Many decades ago, when I first visited Europe it was possible to travel all over the continent by night train. As a low budget, backpacker, I often used night trains to save the cost of overnight accomodations by traveling at night and sleeping in a regular train compartment. Although occasionally there was a big splurge on a bunk in a 4 or 6 bed couchette. Sadly, over the years night trains fell out of favor with rail companies and travelers often opted for budget flights. However, the night train is making a comeback.
Now that train travel has been recognized as a climate-friendly alternative to air travel, Greenpeace has suggested that banning short-haul flights in the EU and shifting to rail where alternatives under six hours already exist would cut emissions by 3.5 million tons of CO2 equivalents each year. With sufficient investment in rail, the EU could replace most of its 250 short-haul flights by rail travel, saving 23.4 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year.
Although night trains are still less available than they used to be, they are making a comeback across Europe. Services such as Nightjet (pictured above) are once again linking major cities with fast, comfortable overnight trains.
Now, the German Green Party has launched a project dubbed the“Euro Night Sprinter” rail network to connect hundred of European cities by night trains. Consisting of 40 long-distance lines, the proposed system would run from Portugal in the west to Ukraine in the east, and from Finland in the north to Spain in the south.
Run by by the European Rail Agency. the network would field night trains traveling across Europe at 200 to 250 km/h (125 to 155 mph). Planners have calculated that most trips would take between 9 and 14 hours.
While sustainability is an excellent argument in favor of night train travel, it’s also a much more relaxing way to get from city to city. A few years ago, I did a multi-city, four country trip mostly by budget plane travel and I found it so much more stressful than train travel. So, I’m all for more night trains.