Rail start-up aims for night train revival on Berlin to Brussels route

European Sleeper company says first trains will run in May 2023

Night trains have long struggled to compete with low-cost air and bus travel in Europe. AFP
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A European sleeper train start-up has announced it will launch its first route between Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels in May 2023.

The more than 10-hour service will initially run three times a week and is intended to put overnight travel “back on the map” after years of decline.

The launch was pushed back from summer 2022 after setbacks including a lack of available rolling stock.

The operator, European Sleeper, said tickets will go on sale in February, with the first train scheduled to depart on May 25.

A typical train will leave Brussels at 7pm, stop in Amsterdam at 10.30pm and arrive at Berlin’s main station shortly before 7am.

In the other direction, it will leave Berlin around 11pm, reach Amsterdam at 6.30am and arrive in Brussels at 9.30am.

The start-up, which was founded by Dutch and Belgian operators, plans to extend the route eastward to Dresden and Prague by 2024.

It said tickets would start at €49 ($52) for a seat in a compartment, rising to €79 ($84) for a bunk bed and €159 ($169) for a private sleeping car.

The company raised €2 million ($2.1m) from investors to buy the rolling stock it needed.

A daily service will be introduced as soon as possible, it said.

The sleeper train business has long suffered at the hands of low-cost air and bus travel, with many routes closed since the 1980s.

Germany’s main rail company ended its City Night Line service in 2016 while French operator SNCF closed all but three routes.

However, there is some enthusiasm among policymakers for a sleeper train renaissance in Europe.

It is motivated not just by romantic allure but by the lower emissions involved when passengers switch from air to rail.

An overnight route from Vienna to Brussels reopened in 2020 while an Austrian operator is opening new routes to Italy in 2023.

But new high-speed lines have been higher on the EU’s recent agenda than sleepers, disappointing night train enthusiasts.

Updated: December 28, 2022, 11:29 AM