While many night train services are still on hold, the RegioJet overnight train from Prague to Rijeka, which is now running daily in both directions, is an entirely new route (photo © Anze Furlan / dreamstime.com).
While much of Europe’s long-distance rail network is up and running again after the first phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, there remain a few gaps, particularly in overnight services. In this post we take a look at night sleepers which, for one reason or another, have not yet been reinstated. In one or two cases, we fear for the future of these links. It is possible that some may never return.
If the tone of the post seems uncharacteristically negative for us, it’s merely because we focus here on those trains which have not yet been reinstated. Readers should not overlook the fact that most of Europe’s night trains are running again. And there have been some real silver linings in the COVID-19 cloud. We have seen the introduction of some entirely new overnight services. Examples include the Alpen-Sylt Night Express from Salzburg to Sylt and the new RegioJet overnight link from Prague and Bratislava to the Adriatic resort of Rijeka.
We note below some trains which are currently not running.
Thello has reinstated its daytime Eurocity services from Nice to Milan. But the company’s overnight services from Paris to Milan, Verona and Venice are on hold. The current news is that these night sleepers are “suspended indefinitely”.
Portugal cut its international rail links on 17 March 2020, and until now none have been restored. That means that the normal night trains from Lisbon to destinations in Spain (eg. Ávila, Madrid, Burgos and San Sebastián) as well as the useful overnight link from Lisbon to Hendaye in France are not running.
Overnight trains within Spain are still on hold, so the popular night sleeper services from various cities in Galicia to Madrid and Barcelona are not running.
Route 32 in our Europe by Rail book is the only route in the book which critically relies on a night train, namely the overnight service from Stockholm to Narvik in Norway. With the Sweden / Norway border closed at the moment, that route cannot presently be followed from end-to-end. Trains are running as far as Abisko or Björkliden, whence there are connecting buses which run as far as Riksgränsen, which is the last community in Sweden, just short of the Norwegian frontier.
Some Anglo-Scottish night sleeper services continued running throughout the pandemic, but others were suspended and some links have not yet been reinstated. The services from London to Dundee, Aberdeen, Motherwell and Glasgow Central will not run until at least the start of September – but note that the London to Fort William service is running as normal and that trains also serve Glasgow, with stops in Queen Street Low Level and Dalmuir.
The Caledonian Sleeper trains to Scotland are presently only open to passengers booking a sleeping berth. There is no provision for seated accommodation. Great Western takes exactly the opposite approach on its service from London to Cornwall. The Night Riviera to Penzance is running five times weekly in each direction, but there are no sleepers – just seats, which is not a great way of passing a night on a train.
One European country which remains conspicuously isolated is Ukraine. The overnight trains from Warsaw and Vienna to Kyiv are not running, nor is the sleeper from Przemyśl (in south-east Poland) to the Black Sea port of Odessa. The ‘four capitals’ sleeper service from Kyiv to Minsk, Vilnius and Riga is also still suspended.
The situation for travel by night trains to and from Russia is still very challenging. The overnight services from Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all suspended. Other Russian Railways (RZD) trains to destinations in the European Union are still on hold. So this means that there are no direct night trains from Russia (or for that matter Belarus) to Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Paris, Vienna or Nice.
RZD is the sole operator on some intra-EU overnight links. None of these services are running at the moment. Routes affected include Paris to Warsaw; Berlin and Erfurt to Paris; Warsaw to Verona; Vienna to Genoa.