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The new generation of night trains snaking their way across Europe | Climate News

The European bed is aimed at air travel. “We don’t have to convince people to go by train: just 5% of current air travelers will fill us up every day,” says its founder.

Via Tom Heap, climate host @tomheapmedia

Saturday, June 3, 2023 01:49, UK

When climate solutions come out, this has to be the quietest one. Go to bed in one European capital, wake up in another with bright lights next to your fresh croissant.

I am the first of a new generation of night trains that span the continent, motivated by reducing air travel.

Fewer people fly than before COVID, but the trend is up again.

The carbon emissions per passenger mile on a train are about one-fifth that on an airplane. That’s one of the driving forces behind Chris Engelsman, founder of crowdfunding company: The European Sleeper.

“It’s been a fun and sustainable travel, and we really believe it’s going to be profitable,” he said. “The night train is important because you can travel longer distances – go to Barcelona, ​​Milan, Prague, Copenhagen and still save time.

“So it’s very good competition for planes. We don’t have to convince people to go by train: just 5% of current air travelers will fill us up every day.”

Towards affordability

This inaugural service is an exotic blend of luxury and elegance.

Night trains certainly conjure up images of nostalgic charm, especially if you, like me, have watched too many James Bond movies or read too many Agatha Christie novels.

The bunk beds are comfortable, the sheets are clean and there’s a discreet vanity, hidden in a corner cupboard, complete with mirrors on three sides. But the wagons are decades old, rented from across the continent and, sadly for those hoping for posh dining room meetings, not including the restaurant car.

It costs £70 for a bed in a shared cabin and double that for a room of your own.

European Sleeper is bidding to build the new wagons, but Mr Engelsman says it will aim for the affordable rather than the high-end.

“We decided not to be luxurious because we wanted this to be accessible to the common people, accessible to everyone. We wanted a dining car in the future because we call it the ‘Train’. good night’ and we need to develop a ‘good evening’ club next door.”

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Once in a state of seemingly decay after a boom in low-cost flights – Europe’s night trains are having their moment.

Driven by demand for greener travel options – new routes are now once again running across the continent – including my train ride from Brussels to Berlin.

‘The greenest way to cross Europe’

The expansion of night trains is supported by the EU as part of a mission to cut the continent’s carbon emissions.

France has just banned short-haul flights on journeys that take less than two and a half hours by rail. And the Belgian government is promising to subsidize night trains like this. Their deputy prime minister and transport minister, Georges Gilkinet, were on board.

“We just voted in parliament to help develop night trains, by paying for rails and energy costs,” he said. “It’s the greenest way to get across Europe and there’s great demand with trains already booked for months.

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“We want to make Brussels a hub for night trains. We already have one to Vienna, this to Berlin and a future service to Southern Europe.”

That service is the train the ‘European Sleeper’ intends to run to Barcelona. It will stop at Lille – an easy link to the UK, as it’s only an hour and 20 minutes from London.

But there are no plans yet for new services directly from the British capital. The regulations on different carriage sizes, the cost and bureaucracy of using the existing Channel Tunnel make it uneconomical.

I knocked on the side door to speak with Mark Smith, founder of the train enthusiast website, “The Man in Seat 61,” to get his perspective on the appeal of being a passenger. become a night train rider.

“It’s practical – leaving the city center in the evening, sleeping in bed all night, and arriving the next morning in a completely different country,” he said. “There’s nothing like the stress of getting on a plane. It’s about enjoying the journey as much as the destination.”

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This service goes around Berlin, picking up passengers in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

My sleep was briefly interrupted by a few bumps in the night, but I felt well-rested when I woke up on the outskirts of the German capital.

Bond villains are still confined to my dreams, not lurking in luggage racks.

Watch The Climate Show with Tom Heap on Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm on Sky News, on the Sky News website and app, and on YouTube and Twitter.

The program investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.


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