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Night trains are poised to make a return on the continent after years of disuse
Sleeper trains are on the verge of making a huge comeback in Europe as national railway companies are charting a course for their major expansion. Interest in overnight rail travel has spiked in the last couple of years as citizens of the continent have increasingly been looking for different alternatives to their personal vehicles. Logically, one of the first beneficiaries of this new trend have been railways and trains, as they have found themselves in the graces of governments eager to provide low-carbon, environmentally-friendly transportation solutions to their constituents.
Responding to demand
Not only has interest in railway travel been motivated by environmental concerns but the COVID-19 pandemic has also delivered a serious blow to the aviation industry – which incidentally is also one of the biggest polluters. In light of these developments, the state railways of 4 European countries, namely Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland, have banded together forming a partnership with an investment fund of some $605 million in order to bring their nighttime operations back to speed.
Thanks to their joint efforts, five routes are expected to be launched in the next four years, connecting a total of 13 cities. The first of these routes will be launched in December 2021, linking Vienna and Paris through Munich with a 2nd one soon to follow between Zurich and Amsterdam.
A year later, nighttime trains will run from Zurich to Rome, while in December 2023 a train linking the Austrian and French capitals via Berlin and Brussels will also be launched. The final piece of the puzzle will connect Zurich and Barcelona starting December 2024.
Other European countries have also kickstarted similar initiatives on their own. Sweden, on its part, has announced that it aims to create a nighttime train service to Germany and Belgium as early as 2022, while low-cost trains running from Prague to Croatia’s coast launched earlier this year have become an instant hit for travellers.
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