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City Night Line trains axed

Posted by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries | | News
The inside of Copenhagen

The inside of Copenhagen's main station (photo © Tupungato).

Print media in many countries have been full of stories this past month which bemoan the demise of night trains. The Amsterdam daily Het Parool reported the proposed axing of the Amsterdam to Copenhagen night train with a reminder that even Queen Beatrix used the service when she travelled to Denmark to attend the 70th birthday party for Queen Margrethe in 2010.

The Swiss are not so hot on royal connections, but the Zürich-based Tages-Anzeiger judged it a “tragedy” that the night train from Switzerland to Denmark would be withdrawn later this year.

A raft of European night trains looks set to be cut. Deutsche Bahn’s City Night Line (CNL) network is being severely pruned. Among the routes that are on the hit list are the following:

  • All CNL overnight services to and from Denmark. This will mean the end of the sleepers to Copenhagen from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
  • All CNL overnight services from Paris to Germany. The night trains from Paris to Munich, Berlin and Hamburg would thus all be axed.
  • The direct overnight sleepers from Amsterdam to Berlin, Prague and Warsaw are also on the list (although the link from Cologne to these cities will continue).

The trains mentioned will be withdrawn in mid-December 2014, although some industry sources are suggesting that the services to Denmark might disappear in November 2014.

Many of these services have suffered a long, slow demise. The gradual withdrawal of restaurant cars was a major blow to devotees of CNL trains. The few remaining restaurant cars were all withdrawn in spring this year. Long-term lack of investment in CNL lies at the heart of the company’s problems. It has aged rolling stock.

Meanwhile, Russian rail operator RZD is showing how it could be done. Its network of overnight services now reaches to cities across western and central Europe (including Paris, Nice, Milan, Vienna, Innsbruck, Strasbourg). Brand new sleeping cars were introduced this month on the services from Moscow to Prague.

The day may soon come when passengers in the EU wanting to take a comfortable overnight train will need to use a Russian service. Indeed, when the CNL train from Berlin to Paris is axed later this year, it will leave just a sole surviving direct train between the German and the French capitals — and that will be a Russian train.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
hidden europe
About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the Europe by Rail guidebook - the latest edition of which was published in June 2016. A fully updated 15th edition will be published in autumn 2017.

1 Comment

Elizabeth Almeida, 25 July 2015

We are very concerned to hear about the cuts in the City Night Line overnight train service! We would appreciate having an update about the continued availability of service between Munich and Berlin during the 2015 Christmas season as we hope to repeat the unforgetable experience of a sleeping car voyage between destinations during our holiday travels. Thank you in advance for your kind response. Elizabeth Almeida

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