The Anonymous Widower

Nightjet Plans Mini-Capsules For Private Travellers

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

I think they look rather good and they will surely appeal to Japanese tourists.

December 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Thello Bids To Run Milano – Paris High Speed Service

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

This is the first paragraph.

Trenitalia subsidiary Thello has notified rail regulator ARAFER of its intention to launch the first open access passenger services on the French high speed network. The regulator announced on June 4 that Thello had requested paths from SNCF Réseau for a twice-daily service between Milano and Paris to start from June 2020.

These are more details of the service.

  • Services will leave both cities around 07.00 and 15.00 each day.The journey time would be under 7 hours.
  • Intermediate stops would be at Torino, Modane, Chambery Challes Les Eaux and Lyon Part Dieu.
  • Services would be worked by Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa 1000 trainsets.
  • Trains would use LGV Sud-Est.
  • Each train would be able to carry up to 457 passengers, with 300 standard class seats, 76 Premium, 69 Business and 10 Executive.

SNCF also run a service between Milano and Paris, which I have used between Novara and Paris.

I wrote about that trip in From Novara To Paris.

It looks to me that the Trello service could be a better experience.

  • It could be faster as it will use the Torino to Milano High Speed Line.
  • It runs twice a day.

Combined with Eurostar, it would make London to Milan in a day feasible.

But whether you would want to do that is another matter!

I have come home in a day from Barcelona, Geneva, Karlsruhe, Madrid, Munich and Novara.

  • But then, I can be in my bed at home in under twenty minutes from when the Eurostar arrives in St. Pancras.
  • Leaving the UK, I will often fly to my starting point.
  • I will also come home in half-day-sized journeys, breaking the trip in a reasonable hotel each night.

There are various developments making this mode of travel around Europe easier and more comfortable.

  • More high-speed lines are being developed.
  • Austrian Railways are developing more sleeper trains, that they call NightJet.
  • The availability of affordable hotels is getting better.

At certain times of the year, hotels and train tickets can be arranged easily in every overnight stop.

 

 

 

June 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will NightJet Connect To Eurostar?

NightJet is Austrian Railways sleeper service, that they took off the hands of the Germans when they closed it as a waste of money.

Ridership is increasing and they will be bringing in new trains in the next few years.

They also appear to have formed a partnership with Hungarian, Croatian and Polish Railways to take the network further East.

But what about the West? NightJet serves German cities like Cologne and Frankfurt, which are on Eurostar’s wish list.

Frankfurt is boring, but Cologne is the sort of city where you can fill time enjoyably.

So will we see travellers taking a morning Eurostar to Cologne, spend a day in the city and then take an overnight NightJet to Vienna. Vienna is linked by more NightJet services to places that non-European tourists love.

I don’t know the Austrian psyche well. But it does seem to me, that they have taken a loss-making Getman sleeper network and may succeed in turning it jnto something profitable and worthwhile with a little help from their friends. Do Austrians like getting one over the Germans?

A Eurostar connection in the West at Cologne and possibly in Switzerland, where NightJet runs to Zurich, would surely be beneficial. Eurostar have ambitions on Geneva and the connections between the two Swiss cities are good and picturesque!

I feel that we could be seeing the takibg of train tourism to a new level. How cuvilised?

 

March 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

SJ Invests In Thriving Sleeper Trains

The title of this post is the same as that on this article on Global Rail News.

This is said.

Over the last five years, passenger numbers on its Malmö to Stockholm services have increased by 100 per cent.

There has also been growth on the Gothenburg-Stockholm-Umeå-Luleå-Kiruna-Narvi route, where passenger numbers have risen by 25 per cent.

That sounds like thriving to me!

So why is it that sleeper trains are thriving in the UK and Sweden, but countries like Germany have given up?

Malmö to Stockholm

These factors probably help this service

  • Malmö is Sweden’s third-largest city.
  • The frequent trains between Malmö and Stockholm take four and a half hours.
  • Stockholm and Malmö are a very similar distance apart as London and Glasgow or Edinburgh.
  • Malmö is only thirty-five minutes from Copenhagen by train.

As the Caledonian Sleeper works between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow, why shouldn’t a quality service work on a similar distance in Sweden?

Gothenburg-Stockholm-Umeå-Luleå-Kiruna-Narvi

These factors probably help this service

  • The service effectively goes from the South-West of Sweden right up to the North.
  • The distance as 1,600 kilometres
  • I have been recommended to take this train to go to see the Northern Lights. So perhaps, it is useful for tourists.
  • The service probably appeals to train enthusiasts.
  • It is probably a reasonably civilised way to go to the North of Sweden.

I would certainly use it in winter to get to see the Northern Lights at Abrisko.

 

 

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh

This is the headline on an article in the John O’Groats Journal.

So is this a good idea?

Some of the comments to the article are cynical it would work, but I feel that it could be a runner.

The Current Service

There are two train services from Edinburgh to Thurso during the day, both of which need a change at Inverness.

  1. The 08:32 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 17:50.
  2. The 13:34 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 22:20.

Both services could be summed up like this.

  • The total time of the journey approaches nine hours.
  • The train is something like a Class 158 diesel multiple unit.
  • Both legs are between three and four hours.
  • There is a long wait in Inverness.
  • The second service does the second leg mainly in the dark.
  • London to Thurso in a day is possible, but it would be dark and tiring.

Although there are quicker routes with more changes, I can think of better ways of spending a day, travelling North from Edinburgh to Thurso.

Coming back, there are three practical one-change services

  1. The 06:50 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 14:22.
  2. The 08:34 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 16:25
  3. The 13:01 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 22:28.

These services can be summed up like this.

  • The first two services are faster than the nine hours going North.
  • On a good day the morning services must give good views.
  • You would certainly be able to do Thurso to London by train in a day.

Certainly, as a practical train service to attract visitors, the Edinburgh-Thurso service is not a service that says you must go, like say Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, which I wrote about in Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Far North Line

The Far North Line connects Inverness with Thurso and Wick. This introduction from Wikipedia, is a good summary of the line.

The Far North Line is a rural railway line entirely within the Highland area of Scotland, extending from Inverness to Thurso and Wick. It is the northernmost railway in the United Kingdom. The line has many sections of single track, mostly north of Dingwall. In common with other railway lines in the Highlands and northern Lowlands, it is not electrified and all trains are diesel-powered.

The trains are typically Class 158 trains, which provide four trains per day all the way between Inverness and Thurso. Other services give a better service on the Southern part of the line including four trains per day to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Improving The Far North Line

Wikipedia has a section on Future Expansion of the line. This is said.

For many years there have been proposals to bypass the Lairg loop with a line across the Dornoch Firth, linking Tain (via Dornoch) more directly with Golspie. This would involve building a new bridge over the Firth, or making dual-purpose the bridge[5] which now carries just the A9. Discussions have been held concerning the shortening of the Far North Line involving a bridge over the Dornoch Firth and the possible use of the trackbed of the former light railway.[6] Nothing has yet come of these ideas.

But these are expensive developments and is the traffic available.

The John O’Groats Journal has this paragraph.

I have spoken to Caledonian Sleeper and want to investigate the business case for a sleeper combination with freight.

So could Internet and other parcels traffic be a nice little earner for the line.

But then a lot of tourists venturing along the line will be heavily loaded with bicycles and heavy luggage.

Incidentally, In the 1960s, I used to work with a John Baxendale, who used to go surfing off the North Coast of Scotland, as he said it was some of the best surfing in the world.

Do surfboards feature on trains to the North, as they do on trains to Cornwall?

Trains For The North

So perhaps, this line, the Kyle of Lochalsh Line and the Inverness to Aberdeen Line need a fleet of specially configured Highland trains.

  • Four carriages.
  • A good buffet/restaurant car serving proper Sottish food.
  • Lots of space for luggage.
  • Big windows.

Abellio ScotRail are planning to refurbish twenty-six Inter-City 125s for longer routes, which fit this specification, as the rear sections of the Class 43 locomotives can be used for freight and oversized luggage.

Will we be seeing these trains on the routes out of Inverness?

Imagine a tourist day out from Inverness, where the morning train to Thurso and the evening return to Inverness offered the best breakfast, dinner and hospitality that Scotland can provide.

You never say never where Terry Miller’s iconic trains are concerned.

If ever a train will still be in main line service, a hundred years after it was built, it will be these trains.

Given their unique status, if they worked the Far North Line, they might just attract enough passengers to make line improvements worthwhile.

Factors Affecting The Edinburgh-Thurso Sleeper

In the following sections, I’ll detail a few factors that will surely affect ridership of a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Thurso.

Sleeper Trains Are Having A Revival

A few years ago, it was predicted that sleeper trains would be consigned to history in a few years.

But in the UK, the Caledonian Sleeper and the Night Riviera, seem to have ignored this advice, with the Scottish service ordering new rolling stock.

Deutsche Bahn thought sleeper trains were the past and they probably were, given the customer-unfriendly way DB ran them. But Austrian Railways are taking over the sleeper services and investing in new rolling stock.

In Sweden, there’s even their own Far North sleeper train from Stockholm to the Arctic Circle. Check out this map on the Swedish Railways web site.

The Curiosity Factor

Done properly, an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper would surely attract those, of which I’m probably one, who like to travel to out of the way places as some form of box-ticking.

My Reason For Using Sleeper Trains

I am one of those lucky people, who can sleep anywhere.

So if I’m coming down from a trip to Scotland, I will often have a full day and then catch the sleeper back down to Euston. If I book at the right time, I often find that my First Class sleeper ticket, is less than staying in say a Premier Inn in Edinburgh or Glasgow and buying a train ticket for the morning. I also arrive in London at a time, that hasn’t wasted half the day.

If say, I had to go to an important event in Glasgow or Edinburgh, if possible, I would take the first train to the North in the morning and then come back on that day’s sleeper.

The Edinburgh To Thurso Day Trip

If you look at the times for a train service between Edinburgh and Thurso, it would not be possible to go up and back in a day and have time for a worthwhile meeting or party.

I once drove from Ipswich to Aberdeen and back in a day, but I was in a Lotus Elan doing speeds at up to a hundred on the way.

But you couldn’t do those sorts of speeds now!

On the other hand, if there was a sleeper service between Edinburgh and Thurso, you’d arrive fresh and ready for the day or you could sleep off the Highland hospitality on the way back. Or of course vice-versa!

Why Not A Glasgow To Thurso Sleeper?

Once all the electric trains are running across the Central Belt, Glasgow to Edinburgh could be 36 minutes, with a train every 15 minutes.

So only one route would be needed, as passengers from Glasgow could just take a train across.

But for operational reasons, the sleeper service might start from anywhere in the Central Belt, like the new Edinburgh Gateway station, which is close to Edinburgh Airport.

Thurso To Edinburgh Airport

An Edinburgh-Thurso service would certainly stop at Edinburgh Gateway station, to give easy access to the Airport.

Suppose you were going on holiday or for business reasons to Caithness or somewhere on the Far North Line.

You would catch a convenient flight into Edinburgh Airport and perhaps board the Sleeper st around nine in the evening for the North.

Coming back, you’d catch the Sleeper in Thurso and arrive at Edinburgh in time for a morning flight.

Caithness Tourism

Tourism to Caithness and the North Coast of Scotland could be a big driver of passengers to an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper Service.

This page on the Visit Scotland web site gives more details.

There’s even pictures of surfers.

Conclusion

I feel that not next year, but once Scotland’s rail system is fully developed, with the shortened Inter-City 125s serving the longer routes and electric trains all over the Central Belt, that a Sleeper Train between Edinburgh and Thurso will be viable.

 

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

Austrian Railways To Run More Sleeper Trains

This article on Global Rail News is entitled ÖBB to expand night train services.

This is said.

Austria’s ÖBB is working with Deutsche Bahn (DB) to take over several night train routes following the German operator’s decision to drop the services.

From December 11, ÖBB will add six routes to its Nightjet network, including services with car and motorbike transport.

I do find it rather surprising that little Austria is prepared to provide a service that the mighty Germany won’t!

I’ve never travelled on a long distance Austrian train, but perhaps like the Swiss, they try to give the passengers what they want, rather than as Deutsche Bahn do and give the passengers the minimum they can get away with.

The Austrians will take over six routes and spend €45million on new coaches.

The route I like is Venice to Munich, as it might be a sensible way to come back from Venice and save a night in a hotel in Venice.

This will be a move to watch.

If it is successful, I think that there’ll be other night services.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Expanding The Scottish Sleeper

There is an article in Rail Magazine entitled New Destinations For Scottish Sleeper Trains?.

Oban and the Far North of Scotland are mentioned, as new destinations for the Caledonian Sleeper.

Oban

Oban station is on a branch of the West Highland Line to Fort William.

One of the attractions of Oban for the operator, is that it is a port.

  • Four ferries go to the offshore islands.
  • It would be so convenient to get off the Sleeper and then get on a ferry to your ultimate destination.
  • The Scottish diaspora would love it.

I suspect that Serco’s Marketing Department have the link to the ferries in mind.

Currently, Euston to Fort William takes twelve hours and forty minutes, with the train dividing into three portions at Edinburgh Waverley station.

To serve Oban, it would probably need the train to spin off an extra section which went to Oban.

At present it would appear, that you would get off the Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich at 0745, and wait until 1015  to catch the train to Oban.

If that is actually what happens, it’s not very passenger-friendly.

You can also get to Oban at the same time, by taking the sleeper to Glasgow and changing trains there.

As I suspect that the train operator; Serco are serious about getting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper, there would seem to be some ways to get passengers to Oban earlier in the morning, perhaps by timetabling an earlier train to Oban that meets the two sleeper trains better.

Once they knew that sufficient passengers were travelling between London and Oban, Serco could start to think about running a direct service.

But would it be a further split of the Highland service at Edinburgh or a split of the Lowland service at Glasgow?

The current frmation of the Highland Sleeper, is given in this section inWikipedia.

This is said in Wikipedia about the splitting off the train in Edinburgh.

The front two sleeping carriages are for Fort William, being combined at Edinburgh with a further two sitting carriages to make a four-vehicle formation. The middle portion of either six carriages is for Aberdeen, and the rear portion of eight carriages is for Inverness. Both the Aberdeen and Inverness portions usually convey one sitting and one lounge carriage each, with the rest being sleeping cars, all working through to/from London.

It might just be too complicated, to split the train for Oban at Edinburgh

The Far North

Serving the Far North Line to Wick and the intermediate stops may well be an ambition, but running a profitable service will surely have problems.

The sleeper takes eleven and a half hours to Inverness and the current local train takes four and a half hours between Inverness and Wick, which makes sixteen hours for the journey. That is just too long, when you can fly it in four hours.

The New Rolling Stock

The new rolling stock from CAF must be the key to improving the service for both the operator and passengers.

  • The current sleeper trains are not the fastest and are generally limited to 40 mph in the Highlands.
  • But even on the West Coast Main Line, the trains don’t go very quick, taking seven and a half hours for the journey, as opposed to four and a half for the fastest Virgins.
  • I would suspect that the new coaches will probably go faster and still give a good night’s sleep. Not that I have any complaints about the current sleepers.
  • Modern technology would probably improve the time to couple and uncouple the various sections of the trains.
  • The mix of carriages will give the operator more flexibility, with respect to the formation of trains.
  • Wikipedia has section on the new Mark 5 Coaches, which says there are 75 coaches of four types, arranged into four sixteen coach trains, with eleven spares.
  • As new trains and coaches attract interest in a train service, I would not be surprised to see the new coaches attracting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper.

Four trains is an interesting figure, as at present they only use two; one to the Lowland and one to the Highlands.

But for the first time in the thirty years since the original Mark 3 coaches were built, if the Caledonian Sleeper needs to increase their number of coaches, there will be a manufacturer, who will probably be happy to oblige.

Ladbrokes wouldn’t give me odds on CAF building new coarches for the Night Riviera.

European Services

The first two Eurostars to Paris leave at 0540 and 0701 and the first to Brussels at 0650. At present the sleeper from Glasgow gets in at 0707, but surely better timings between the two services would attract more passengers, who wanted to have a good night’s sleep and be in Paris or Brussels early.

I doubt there is any great demand for a direct sleeper service between Scotland and Paris or Brussels and the cost of the trains would be prohibitive.

But by interfacing the two services properly, there could be a market to be developed.

The new rolling stock with there more generous performance might mean that this is a lot easier.

Kings Cross

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Sleeper MD Considers King’s Cross Potential.

Apparently, passenger feedback from when King’s Cross is used is very positive because of the station’s better connectivity.

I have this feeling that if they moved the Caledonian Sleeper to King’s Cross. during the rebuilding of Euston, that it would never go back.

Onward From The Sleeper Destinations

If you are coming south and arrive in London around seven in the morning, you have lots of modern, comfortable trains to go onward to your ultimate destination.

When I looked at Oban, it struck me that the connections to the sleeper, weren’t as good as say those in London to Bath, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Paris.

So perhaps one of the things that would help the current service is good onward connections in comfortable trains. Abellio Scotrail are committed to improving train services in Scotland, so they may be doing this.

Cnclusion

There is no doubt that the current Caledonian Sleeper is a valuable and much-loved service.  The fact that Serco are buying new carriages from CAF, is not an act of charity and must be because the company believes that they can improve the profitability of the service.

I believe that although eventually, there may be services to other destinations in Scotland, that in the meantime better onward connections may be a more cost-effective solution.

It also has to be said, if improved services work to Scotland, then they’d surely work between London and Cornwall.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Would A Sleeper Train Work Between London And Cologne?

In Disappointing Cologne, I said that if there was a sleeper train between London and Cologne, I’d use it.

  • Many passengers like quality sleeper trains.
  • Those like me, who do long journeys across Europe, often break the trip in as hotel. A sleeper would be a good alternative.
  • More and more people are avoiding flying.

I have used sleeper trains down from Scotland a few times. The Caledonian Sleeper is a civilised way to travel, which leaves late evening to come south, where you can get a decent snack and a good night’s sleep.

I last used a sleeper during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, as it meant I arrived in London early in the morning and I didn’t have to spend a night in Glasgow, where hotel rooms were in short supply.

In the end, the cost of the First Class sleeper ticket, was less than I would have paid for something like a Premium Inn in Edinburgh, which was all that was available.

Sleeper trains in those circumstances are good value for money and you don’t waste time travelling during the day.

The Caledonian Sleeper is being given new carriages and a lot of promotion and I suspect in a few years time, it will be a thriving service.

On the other hand, I once took a sleeper from Munich to Paris, which was run by Deutsche Bahn. I wrote about it in The Sleeper From Munich To Paris.

Deutsche Bahn have decided to discontinue their sleeper trains, as they are not profitable. But given their legendary customer service, passengers have probably chosen other methods of travel.

I believe that if a sleeper was setup between London and Cologne, that run on similar principles to the Caledonian Sleeper or the Night Riviera, that it could work.

Consider.

  • Cologne is a city of a million people in a region of three million.
  • Passengers arriving in Cologne could be in Frankfurt around 1000, Munich around 1100 and Berlin around 1200.
  • Passengers arriving in London could be in Birmingham before 0900, Cardiff before 1000 and Liverpool/Manchester before 1000.
  • Leaving late at night, must give a greater time to work or play.
  • If the new rolling stock for the Caledonian Sleeper is a success, I’m sure CAF would be happy to build some more!

The original plan for sleeper trains through the Channel Tunnel was too ambitious and relied on getting the regional business. I think that what is needed is a core route like London-Cologne, where the sleeper trains run, that uses the excellent high-speed services from the two end cities to connect onwards.

Surely, providing Customs and Immigration for a sleeper train would be a lot easier.

It would probably be easiest if they were done in London.

  • Outward to Cologne, changing to an onward service would be very easy in that station, after perhaps a passport check.
  • Inward to London, how many undesirables would use a sleeper train as a means of smuggling themselves or illicit goods into the UK.
  • A decent passport check by the Germans at Cologne would probably sort out the more blatant abuses.
  • After the atrocities in Brussels and Paris, I can’t believe that International travel checks won’t be tightened.

If London-Cologne could be made to work, would other core routes be viable?

They would probably need.

  • A destination station with lots of connections.
  • A journey time that would enable arrival in the destination early enough to catch important onward connections.
  • The city/area away from London must be able to provide good core business.

If we assume that passengers would want to be on their way from the destination at seven, then this would probably mean an arrival at five, so probably a six or seven hour journey time would be the maximum before it isn’t a viable option for passengers.

This would probably mean that Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris could be possible as destinations, but Munich and Geneva probably wouldn’t. Brussels would probably be ruled out, as Cologne would serve the same onward destinations better.

I think it is going to be interesting to see if and how this market develops.

 

 

 

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Caledonian Sleeper’s New Locomotives

The excellent Calendonian Sleeper has recently received some new locomotives according to this article in Rail Magazine.

But the Class 73/9 locomotives are not new, but refurbished electro-diesel locomotives built in the 1960s. It’s just that they are a bit smaller than most diesel locomotives and are ideal for moving the sleeper trains around Scotland.

In the 1960s, 49 were built and on a quick count up, I think that nearly thirty are still being used on the UK rail network.

But like other locomotives of that era and a couple of decades after, where there’s a part to play some of these old stagers can still do a reliable turn.

Some like a few Class 47 locomotives have even been rebuilt into new updated Class 57 locomotives, as this is an affordable way to get effectively new  locomotives.

As there still appears to be a shortage of freight locomotives, I think some of our engineers will be creating virtually new locomotives from old ones currently preserved in the strangest of places.

But it certainly seems to be a reliable way to create the needed motive power.

So next time you take a Calendonian Sleeper into or out of the North of Scotland, just look at the locomotive and reflect on the fact that you might not be the oldest thing on the train.

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Two Very Different Beds

I had two nights in Scotland and they couldn’t have been more different.

The first was in the Premier Inn at Lauriston Place in Edinburgh.

I’ve stayed there before and although not the best placed, it was easy to get to from the station after we finally found a taxi.

But I wasn’t prepared for what I found, although the receptionist said that my top-floor-room might be a bit hot.

A Greeting From Two Fans

A Greeting From Two Fans

I’ve never been met by two fans as I entered a room.

It was hot and so I opened the window as far as I could. But in the morning, this is what I read on my hygrometer/thermometer.

This Is Just Too Hot!

This Is Just Too Hot!

It is the worst case I’ve found of top-floor-overheating I’ve found.

It was much worst than the room, that I’d suffered in Iceland.

My second bed was on the Caledonian Sleeper. I took this picture lying in the comfortable enough bed.

Looking Around My Cabin

Looking Around My Cabin

When I got up it was nineteen degrees on the train, with a very pleasant humidity of 26%.

Strangely the quality of the sleep on both nights was about the same, but I have felt a lot better today, than I did yesterday.

The interesting thing though was that the single-occupancy bed on the Sleeper was cheaper than the night in Edinburgh.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment