Night trains planned for Amsterdam, Rome and Barcelona

Park Güell in Barcelona, which is one of several European cities that are set to be a destination for night trains from Switzerland Keystone

Train travellers will soon be able to go to sleep in Switzerland and wake up in cities including Amsterdam, Rome and Barcelona. Swiss Federal Railways and Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) have announced they want to expand their night-train service in Europe.

This content was published on September 15, 2020 - 15:16

“Demand for international night-train services significantly increased in 2019 and at the start of 2020 until the coronavirus crisis struck,” Swiss Federal Railways wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The number of passengers using night-train services from Switzerland grew by over 25% with respect to the previous year.”

It added that the two partner railways considered this a sustainable trend given the significant rise in customer demand for “environmentally friendly and resource-efficient travel”.

With its 19 Nightjet lines and eight further services provided in cooperation with partner railways, ÖBB already runs Europe’s largest night-train network. This includes the network from Switzerland run in cooperation with Swiss Federal Railways, comprising six lines.

Over the past few months, the two companies have evaluated various options for expanding the service. In a letter of intent signed last week, they outlined a strategy that would increase the Nightjet network from Switzerland to incorporate a total of ten lines and 25 destinations.

Final destinations

As a first step in the expansion process, the two companies want to launch a daily Nightjet service running from Zurich to Amsterdam via Basel-Frankfurt-Cologne in December 2021.

A new line will run from Zurich to Rome via Bern-Brig-Domodossola. There are also plans for a daily connection from Zurich to Barcelona via Bern-Lausanne-Geneva.

In addition, the capacity of the connections from Zurich to Berlin and Hamburg via Basel is to be expanded “significantly”. The plan is to serve both destinations with two separate trains covering the whole route, “if possible from the 2023 timetable change”.

They also plan to run the service to Prague via Germany as a portion of the Berlin Nightjet with sleeping cars and couchettes. The new route would also provide a direct connection to Leipzig and Dresden.

Evolution of travel

The dismantling of the Swiss sleeper network began 15 years ago, and since then more and more direct overnight routes have disappeared. Previous destinations such as Brussels, Rome, Barcelona, Moscow and Copenhagen are no longer on the timetable.

In 2009 Swiss Federal Railways ended its night-train service with its own sleepers and German Railways did the same in 2016. Austrian Federal Railways took over some of the routes.

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