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Old 24th February 2017, 19:20   #1
Adlington
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Default Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper

There aren't many books on sleeping cars, so it's interesting to note the recently published Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper. Here are excerpts from a review in the Economist:
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Sleeper trains occupy a romantic corner of any traveller’s soul. In some parts of the world, the nostalgia lives on. The Caledonian Sleeper, complete with smartly dressed waiters, neeps and tatties and a selection of whiskies, is the best way to travel between London and Scotland. Elsewhere, however, sleepers are on their last legs. Flights across Europe have become so cheap that fewer and fewer travellers bother with the wagon-lit. Sensing that the end is nigh, Andrew Martin, a British novelist, has written an ode to the sleeper.

These stories make clear that the golden age of the sleeper train is long past. How different things were in the 19th century, when a passenger on the Orient Express could dine on gigot de mouton à la Bretonne, épinards au sucre and champagne aplenty.

[T]he real question that the uninitiated most often ask sleeper fanatics is: “Do you sleep?” After a read of Mr Martin’s book, the answer would seem to be a resounding “no”: clanking and shunting wake him up time and again. Still, it is hard not to be won over by his enthusiasm. Catch the sleeper train, before it’s too late.
May be some forum members will read the book and publish their thoughts here. Or may be they will do only the latter, without the former....
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Old 26th February 2017, 18:40   #2
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Railways are for rich people or enthusiasts who want to pay 10x what it costs by plane.

Even standard seating. A friend recently looked at East Coast Dundee to St Neots. £130. I think the plane flight was something like £40.

The honest truth is the railways won't fill those seats with cheaper fares, they will keep them empty and run an empty train. Thats sad.
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Old 26th February 2017, 18:48   #3
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Railways are for rich people or enthusiasts who want to pay 10x what it costs by plane.

Even standard seating. A friend recently looked at East Coast Dundee to St Neots. £130. I think the plane flight was something like £40.

The honest truth is the railways won't fill those seats with cheaper fares, they will keep them empty and run an empty train. Thats sad.
I'm not defending rail fares or TOCs, but quoted air fares within the UK rarely seem to be available when it comes to booking them, or with all sorts of non-optional extra costs. Didn't know there were direct flights from Dundee to St Neots, either.
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Old 26th February 2017, 19:13   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richieb1971 View Post
Railways are for rich people or enthusiasts who want to pay 10x what it costs by plane.

Even standard seating. A friend recently looked at East Coast Dundee to St Neots. £130. I think the plane flight was something like £40.

The honest truth is the railways won't fill those seats with cheaper fares, they will keep them empty and run an empty train. Thats sad.
I got London to Holland fifty quid each way by train recently.
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Old 26th February 2017, 19:19   #5
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May be some forum members will read the book and publish their thoughts here. Or may be they will do only the latter, without the former....
Read it.
Subject interesting, but couldn't really take to the author somehow. His anecdotes and attitudes weren't my cup of tea.
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Old 26th February 2017, 19:51   #6
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I've bought the book, will see if it fits with my relatively wide experience of European sleepers.
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Old 26th February 2017, 23:28   #7
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I heard the author on Radio 4 the other week. I think he admitted to having flown back from his research trips; he may have had good practical reasons, and at least he went by train in one direction, but I couldn't help thinking of the Lynton and Barnstaple protestors going to Barnstaple by car.
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Old 27th February 2017, 10:08   #8
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I might take a read, I love travelling by sleeper and have never had trouble sleeping (even on the shunt onto the Sicily ferry!)
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Old 27th February 2017, 21:44   #9
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I heard the author on Radio 4 the other week. I think he admitted to having flown back from his research trips; he may have had good practical reasons, and at least he went by train in one direction, but I couldn't help thinking of the Lynton and Barnstaple protestors going to Barnstaple by car.
Yes, easyJet and BA back from some destinations.
He compares the prices of the journeys too. A good reason for the demise of the night train.
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Old 28th February 2017, 14:05   #10
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Railways are for rich people or enthusiasts who want to pay 10x what it costs by plane.
This isn't actually true. Walk-up plane travel is not cheap. Even if you count some rare and extreme examples, I think you will struggle to find many (if any) examples where this 10x the cost claim is true.

Also most rail passengers are making journeys for which there is no option to travel by plane.

If you're talking about Sleeper journeys, then the whole point of it is to sleep during the journey, and arrive relatively relaxed for the next morning. Overnight plane travel isn't really comparable.
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Even standard seating. A friend recently looked at East Coast Dundee to St Neots. £130. I think the plane flight was something like £40.
I don't understand what this has got to do with the loss of sleeper services, but your comparison is highly misleading.

Presumably the plane was from Stansted? How much did it cost to get there (and, if by car, to park there)? Where was the plane journey to? What was the cost of getting from the airport?

The train ticket is £139.70 for a flexible walk-up Off Peak Return.

I very doubt the whole journey can be done from St Neots to Dundee, using the plane for the bulk of the journey, for £40 return. Even if you could, this would be on a very limited number of journey opportunities and surely booked very far in advance.

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The honest truth is the railways won't fill those seats with cheaper fares, they will keep them empty and run an empty train. Thats sad.
Are you referring to the Sleeper or are you talking in more general terms?

I really don't think any more Sleepers than what we have now would be viable, and the existing Sleepers are not currently under threat, with the Scottish sleeper particularly secure, given that new stock is being procured.

If you are talking in general terms, then your statement may apply to some train companies and some routes, but does not apply across the board.

If you're simply using this post to say some rail fares are too high, then I would agree with you on that, but I don't see how it has anything to do with the book, or Sleepers, and I don't agree with the comparison with plane fares.
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Old 17th May 2017, 21:42   #11
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I bought this book having read this thread, and I've just finished it while on a GWR HST (and started it earlier on a VTEC 225). Very easy to read, and very believable - when the author describes a pulsing light outside his compartment window, you feel sorry for him, and having used sleepers before, I can imagine it!

I now fancy taking one of the continental sleepers now though, so this could have been an expensive book...
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Old 19th May 2017, 08:19   #12
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Only ever used a sleeper service myself. I travelled from Birmingham New Street to Edinburgh way back in the mid 80's.
I remember thinking as I laid on the single bed that it was going to be a long sleepless night.
I was asleep before the train left the tunnel at the north end of the station & I didn't wake up until the lovely attendant came around with tea & biscuits at around 6:30 the following morning.
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Old 19th May 2017, 08:38   #13
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Quote:
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Railways are for rich people or enthusiasts who want to pay 10x what it costs by plane.
Or for people who can't drive and don't like flying.
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Old 19th May 2017, 21:43   #14
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Flying, leave house three hours before flight to get to park and ride, forty minutes in bus to airport. Check in and disrobe for security! Now have two hours to waste with overpriced shops who protest that they are giving a bargain price-not. Spend x hours uncomfortable with fellow passengers who ignore safety briefing, queue to get off aeroplane, if really unluckily have to get on bus to get to exit (why do people pay for speedy boarding?)
End up in airport miles from where I want to be.

Railway, local station ten minutes away, no security, comfortable travel, do not even have to queue for toilet, food, drinks are reasonable priced considering travel. Get off at station suitably refreshed near destination having enjoyed travelling.

Depends where you are travelling to from but for me if possible I use train. I do not hate flying I have a pilots license but fed up getting ripped of flying and the time involved just to get on the aeroplane, if you have time to spare go by air!
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Old 20th May 2017, 06:22   #15
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On the subject of night trains, I do regret that I missed the era of a scruffy mk1 at the front of a loco hauled newspaper/mail train. I've read articles about these services and they seem as though they could have been pretty handy (as well as novel in terms of accommodation and haulage).

Perhaps if they'd still existed, they would have progressed to a scruffy mk2.
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