RegioJet train with its distinct yellow livery at Praha hlavní nádrazí station (photo © Martin Broz / dreamstime.com).
After many dark months, Europe is coming back to life again and that’s reflected in a pleasing flurry of new overnight train services. This past week has seen new direct overnight trains on three key routes, one a French domestic service and the other two both international routes.
French national operator SNCF has revived the Paris to Nice sleeper. It’s very welcome news that this service is now running daily again, with departures every evening from both Paris and Nice. The service was axed by SNCF four years ago.
The new service doesn’t have the style or character of the legendary overnight service on this route, which was called Le Train Bleu. From the late 19th century, this classic service was regarded as the stylish option for Riviera-bound travellers. Le Train Bleu even inspired a ballet of the same name. The name was quietly dropped about 20 years ago.
ÖBB’s new Amsterdam to Vienna Nightjet service has started at last. One section of the train runs to and from Innsbruck, giving a direct overnight link between the Netherlands and the Austrian Tyrol.
In this new service there’s an echo of the former City Night Line Eridanus train which a dozen years back gave a direct thrice-weekly overnight link from Amsterdam to Vienna. The bonus of the new Nightjet service is that it leaves Amsterdam every evening.
It’s likely that next year Amsterdam will see more overnight destinations, with talk of a new direct sleeper service from the Dutch city to Basel and Zürich.
RegioJet’s new night train route from Prague to Split was launched yesterday. The first return run from Split is today. Back in 2017, there was a seasonal night train which conveyed sleeper carriages from Prague to Split and back. But that option quietly slipped from the timetables. Now, thanks to entrepreneurial RegioJet, the night train service is back, broadly following the same route as the earlier train. So from Prague the train runs via Bratislava, Budapest and Zagreb, making this one of the few European services to take in four capital cities. Departures are twice weekly in each direction.
With a total journey distance of 1,406 km from Prague to Split, this new service is one of Europe’s longest night train routes. The end-to-end travel time is just under 21 hours.
Nightjet, in conjunction with Slovakian Railways, will also launch a twice-weekly service from Bratislava to Split in just three weeks. This new train will take a very different route from the competing RegioJet service, running west from the Slovak capital to Vienna and then on over the Semmering route to reach Graz, Maribor and Zagreb.
There was much rejoicing early last year at the return of regular scheduled night trains to Belgium. A twice-weekly night sleeper from Brussels to Vienna was launched in early 2020. As with many routes, it was withdrawn during the Cornoavirus pandemic, but happily it was reinstated this past week, and now with increased frequency. It will run thrice weekly in each direction.