A night train service between Brussels and Prague will come into operation in 2024, run by Belgian-Dutch crowdfunded company, European Sleeper.
A long-awaited sleeper connection between Brussels and Berlin finally went live at the end of May 2023 and has sold over 10,000 tickets for its three-times-weekly trains, according to Aviation24, proving the strength of demand for overnight rail travel. Plans are in place to build a daily train offering.
As well as adding Prague to the menu next year, services between Amsterdam, Brussels, and Barcelona are set to start in 2025.
Options on the so-called ‘Good Night Train’ are at three levels. ‘Deluxe Sleepers’ take a maximum of three people (mixed) in a compartment with a private washbasin, seats, a table and breakfast. A ‘Comfort Couchette’ means you share with 6, 4 or book it privately, sleeping on seats that become bunks. You share a washroom on the corridor. Breakfast is again included. If you’re on a budget, you can book a seat as on a normal train.
A combination of factors from sustainability to airport-wariness is leading to a boom in night train services across Europe. For travellers seeking greener options, the train is attractive thanks to carbon emissions per passenger-mile 80% lower than by plane. Night trains are also seen as time-efficient, taking voyagers directly from city centre to city centre without losing a day’s holiday. And post-pandemic customers are more willing to ‘slow down and enjoy the journey’ as part of a dream trip, as well as being averse to the risks posed by an air industry that has not recovered full capacity, causing long and unpleasant airport delays.
According to train expert The Man in Seat 61, the two train afficionados behind European Sleeper have made “a huge effort battling railway bureaucracy to get this train up and running. It’s been particularly difficult to source serviceable rolling stock as there’s so little available for hire, but they’ve done it and they now have a comfortable and operationally robust train even though it inevitably uses older rolling stock.”
Now European Sleeper is on the hunt for more growth capital to take advantage of growth in the sector. A successful funding round garnered 2.5 million euros last year. An additional 3 million euros from is now sought from private investors.
In words to interest investors and perhaps chill air executives, Chris Engelsman, founder of European Sleeper told Sky: “It’s very good competition for aeroplanes. We don’t need to persuade everybody to come by train: just five per cent of current air travellers [switching to overnight trains] would make us full booked every day.”