Europe’s sleeper train network is expanding. Can it go the distance?



Sleeper trains across Europe are making a comeback. The continent is home to some of the world’s most iconic sleeper routes and excitement has been building around the launch of a new service in 2023 by a European start-up.

For more than a century, sleeper trains have provided a way for everyone, from budget backpackers to royals, to get around Europe.

But these services are expensive to run and come with many operational challenges not faced by the more efficient high-speed rail. Mounting cost issues led several big operators — such as Germany’s Deutsche Bahn — to scrap them over the last decade.

Hopes are now building that the night train is heading in a new direction. In May, a start-up called European Sleeper launched a service that travels between Brussels and Berlin.

A lack of sleeping railroad cars meant the company had to refurbish older trains with a more “classic” product that its founders hope will tempt people on board for the 13-hour journey — despite its significantly higher cost than a 90-minute flight.

Large operators like Austria’s ÖBB have also committed to their night train products, rolling out modern carriages with improved amenities. Smaller challengers also have big plans.

Traveling by rail can be much more pleasant than flying, proponents say, as long as costs can be kept relatively affordable (and the journeys run smoothly). More passengers also see trains as a convenient, reduced carbon emissions alternative to air travel.

So, are sleeper trains back on track? Watch the video above to find out more.


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