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/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Venice Limits Cruise Ships

I love Venice and so did my late wife, C. We must have gone about five or six times and it was no surprise, that the first place abroad I visited after her death, was Venice, to see if I could holiday alone. This post contains a lot of how I feel about Venice.

So Venice to me is special and I’ll probably go again this winter.  The winter to me is the best time to visit, as there are less tourists and day-trippers gumming up the city. I always stay in the same hotel close to St. Mark’s Square and even next week, prices are high.  So I suspect that even in the winter now, it’s getting lots of visitors.

So to see that the city is to limit the number of cruise ships that visit, as reported on the BBC, is to me a very good thing.

Looking at prices and knowing the city as I do, I would recommend that if you want to visit Venice, you book the best hotel you can afford close to St. Mark’s Square, fly into the Marco Polo airport and then take the ferry to the centre. It looks like nights at the beginning of the week are best and as Venice is a city which is on the go all the time, Monday to Wednesday, aren’t the disasters some cities are. But go out of the city the back way, using the train to a contrasting city like Milan, Bologna or Verona and fly back from there.  Remember, every sizeable city in Italy is worth visiting and there are very few, where you can’t enjoy yourself sightseeing, eating and drinking for a couple of days.

We must find better ways of visiting Venice, otherwise the city that I love, will be ruined by tourism.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Florence Is Being Destroyed By Tourists

Not my words, but those of Ottaviano de Medici, a direct descendant of the Medicis, who created Italy’s jewel. He is quoted in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Here’s the first paragraph.

A descendant of Florence’s famous Medici family said on Tuesday that mass tourism was a “threat” to his native city and called for it to be put on a UNESCO list of endangered areas.

I must admit, I get a bit fed up with tourists, especially in London.  It’s one of the reasons, I’m a member of many of the arts institutions in London, as it means I can bypass queues and crowds, and get invited to special events like this one at the British Museum.

So if I go to Florence or Venice, I always go in the winter, as the threat of cold and wet weather keeps most tourists away.  It was one of the great charms of my visit to Genoa recently, that the city was almost empty.

Tourists may be a curse, but they do bring in money and create employment.  We need to find a balance as to how we charge them for their disruption.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Not In Venice

Pierre Cardin is really trying to upset everybody with this design for a building near Venice. The Mail cals it a fashion faux-pas.

And we worry about wind turbines!

November 25, 2012 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Every Picture Tells a Story

I mentioned in the post on house-husbands that I have various skills and strangely one of them is dressmaking. Or it used to be, as I haven’t made anything in years.

But look at this picture of Celia, who in this blog I usually refer to as C, taken at a New Year’s Party in Venice probably in 2002 or 2003.

C at New Year in Venice

It looks like a strapless evening dress or a full skirt with a strapless top.  It is neither.

The skirt was luxurious and there was an equally luxurious top to go with it. But when C bought the skirt from Beatrice von Tresckow, the top in her size was sold out, so they said they’d make one for her. Something went wrong and it didn’t fit.

So there we were in a five star hotel in Venice, an hour before the dinner and one of us had nothing to wear! And it wasn’t one of those parties, where she could have gone topless.  I hasten to add that she never did outside of the confines of our bedroom.

Depending on where I tell this story, there are various versions. In some she’s in tears and in others she wants to go home, but the truth is probably that although she was upset, she trusted me to have an idea that would work. Her versions of the story used to have a lot of emotional actions, as aren’t most barristers frustrated actors?

She thought I was joking when I asked her for some safety pins. I found two in the dinner suit I was wearing and one in a good pair of trousers.  All had been used to attach dry cleaning tickets and after that day, she never ever removed one. But she still referred to it as one of my lazy habits.

I then told her to remove the strapless bra she was wearing and replace it with a basque I knew she’d brought with her to wear under another dress, that was a bit tight and needed a bit of an extra squeeze to get into. She’d also brought it because it was New Year and she knew the extra layer added warmth. She also took the opportunity to change from tights to some stockings as a reward to me, which she said she’d remove, if I couldn’t make her respectable.

I then took the shawl that she had brought to wear with the top and skirt and wound it round her securing it with the safety pins.  The hotel was warm, so the lack of a shawl wasn’t a problem.

The result is shown in the picture, which was actually taken after the dancing.  So it held together without any problems.

I hasten to add, that wrapping the shawl round wasn’t my original idea, but was borrowed from a very old 1950s, TV Series, called Dick and the Duchess. In one episode, Hazel Court, who played the Duchess, got into a scrape as she often did, lost her clothes and ends up in a boiler suit. She then takes a taxi to her couturier, who was played by a very camp, Michael Medwin. To preserve her decency, he wraps her in expensive silk, tucks it all in and sends her home. He orders the boiler suit to be burnt.  I never saw the errant top again.

If there is a moral to this story it is to never travel without safety pins! And steal ideas from out of context and old television shows.

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Transport/Travel, World | , | 10 Comments

Venice in the Snow

I’ve just looked at some of my Venice pictures from last year.

It was in early March, slightly earlier than now, and although it was cold, the sun was out and it was perhaps ten degrees or so.

But now on the news, Venice has been pictured in the snow.  I can’t find any pictures on something like the BBC or the Times, but here’s a blog post from the 3rd March.

Venice looks really surreal in the snow.  But then it looks surreal in good weather too!  And the rain!  I guess it just looks good at all times.

You can understand, why it was my late wife’s favourite city.  And mine too!

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment

Venice

After Milan I travelled on to Venice.

I’ve been to Venice many times, including once at New Year and another time to give a software demonstration at Verona.  The latter ended in my giving someone a tour of Venice in the dark.  As he had left before first light in the morning, I suspect he’s one of the few people to have seen the city, but not in the light.

Venice to me though was the starting point of my life after the death of my late wife.  Not this trip, as this was the second since she died.

This is what I wrote in March 2008 under the title, Friends in Funny Places.

It was probably in about 1975 and I’d perhaps had a bit too much to drink and I was getting a bit Bolshi.  I couldn’t have been that bad though, as I remembered the tale and especially the bit about a lady from that city who called herself a Baltimoron.  Her words not mine.  This American was going on about how they had won the Second World War and if there’s anything that gets my goat it’s that.  I can be a bit of a patriot, but I’m much more of a seeker after the truth.  We didn’t win it alone, but the war was won on a collective effort, where a large number of countries, races and creeds all played their part.

My premise was that the war was effectively won by the Battle of Britain.

Does anybody other than me remember the French documentary on that battle, made perhaps for the 25th anniversary in 1965, where the French said we were selfish to call it the Battle of Britain?  They believed it should have been called the Battle of Europe, as if the RAF and their ragbag collection of gallant aerial knights had lost, then everything would have been over for the continent.

So by winning the Battle of Britain, we held the line long enough for Hitler to make his fatal mistake of attacking Russia and for the Japanese to bring America into the war at Pearl Harbor.

My father, who had been some sort of advisor to Lord Beaverbrook in the War, had also told me that if we’d lost then the Americans would have washed their hands of Britain.

But in that bar in Baltimore, it was a forlorn argument against four or five Americans and I wasn’t doing well, although I can usually keep my end up in that sort of contest.

And then there was the dramatic intervention, by an elderly man at the end of the bar!

He looked very much like Colonel Sanders, with the certain sort of bearing that senior officers in the armed services often have.  (They also clean their shoes better, than us riff-raff!)  He introduced himself as a man, who had worked with Franklin Roosevelt before and in the early years of the Second World War.

He just said that the Englishman is right and wished us all a good night.

I slept well and from that day on a lonely trip turned into a very happy one.

Now that night in Venice, I was cold, but thankfully not wet, and missing my late wife terribly as I walked the streets.  I was however looking forward to dinner in a fish restaurant by the Rialto Bridge. 

The Ostaria Antico Dolo was small with perhaps ten tables and lots of pictures of the owner, his father and grandfather on the walls.  You know the type of restaurant.

As I sat down to drink a complimentary glass of prosecco, the familiar tones of John Lennon’s harmonica quietly filled the room.  It was Love Me Do.  I thought for a moment, perhaps shed a small tear and then smiled.  One by one the tunes came through in droves; She Loves You, Eleanor Rigby, I Want To Hold Your Hand…

They knew I was a celiachia and I had carpaccio of Saint Pietro followed by some exquisite tuna.  The waitress asked if I was OK with the music after I had told her the story seeing the Beatles in 1964 at Hammersmith, meeting my wife in Liverpool in 1968 and her death a few months ago.  I said yes and more songs followed.

Included was We Can Work It Out and it may sound trite, but I must.

Perhaps about ten, I’d finished the meal and was expecting to go, but somehow I got invited by the waitress and her friends from University to talk and share a few drinks.

I shall always be grateful to those four students, as we talked through the problems of the world and tried to put things to rights.  I’m too old to have much effect now, but they just might.

Just like I smile when I think of Baltimore, I shall now always remember those students in that restaurant in Venice.

Venice will always be where I go, when I am in trouble.

Venice is a World Heritage Site.

March 8, 2009 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 5 Comments