service running under wires.
  2. No-one and the trains don’t seem to be in a hurry despite it being around nine in the morning.
  3. Trains seem to wait several minutes at each station.
  4. Staff were not to be seen.

In addition, there was absolutely no information about the hydrogen trains, that I could find.

 

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Engine Change At Bad Bentheim

I’m on a train frim Amsterdam to Osnabruck. The train, which goes all the way to Berlin, is not very fast, but they’ve now stopped for ten minutes, whilst the Dutch engine is changed for a German one! Can’t both railway companies use the dame Euro-blighter and just have a change of drivers, as we do on Anglo-Scottish services.

Surely, these are the problems that the EU should solve. Or do German and Dutch rail unions make the RMT look like pussy-cats?

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments