Sleeper trains: a down to earth way of travelling


Unexpected events such as the Covid pandemic may keep travellers grounded by force majeure but there is a much more urgent reason that should motivate us to refrain from travelling by air: Planet Earth. Studies reveal that by 2050 air travel will account for 22% of carbon emissions. It is high time to take our heads out of the clouds and turn our attention to sustainable ground transportation.

Europe has an extensive railway network of high-speed trains covering distances of up to 1000 km. Environmental concern and related “flight shame” are diverting travellers from planes to trains. This explains the re-emergence of the once popular night train with sleeping accommodation, which exceeds the 1000 km range and can connect places like Malmö in Sweden with London overnight.

The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) Nightjet already ensures overnight rides from Austria to major European destinations such as Brussels, Zurich and Rome. Pre-Covid the company saw a massive increase in passenger numbers year over year and hopes the trend will continue. Countries like the UK and Sweden have jumped on the bandwagon and have reinstated dormant lines or opened new ones.

In the light of these developments, airlines pick up the gauntlet by slashing prices to fill their seats on the short- and medium haul and they have a huge competitive edge for long distance travel. And then there is the demographic: business travellers still happily hop on a plane. People travelling for leisure are more inclined to opt for a ride on the night train.