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Author Topic: Sweden reviving overnight sleeper trains?  (Read 628 times)
johnneyw
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« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2019, 10:29:35 pm »

I have been on a sleeper bus. A proper one with bunk beds and curtains and all... Surprisingly okay, though obviously a train is comfier.

I wasn't aware of their existence. Not in the UK? Do tell.
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« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2019, 10:31:43 pm »

I can still remember returning to Montpellier in 1998 (having visited in 1992), while the trams were a-building, and thinking what have they done with all the cars? Unlike how it was before, or any other French city, there wasn't a single car visible parked in the central squsre (l'Oeuf) nor in any street nearby. There was still access to private courts via back lanes, but lined by big iron balls so closely spaced as to prevent a car being parked without blocking them.

You wondered how anyone managed to persuade the French (of all people) to give up their ingrained promiscuous parking habits; surely it would take a dictator to do that? Well, fortunately(?) Montpellier had as mayor the famously irascible Georges Fręche, who was pretty much that.
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eightonedee
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« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2019, 10:39:52 pm »

Quote
Just as an aside, Montpellier is one of my favourite places. Everything is properly zoned - Residential, Commercial, Industrial etc - and those zones are linked together by the most wonderful tram network, which is made even better for me from a personal perspective by an unusual lack of restrictions on dogs (many other networks require them to be in carriers, or to be muzzled etc)

It really is a masterclass in urban transport planning - please do go and experience it for yourselves if you get the chance.

Ive always wanted to live here in France, and if it wasnt for the fact i need to be able to easily visit the UK on a reasonably regular basis, then Montpellier would be pretty near the top of my list for places to live.

Lee - a note of caution from someone who has also stayed there twice and enjoyed the experience.

The downside is that it is very prone to flooding - Google Montpellier Floods and you will see 2014, 2015 and 2018 incidents mentioned. We were there in November 2011 when there was an autumn cloudburst over the city, as we were out for the day looking at the bridge at Millau. As we drove back in the gathering gloom there was a terrific thunderstorm we could see over the city as we approached. When we arrived - chaos! Roads closed, water flowing through the streets of the lower city, particularly the recently built Antigone area south of the city centre. At that time the internet was full of stories of the 2005 floods. Make sure your dream retirement property is in one of the higher parts of town!  
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« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2019, 10:44:47 pm »

You wondered how anyone managed to persuade the French (of all people) to give up their ingrained promiscuous parking habits; surely it would take a dictator to do that? Well, fortunately(?) Montpellier had as mayor the famously irascible Georges Fręche, who was pretty much that.

If only the famously irascible Georges Ferguson had not been thwarted in his efforts to do something about promiscuous parking habits in my part of North Bristol...
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Lee
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« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2019, 11:47:43 pm »

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Just as an aside, Montpellier is one of my favourite places. Everything is properly zoned - Residential, Commercial, Industrial etc - and those zones are linked together by the most wonderful tram network, which is made even better for me from a personal perspective by an unusual lack of restrictions on dogs (many other networks require them to be in carriers, or to be muzzled etc)

It really is a masterclass in urban transport planning - please do go and experience it for yourselves if you get the chance.

Ive always wanted to live here in France, and if it wasnt for the fact i need to be able to easily visit the UK on a reasonably regular basis, then Montpellier would be pretty near the top of my list for places to live.

Lee - a note of caution from someone who has also stayed there twice and enjoyed the experience.

The downside is that it is very prone to flooding - Google Montpellier Floods and you will see 2014, 2015 and 2018 incidents mentioned. We were there in November 2011 when there was an autumn cloudburst over the city, as we were out for the day looking at the bridge at Millau. As we drove back in the gathering gloom there was a terrific thunderstorm we could see over the city as we approached. When we arrived - chaos! Roads closed, water flowing through the streets of the lower city, particularly the recently built Antigone area south of the city centre. At that time the internet was full of stories of the 2005 floods. Make sure your dream retirement property is in one of the higher parts of town!  


Ive tended to be quite lucky on that front. My flat in Portsmouth was north of Portsea Island halfway up Portsdown Hill, so avoided that problem. Then I lived in Batheaston for 5 years, which flooded several times while I was there (sinking the dreaded Park & Ride proposal in the process), but I had a house on higher ground and escaped all that too.

Callac itself is built on a hill with fab views of the lower countryside surrounding it, and hopefully my luck will continue to hold if and when i choose to move south  Grin
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« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2019, 08:11:40 am »

This thread, and other research I was doing yesterday afternoon, got me thinking. Dangerous. And thinking whether there's an economic and environmental case (if not a business case) for Britain to Europe overnight services and indeed daytime beyond-London and beyond-Paris/Brussels services.

I find myself concerned at taking a further look at these services when it's only 20 years since their previous stillborn appearances, with sleeper services in the heart of Europe slashed back just a couple of years ago:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightstar_(train)  abandoned by 1997
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_Eurostar - abandoned late 1990s
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/rail-journeys/the-last-surviving-sleeper-trains/

But then, we have a history of the tail of rail closures being very close to and even overlapping the head of successful re-openings.  Closures .. Bridport and Heysham, 1975. Alston, 1976. Claydon West, 1983. Radipole, 1984. Bradford North Curve, 1990. Ongar, 1994.  Openings .. Feniton, 1971. Alfreton, 1973. Five Ways, 1978. Melksham, 1985. Heysham, 1987. Islip, 1989.  Close to home ... reduction to 'parly' level of services at Melksham 2006, and improvement from that level back to 'poor but useable' in 2013.

So - comfortable with a fresh look, learning from history but not looking to duplicate what we had or what we nearly had; new and current metrics.  Services such as London to Liverpool, Manchester and Barrow sleepers which were around 30 years ago make less sense as daytime trains start earlier, finish later and routinely run faster.  Services such as London to Istanbul are clearly still going to eat into a traveller's prime awake time and flying - with climate friendly concerns considered (RyanAir now 10th most CO2 producer in Europe?) though. But potentially possibilities at the intermediate distance.

So - regions of UK to Paris, Brussels, perhaps Amsterdam and Frankfurt. London to Munich, Marsailles, Copenhagen, Berlin, Barcelona.  London to Rome, Warsaw, Madrid start looking a bit far. London to Paris, very much a "day train" job.

Now - stock.  Are we going 'high luxury' with showers in every compartment, or are we going for something that's a convertible - beds that drop down over seats / fold back and can run a round trip every day, with the added advantage that seat to sleeper ratios can be changed to meet market needs on a per-trip basis.  Yes - even daytime sleeper berths if people would like.  And does it make sense to let the AT300 production line at Newton Aycliffe carry on producing 5 car units which can pair up for much of the run, with shared servicing and spares with our national fleets.

Ah - I have things to do today.  Will stop there.
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Lee
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« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2019, 09:44:01 am »

Thello may be a concept worth looking at regarding this, as they seem to be surviving well enough on Paris-Milan-Verona-Venice providing a largely budget experience with budget prices available.

Perception seems to be key here. I'm told that if you are the type of person who is genuinely ok with a budget experience then you may well really enjoy it, whereas if your expectations of comfort are higher, then it's quite possible that you really wont, and that's where some of the more negative reviews you will find online will stem from. The Man in Seat 61 provides an excellent and very comprehensive overview here.

Will I personally be joining the sleeper revolution? I have to say probably not. While I did enjoy using night trains to get around Europe in my younger days in the 90's, these days I just don't find them comfortable enough or that competitive pricewise compared to taking a day train and staying overnight in a cheaper hotel such as Travelodge and Premier Inn in the UK or the likes of Ibis Budget over here, all of which I feel have upped their game in terms of comfort and service in recent years, as the fortunes of sleeper trains have waned over the same period.

Also part of the attraction of rail travel for me is the simple pleasure of being able to see the scenery during the daytime, particularly if I haven't travelled on the route before.
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« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2019, 12:12:08 pm »

The Thello looks remarkably cheap for the distance. Absolute bargain. But the Man in Seat 61's report has confused me: I thought I knew the difference between couchette and sleeper, but it looks from his photos that the only real difference is that (on Thello) sleepers include a toilet per compartment.
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« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2019, 12:46:31 pm »

The Man in Seat 61 clarified this in a 2013 TripAdvisor post

Quote from: The Man in Seat 61
There's more space in a 4-berth couchette, and if you got the cheapest rates - 4 x €55 in couchettes, 3 x €125, I'd say the couchettes were the better deal.

But prices vary, and if they are neck and neck, the proper made-up beds in a sleeper are more comfy and wider than the mere padded ledge that is a couchette, plus you get a washbasin, soap, towels, plus you get a very light breakfast of juice, coffee and croissant in the morning.

This video shows you what to expect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfjiaO2lyOw

Thello describe the difference as follows:

Quote from: Thello website
SLEEPER CABINS

Equipped with a toilet area and a socket to use an electric razor, the cabins guarantee the best comfort. You will appreciate the comfort of a bed and a duvet in the quiet surroundings of the cabin compartments which have an enforced sound insulation. Beds are furnished with sheets, a pillow wrapped in its pillow case and a duvet with its cover. A towel is at the disposal of the passengers. A travel kit with toiletries, slippers, as well as a bottle of water are offered. To greet you, a welcome drink is offered upon your arrival on board. For a good start in the morning, enjoy a breakfast, included in the price of the journey.

Premium Cabin

With their private bathroom including sink, shower and WC, the Premium cabin offers the maximum of comfort.

This comfort is only available for passengers booking an entire cabin.

Standard Cabin

Each cabin has a wash basin and 3 beds (1,80 m x 80 cm).

You can choose this comfort by sharing you cabin compartment with other passengers.

COUCHETTE COMPARTMENT

Perfect to travel with a group or with friends, the 6 couchette compartment ensures you the best guarantee to travel at a low price. The 4 couchette compartment is the best solution for a family trip or for low budgets and ensures you a more comfortable space.

The berths (180 x 60 cm) are equipped with a bedding kit. A bottle of water is offered. Separate lavatories and sinks are available in each car. Room temperature can be adjusted in each compartment.

You can start your day with breakfast in the dining car.

The compartment can be shared with other passengers. The compartments are gender-mixed. Subject to availability, possibility of compartments reserved for women.
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Richard Fairhurst
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« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2019, 12:56:45 pm »

I have been on a sleeper bus. A proper one with bunk beds and curtains and all... Surprisingly okay, though obviously a train is comfier.

I wasn't aware of their existence. Not in the UK? Do tell.

Stagecoach ran them for a few years as Megabus Gold: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/articles/Megabus-Gold-luxury-sleeper-service-seven-things-you-need-to-know/ . Sadly they're no more.
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« Reply #25 on: April 04, 2019, 01:27:04 pm »

We did one of the Austrian (OEBB) Nightjet trains from Vienna to Cologne last week, in a sleeper.

The stock was fine. The operation, alas, less so.

There's a clever timetable whereby this sleeper meets the one from Innsbruck to Hamburg in the middle of the night, at Nuernburg. They do a lot of shunting so as to transfer Vienna - Hamburg and Innsbruck - Cologne vehicles to the right departures. And that includes keeping the sleepers, couchettes and seated cars separate from the car-carrying wagons (much used by motorcyclists).

But on this occasion the Innsbruck was late. Whether that was OEBB's fault (train operator) or DB's fault (network), I'm not sure. My money would be on DB.

Anyway, we set off again from Nuernburg some 115 late. Not good news - we were on an 88-minute connection at Cologne towards Bruxelles and London. Rolled into Cologne 95 late, watching the Bruxelles departing.

Slight compensation - the late running meant that we were properly awake for the run down the Rhine gorge.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #26 on: April 04, 2019, 01:55:57 pm »

I have been on a sleeper bus. A proper one with bunk beds and curtains and all... Surprisingly okay, though obviously a train is comfier.

I wasn't aware of their existence. Not in the UK? Do tell.

Stagecoach ran them for a few years as Megabus Gold: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/articles/Megabus-Gold-luxury-sleeper-service-seven-things-you-need-to-know/ . Sadly they're no more.
Sorry, missed this reply earlier. No, it was in India, Bangalore to Pondicherry. It looked a bit similar to that Megabus inside but it was a single-decker, there were privacy curtains, I think the beds were a bit wider. They were comfy but frankly not particularly clean. Being India, there was no toilet; instead, the coach stopped at some grassy place and all the men got out and peed on the roadside. Again, being India, women are expected to have bladders like elephants. You could bring your own food and drink or buy at one or two stops.
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« Reply #27 on: April 04, 2019, 03:42:26 pm »

Across Europe, I would suggest that there are three main markets:

1) Business travel - time poor, price insensitive, seeking quality
2) Premium Leisure travel - time rich, relatively price insensitive, seeking quality
3) Bargain basement - competing with Eurolines/EasyJet/Ryanair

To be honest, for most of these (other than the long-distance coach) I see them as replacing a plane and a hotel room rather than a car. The problem with all of these is that they are going to be quite expensive to run in terms of rolling stock, labour etc., and the hospitality skills that all that the most basic services demand do not really exist within most TOC's.

Nonetheless I reckon there is a ready market if the product were right. Particularly in the first category, the advantage of a well-appointed train from say, London to Frankfurt is that you can go out for dinner, flash your passport and hop onto the train with your overnight bag, get a couple of hours work done or have a few glasses of wine in the bar, have a good nights sleep then be up and fresh to either get to the office or go to your client, without the rigmarole of security, airports, waiting around etc.

It's not a product that's going to appeal to your private jet owner, but there are something like 300k high net worth individuals in London, for whom overnights to Paris/Amsterdam/Frankfurt/Geneva (and further pairs within Europe ) could be quite appealing and merit a fairly high price tag if they were run with high quality rolling stock in conjunction with a hospitality heavy hitter like Accor. 
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« Reply #28 on: April 11, 2019, 08:48:11 am »

Caledonian Sleeper definitely going for higher end option judging by initial trips by new carriages - https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17566183.new-caledonian-sleeper-trains-carry-first-passengers/
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