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

Northern Cities And COVID-19

If you look at the official Government statistics for the total number of cases of COVID-19, as of May 3rd, the number of cases in the two major cities in the North West as follows.

  • Leeds – 1463 out of a city population of 789,194 (0.18%) and a metro population of 2,638,127 (0.05%)
  • Liverpool – 1454 out of a city population of 494,814 (0.29%) and a metro population of 2,241,000 (0.06%)
  • Manchester – 1154 out of a city population of 547,627 (0.21%) and a metro population of 3,748,274 (0.03%)
  • Newcastle – 939 out of a city population of 300,196 (0.31%) and a metro population of 1,650,000 (0.06%)
  • Nottingham – 537 out of a city population of 321,500 (0.17%) and a metro population of 1,610,000 (0.03%)
  • Sheffield – 2191 out of a city population of 582,506 (0.38%) and a metro population of 1,569,000 (0.14%)

Note.

  1. All populations come from Wikipedia.
  2. Why is Liverpool 40% worse than Manchester?
  3. Why is Sheffield the worst?

I will add a few smaller towns andcities.

  • Blackpool – 465 out of an urban population of 139,720 (0.33%)
  • Caldervale – 252 out of an urban population of 200,100 (0.13%)
  • Hull – 469 out of a city population of 260,645 (0.18%)
  • Middlesbrough – 566 out of an urban population of 174,700 (0.32%)
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 509 out of a city population of 255,833 (0.20%)
  • York – 315 out of a city population of 209,893 (0.15%)

I’d like to see full statistics plotted on a map or a scatter diagram.

The latter is a very powerful way to plot data and often they highlight data points that lie outside the underlying pattern of the data.

May 4, 2020 Posted by | Health, World | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

York-Beverley Line

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come across the York-Beverley Line on Wikipedia.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

Following the Government’s plans to reinstate lines closed in the 1960s which was announced in November 2017, it has been proposed that the line could reopen as a result.

The line runs between Bootham Junction on the York-Scarborough Line and Beverley Junction on the Hull-Scarborough Line.

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the detailed route.

I only know the area as a visitor, but it would appear to be a valuable new connection.

March 26, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

York Station

York station is a busy station as both the East Coast Main Line and Cross Country services pass through. It is also quite large with eleven platforms.

The pictures show how you can look out along the Scarborough Bridge and the bay platform 2, where trains from Scarborough can be turned back.

The last shot is the car park where the three mobile cranes were positioned to lift the bridge into place in Dancing With Cranes And A Bridge With Help From Lego.

It is worth taking a look at this Google Map of the station.

York Station

York Station

Note the island platform poking out from under the roof at the top, with Platform 4 on the left and Bay Platform 2 on the right.

There is another simple Bay Platform 1 at the southern end, which serves the line to Hull.

Both platforms 1 and 2 could be electrified, if it was decided to run IPEMU trains to Hull and Scarborough respectively. I think that East Yorkshire services could be electrified in this manner using the power at York, Doncaster and Leeds, with perhaps some form of top-up at Hull and Scarborough.

 

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Scarborough

I’d never been to Scarborough before so I took the opportunity to visit on my way from York to Hull.

Looking back from a few days away, I think that Scarborough, would be a better place to stay than Hull.

I came to Scarborough station on one a Class 185 train and left in a Class 158 train, so I didn’t have to experience a Pacer. According to Wikipedia the Hull to Scarborough Line is usually worked by the very acceptable Class 158 trains, sometimes coupled to something else for more capacity. This is said.

Services are usually worked by Class 158 DMUs. Summer weekends see services operated by a Class 158 coupled to a Class 153 or extra Class 158 providing a 3/4-car unit for additional capacity. Sundays also see a variety of traction traversing the line to retain crew knowledge; this can include Class 153, Class 150, Class 142 and Class 144.

 

You do wonder how much traffic this route could generate if it was electrified and run by a new four-car electric train.

It would be very expensive to electrify, as until Hull is electrified, it would be a stand-alone system for about forty miles, that was a long way from any other electrification.

But if some means were to be provided to charge the trains at Scarborough and Hull, I suspect that IPEMUs could provide services between Scarborough and Hull and Scarborough and York with ease, given the easy nature of the lines.

This would also allow the TransPennine services from Scarborough to Manchester and Liverpool to be run by high-speed IPEMUs, which could bridge the electrifdication gap between Leeds and Manchester.

In an ideal world, a service should be provided between Scarborough and Whitby, which if there was an improved service around Scarborough would probably be needed to serve the tourism industry.

That area of East Yorkshire needs to be developed with respect to the leisure and tourism opportunities it offers.

 

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Dancing With Cranes And A Bridge With Help From Lego

I just had to put a link to this article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Scarborough Bridge – Monte Carlo Or Bust.

It describes how the bridge that takes the York Scarborough railway line over the River Ouse in the medieval heart of York, was replaced over the half-term weekend in February, at a cost of six million pounds. This Google Earth image shows the centre of York.

York

York

The bridge is the one at the left of the image, with the station below it.

It was choreographed to an amazing degree and used three enormous mobile cranes squeezed into the car park by the bridge on the north bank of the river. Luckily the wind and the weather were kind and the project was completed on time. Perhaps, the most strange aspect of the project is told in this paragraph.

And then we should take our hats off to team member Eamon McAuley who literally built the bridge single-handed…albeit in Lego. It was remarkably detailed – including the track layout and little orange men with chainsaws – and could be deconstructed and rebuilt to follow the lifting sequence. Sitting as a centrepiece in the conference room, it proved more useful than a PowerPoint when explaining the challenges to visitors and stakeholders.

Anybody who said engineering isn’t fun, should hang their head in shame.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Vive Le Tour!

That is the headline on the wrap around The Times today.

Vive Le Tour!

Vive Le Tour!

I do think that Yorkshire has shown how to do a Grand Depart. I suspect that Utrecht next year, will follow Yorkshire’s lead.

In some ways it’s all a bit sad, as there aren’t many events like the Tour de France, that can be used to build a great event around.

Yorkshire is apparently starting the Tour de Yorkshire, London has the Marathon, Liverpool the Grand National and Newcastle the Great North Run, so perhaps we ought to get our thinking caps on, to create some more iconic events.

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Sport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Grand Central Up And East Coast Down

I went up to York on Grand Central in First and came back down in Second on East Coast.

As you can see, both trains were forty-year-old InterCity 125s.

First Class on Grand Central might have been affordable at £49.50 and it was a convenient train in that it got there just before the museum opened, but it was a very poor offering. I got an uncomfortable seat with a narrow table in a group of four and the only refreshment I had was two cups of tea.

Coming back I’d booked an open Off Peak ticket at £32.00, so I could come back at a convenient time.

I managed to get a more comfortable window seat in a group of four, with a bigger table than I had on the way up. The train seemed to be fairly newly refurbished and was probably in better condition, than it had been in all of its long life. The trolley came through twice and I bought just a bottle of water.

Both trains were on time.

It is interesting to compare these two journeys with the Copenhagen to Hamburg trip I did recently in a diesel German ICE TD.

I was in First on the German train and the seat was marginally more comfortable, than that of the seat in Second on my journey home yesterday. I also had a bigger table. But the ride was no better on the newer German train, which incidentally tilts, and there was nothing to choose between the views through the wide windows on both trains.

But the real problem on the German train, was the total lack of a decent drinks service.  The trolley on East Coast was much better. But I have feeling that the layout of German ICE trains effectively rules out a trolley. food on all three journeys didn’t include anything that was gluten-free, but that is coming if my taste of Virgin is anything to go by.

I doubt I’ll be travelling on Grand Central again, and certainly never in First. Unless I have no choice!

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going North And Going South

These two paintings were on display in the Nation Railway Museum at York.

The artist was George Earl and the paintings are mentioned in his Wikipedia entry.

I found the paintings notable, as there were certainly Red Irish, English and Gordon Setters in the paintings.  There could also have been Red and White Irish Setters too!

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

There Were Crowds At York

To say the crowds at York were big would be an understatement,as you can see from the previous post.

These pictures were taken outside. Bear in mind that I timed my trip to get there as the museum opened.

But at least my only cost was getting to York, as the entry to the National Railway Museum was free.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , | Leave a comment