Potential City Night Line Routes From London St Pancras

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itfcfan

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With Deutsche Bahn's plans to run trains from London -> Amsterdam/Frankfurt what would the practical limitations be to the start of City Night Line (or other sleeper) services from London to Europe?

This website gives a (slightly outdated) view of the majority of sleeper services across Europe and shows a gap from Germany / further East and Brussels / London.
http://sleeper.demozoo.org/map

The nearest European sleeper railheads to London are Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne. Here's a summary of services running on Monday:

PARIS (~2:15 from London + 1 hour timezone difference)
18:53 (Austerlitz-)Madrid
20:23 (Austerlitz-)Barcelona
19:45 (Lyon-)Venice
20:05 (Est-)Berlin/Munich/Hamburg

AMSTERDAM (~4:00 estimated direct service from London + 1 hour timezone difference)
19:01 (Centraal-)Copenhagen/Warsaw/Prague/Moscow
20:31 (Centraal-)Munich/Zurich

COLOGNE (~4:00 estimated direct service from London + 1 hour timezone difference)
20:05 (Hbf-)Vienna
22:28 (Hbf-)Copenhagen/Warsaw/Prague/Moscow (from Amsterdam)
23:46 (Hbf-)Munich/Basel/Zurich (from Amsterdam)

If a section of the Munich/Basel/Zurich train were to start in London instead of Amsterdam (joining at Cologne), it would need to leave at around 18:30 to keep to existing timings. Presumably this could work quite well for passengers - it's after working hours and could be convenient for people working in London. Likewise to join the Copenhagen/Warsaw/Prague/Moscow service at Cologne on existing times, a portion would need to leave London at around 17:15.

How fast do City Night Line services travel compared to high speed trains? I presume they're much slower. How difficult would it be to find a path for these services amongst the busy evening peak Eurostar services? A similar problem would exist for returning services in the morning. If paths couldn't be for the slower sleeper services, trains would need to depart after the last high speed trains (currently 20:00 for Eurostar, although later for domestic services to Kent) and arrive before the first high speed trains from Europe (currently 08:30 for Eurostar).

Given HS1 and the Channel Tunnel are built to UIC loading gauge, I assume clearance shouldn't be so much of a problem? Trains would also need to be stored / maintained during the day in London. If Deutsche Bahn currently perform this in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Prague, etc - hopefully it wouldn't be too big a problem to find a way to do this in London.

If anyone has a more informed idea about the issues that starting an kind of European sleeper service would face I'd be interested to understand them.

John

PS I've crossed posted on uk.railway.
 
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starrymarkb

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I think the biggest issue would be travel time compared with flying, after all that's what killed off night star, Sleeper services are declining on the continent with the combined onslaught of high speed day trains and low cost air travel
 

itfcfan

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I agree it's not the mass market it once was, but DB have invested significantly in City Night Line and you'd think if obstacles could be overcome, London could be quite a significant destination and source of passengers.

If you're already running a train from Amsterdam to Munich/Zurich and can have all or part of it starting from London instead, starting at a similar time, London may be a larger draw. In terms of a source of passengers, London's population is 7.5m compared with Amsterdam's 700k (at least according to Google).
 

radamfi

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700K is just the population within the municipal boundary of Amsterdam. According to Wikipedia, the population of the immediate urban area around Amsterdam is 1.2m, the metropolitan area is 2.3m and the Randstad conurbation (including Den Haag, Rotterdam and Utrecht) is about 7m.
 

telstarbox

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There are many flights to Amsterdam from all the London airports and the rest of the UK - it's a hub airport. Given the low prices on many routes, plus the significant saving in travel time over the train, it's a non-starter.
 

MCR247

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I don't think anyone's actually suggested a sleeper from London - Amstetdam
 

BRX

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It would be great to have direct night services running from London to places like Berlin or Vienna or Madrid.

Presumably it would require brand new stock to be built to comply with Channel Tunnel regulations etc.

As for the idea of a section that joined into existing services in, say, Cologne... it begs the question of how much of an improvement that would be over just getting a (high speed) evening service from London to Brussels/Cologne and then getting on the sleeper there. This could be made straightforward with through ticketing, but I'd imagine the fact that you'd be travelling effectively on peak hour services out of London would mean that ticket prices would be quite high.

Seems to me that if you're going to do night services from London they should start rather later than you suggest... more like 7 or 8pm-ish after the rush hour. Would be interesting to look at what destinations would come within a 10/11hr journey time that would get you there at the start of the working day. Berlin might be pushing it a bit but maybe the south of France, for example?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
There are many flights to Amsterdam from all the London airports and the rest of the UK - it's a hub airport. Given the low prices on many routes, plus the significant saving in travel time over the train, it's a non-starter.

Not necessarily... say you have a meeting at 9am in central Amsterdam; many people would prefer to get on a late train in London, have a night's sleep, and then wake up in Amsterdam, rather than getting up at 4 or 5am, getting to the airport, checking in, etc etc and the same at the other end. The flight time isn't the actual journey time.
 

Greenback

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I'm probably an exception, but I would much prefer a reasonably direct overnight journey by rail to an early morning start with a fragmented journey to arrive in the evening the next day.

As an example, we recently travelled from home to northern Italy. It would have been much easier for this particular trip to have been able to travel up to London in the late afternoon to catch an overnight train at 2100 or 2200, and arrive the following lunchtime.

As it was, we left at 0648 and arrived at our destination at gone 2000. So I would love to see overnight trains that allow a late departure from London and a daytime arrival the next day. I'd like to see Switzerland, Austria and Italy as some of the destinations!
 

itfcfan

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radamfi - If the population London at least equals that of the Randstad conurbation, I think there's an argument that London could represent a significant source of traffic for some of the City Night Line services.

brianthegiant - Having travelled frequently in Syria (by train and other methods) it's particularly sad for me to see what's happening to a wonderful people. That Tatvan service you linked to actually continues/ed across Lake Van by ferry then a second sleeper train to Tehran (no carriages conveyed on the ferry, but through-ticketed).

BRX/Greenback - I'd argue that direct journeys are significantly more attractive / easier to understand and market to most people. On the return journey, the difference of changing train at 05:00 versus continuing in the same bed in to London is also significant.
 

WestCoast

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CityNightLine from London would certainly be attractive for many travellers I reckon.

London to Amsterdam could be a good option, but on the other hand, it may also not be that attractive to those living closer to the ports at Hull, Newcastle and Harwich, which have overnight sailings to the Netherlands.

A good mix of leisure and business traffic routes (with a focus on routes that appeal both) is the key I reckon.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
radamfi - If the population London at least equals that of the Randstad conurbation, I think there's an argument that London could represent a significant source of traffic for some of the City Night Line services.
.

The most populous 'conurbations' in Europe are something like this (it depends on where boundaries are drawn e.t.c). This research paper published the following on European urban areas, which differ from traditional government statistics on population:

1. Greater London, UK - 13,709,000 people
2. Rhein-Ruhr, Germany (high pop. density area surrounding Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Dortmund e.t.c) - 12,190,000 people
3. Paris Metropolitan Area, France - 11,175,000 people
4. Randstad, Netherlands (mentioned above in Radamfi's post) - 6,787,000 people
5. Milan Metropolitan Region, Italy - 5,963,000 people
 
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BRX

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Could certainly be a market for night trains from London to ski areas in season I'd say. Direct journey vs transfers etc and also, more room on a train for bringing skis and whatnot.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
also...I remember there was that suggestion that the ex-Eurostar platforms at Waterloo could be used as a sleeper train hub for the uk... could add some European night trains there too!
 

LE Greys

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I'm probably an exception, but I would much prefer a reasonably direct overnight journey by rail to an early morning start with a fragmented journey to arrive in the evening the next day.

As an example, we recently travelled from home to northern Italy. It would have been much easier for this particular trip to have been able to travel up to London in the late afternoon to catch an overnight train at 2100 or 2200, and arrive the following lunchtime.

As it was, we left at 0648 and arrived at our destination at gone 2000. So I would love to see overnight trains that allow a late departure from London and a daytime arrival the next day. I'd like to see Switzerland, Austria and Italy as some of the destinations!

I quite agree. The biggest problem with flying is airports, and the second is ground transport connections. Being able to catch an overnight train and arrive at a decent time would be an excellent way to get around.

My first choice would be Geneva (mostly because I go there a lot) but probably on a through train to Bern, Zurich, Salzburg and Vienna. Rome is an obvious alternative, via the Simplon or the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Berlin is another option, presumably via Brussels and crossing most of Germany. A full 'Orient Express' route to Istanbul might be pushing it a bit, at least for the business market, but it's worth looking at for tourists, many more of whom are visiting eastern Europe.
 

Greenback

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I quite agree. The biggest problem with flying is airports, and the second is ground transport connections. Being able to catch an overnight train and arrive at a decent time would be an excellent way to get around.

One of the major benefits for us would be that there would be fewer 'legs' to the overall journey. Instead of two trains (or a train and bus) to get to an airport, followed by the same thing at the other end, there would just be two or three trains involved. To tavel while sleeping during otherwise dead time would more than offset any longer travelling time.

My first choice would be Geneva (mostly because I go there a lot) but probably on a through train to Bern, Zurich, Salzburg and Vienna. Rome is an obvious alternative, via the Simplon or the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Berlin is another option, presumably via Brussels and crossing most of Germany. A full 'Orient Express' route to Istanbul might be pushing it a bit, at least for the business market, but it's worth looking at for tourists, many more of whom are visiting eastern Europe.

I would prefer Rome via Geneva. This could serve Milan and Florence, both of which are popular destinations.

Plus, there are so many other destinations that are one change away from such a route, including Luzern, Basle, Zurich, Como, Verona, Venice, Turin.
 

ThomasC

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Would welcome overnight trains a wonderful way to arrive refreshed at a destination in the morning. Has anyone been on the Thello from Paris to Venice.
 

jon0844

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I think sleeper trains will have a strong future, as all of the benefits have been noted already (no late night flights with the need for a hotel, or a stupidly early flight which leaves you shattered).

It can suddenly make the train seem a lot more affordable, and beneficial - which I think people might actually pay for (I would, even if not every single time).

For any night train to work, however, I believe the service must be of a high standard (quality of cabins, noise insulation, facilities etc) to entice business users AND leisure users.
 

Aictos

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Indeed, I certainly would do a lot more travelling in Europe IF direct sleeper trains to/from UK were possible.
 

cuccir

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There's also the backpacker market, who are happy to travel overnight in standard class seats if the cost is right. A couple of budget carriages could supplement the first class/business units.
 

jon0844

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Another thing I'd love is for trains to be able to carry cars, so you could take an overnight train into the heart of mainland Europe and have your own car (also with all your luggage inside it, so not having to lug it about).

You can of course just drive the whole way - but most parts of Europe from the UK are going to cost you a fortune in fuel - or you'll also be looking at least one overnight stay in a hotel/motel.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
There's also the backpacker market, who are happy to travel overnight in standard class seats if the cost is right. A couple of budget carriages could supplement the first class/business units.

As I suggested in other sleeper threads, I think you could really make better use of trains and different users with different needs/budgets.

By all means keep a coach with reclining seats, at the budget end (but remember that backpackers will need to store their cavernous bags!).

Or have the couchette style option for the cost-conscious traveller.

For standard class, look to using the first class 'pods' used on many planes. Much better use of the space, and people still enjoy some privacy and a nice bed.

For first class, look at the traditional cabin design - but also consider cabins that can accommodate a family too (with young children) or cabins with adjoining doors for when the kids get a bit older but you still want a proper cabin for.

Now, St Pancras has far too little room for sleeper trains to sit in for hours - so what about a boarding point somewhere further along HS1, or at one of the other International stations? People can either drive to that station, with parking facilities offered, or take a 'shuttle' train from St Pancras there (perhaps having luggage 'checked in' at St Pancras for more convenience)?
 

hluraven

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This would be fantastic if it happened, I did the night boat to the Netherlands recently and it was so much nicer than flying so to have the train equivalent would be great. With my wife loving travelling but hating flying to the point of phobia, this would be a godsend for us and very useful.
 

bangor-toad

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Hi,
I'd love to see City-Line services from London but I just can't see it happening. Who would the market be?

When I've travelled in Europe for work I have always travelled the night before or gone very early that morning. Wjy? Look at a few senarios:

If it's a 9am start in Europe then I want to be there the night before as there's wiggle room for dealing with delays. If a sleeper is delayed or disrupted it occurs during the night whilst you are asleep and you can't do anything about it. At least travelling the night before allows you to complete your journey.

If it's a later start, say after about 10:30am, then you can get a morning flight. Yes it's an early start but there's no messing about with overnight bags and luggage. I hate having to go into a business meeting with a small case with yeasterday's clothers in it. It's much better to arrive with one small bag with just what you need for the day.
Add on to that there's also the home front where I don't particularly want to spend nights away unless I have to.

Now I don't think this perspective in unique to me. In fact for the people I know who have to travel for work within Europe this is a common viewpoint. Whilst there would be some business use, would that really be enough? Especially with the times mentioned earlier - I just can't see rush hour departures being good for mixing with a business day.
Would there be enough lesuire traffic to make the business case?

Cheers,
Jason
 

ainsworth74

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If a sleeper is delayed or disrupted it occurs during the night whilst you are asleep and you can't do anything about it. At least travelling the night before allows you to complete your journey.

That depends though on how tightly timetabled the sleeper is. The Night Riviera is timetabled to arrive at London at 0505, even if it encounters three hours of delays you'd still arrive with enough time to make it to a 0900 meeting in the centre of London and how often do you see delays of three hours? I would have thought it would be perfectly possible to get similar level of protection for that morning meeting for quite a few possible European destinations.
 

BRX

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For "budget" travellers couchette cars are traditionally what has been offered... these work ok but I know some aren't very comfortable with them (eg lone female travellers) because it can be a bit odd being in a small compartment with strangers.

A while back I travelled on a German overnight train (I think it was talgo stock) where there was a kind of central corridor running the length of the carriage, with individual sleeping bunks opening off it (screened off with curtains). I thought this was a good solution for the budget end of sleeper travel - has anyone else used these and are they still in operation?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
If it's a 9am start in Europe then I want to be there the night before as there's wiggle room for dealing with delays. If a sleeper is delayed or disrupted it occurs during the night whilst you are asleep and you can't do anything about it. At least travelling the night before allows you to complete your journey.

That's a fair point... but I guess it depends on the particular circumstances. If you've got something starting at 9am that you absolutely can't be late for then I can see you'd probably want to get there the night before.

If being late would be more of an inconvenience/annoyance than a disaster then I think people would accept a certain level of risk that their journey would be delayed. So it would be up to the train operators to run things such that delays were unusual (or timetabled to arrive well early as someone else suggested).

If you travel the night before, then of course you have to add the cost of a night in a hotel into the comparison, which could make a sleeper train more attractive again.
 

317666

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I think it'd be great to see City NightLine services from St Pancras. One advantage of sleeper trains is the time they save - given the choice of taking most of a day to reach my destination only to spend a night in a hotel, when I could get an overnight train to save time, I'd take the overnight train. I've read that even after DB start their direct German service, it will still take 8-9 hours to get to Berlin, when this could be done overnight to save time, if a sleeper service was started up.
 

WestCoast

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As I suggested in other sleeper threads, I think you could really make better use of trains and different users with different needs/budgets.

By all means keep a coach with reclining seats, at the budget end (but remember that backpackers will need to store their cavernous bags!).

Or have the couchette style option for the cost-conscious traveller.

For standard class, look to using the first class 'pods' used on many planes. Much better use of the space, and people still enjoy some privacy and a nice bed.

For first class, look at the traditional cabin design - but also consider cabins that can accommodate a family too (with young children) or cabins with adjoining doors for when the kids get a bit older but you still want a proper cabin for.

CityNightLine already offers a range of options on their overnight trains, which range from 'sleeper seats' to 'deluxe ensuite compartments'. It depends on the type of stock used but there's a comprehensive overview of the products here.

You can also do a 360 degree tour of a deluxe single/double compartments.
 
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starrymarkb

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Another thing to bear in mind is that from the regions it is possible to do a day trip by air.

Say I live in the regions away from London (or even near London), I can go from a Local airport to a meeting meeting in Amsterdam and back the same day. With the Sleeper I'd probably have to go straight from work the previous day to the station, travel overnight and again return overnight going straight back to work from the station the following day! Not really good for family and home life though.
 

jon0844

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I agree that people living far away from London might not see many benefits from a night train leaving St Pancras, but I think there are enough people who aren't far away from London that would benefit (plus those living in London that might now seek to pop over to Europe for a weekend - leaving Friday night for a nice early Saturday arrival - and then heading back late Sunday night to get back to London and straight to work on the Monday morning, or Tuesday if there's a bank holiday).

For people coming by train into King's Cross or St Pancras, you can actually extend the viable audience by quite a bit. I'm in Hatfield and can get to St Pancras in 25 minutes. People can get in from Cambridge in 45. Then you have EC services, or services along Thameslink, and trains coming in via HS1. Euston is only a short walk.

So, in fact, the potential market is pretty great even if a lot of people living in rural areas might be 'forced' to continue flying.

There is also the market for people coming to the UK too, for short breaks. Given the cost of hotels in London, a single stay on a Saturday night might be a big benefit - and a nicer option than flying in with a low cost airline from some remote airport and being knackered the whole of Saturday, and having to leave at midday Sunday to get up to Stansted or Luton, or down to Gatwick.

Even if the market is considered relatively small, I doubt it's so small that it wouldn't fill a single train to begin with. It's not as if the capacity is THAT great.
 
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WestCoast

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There is also the market for people coming to the UK too, for short breaks. Given the cost of hotels in London, a single stay on a Saturday night might be a big benefit - and a nicer option than flying in with a low cost airline from some remote airport and being knackered the whole of Saturday, and having to leave at midday Sunday to get up to Stansted or Luton, or down to Gatwick.

London is a great tourist draw and that market shouldn't be underestimated, however there is a limit to how convenient the services would be for incoming traffic (and indeed outbound traffic). If you're staying in Central London, especially somewhere closer to Victoria/London Bridge or points south than St Pancras, getting to Gatwick is potentially easier. Likewise with Liverpool Street and Stansted.

What I am saying is you can argue it both ways, for some getting to an airport like Gatwick rather than St Pancras is not much hardship. It depends on the individual circumstances.

Equally so, you mention "flying in from some remote airport". Don't forget that not everyone lives near the main cities and their main rail stations and airports (a very high proportion of people in Europe don't), so a budget flight from a 'secondary airport' can work out much more convenient and time effective. Although assuming all budget flights operate out of secondary airports is completely false in itself.
 
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bangor-toad

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Even if the market is considered relatively small, I doubt it's so small that it wouldn't fill a single train to begin with. It's not as if the capacity is THAT great.

Hi there,
I'm fairly sure that there would be enough traffic to fill the Thursday/Friday/Saturday and Sunday/Monday overnight trains to and from London.

But to make overnight sleeper services viable they will need to have decent utilisation all the time. What would the load factor be on a wet Tuesday in October? It's this baseline that needs to be met to cover costs and then it's the holiday weekends and special events that make the profits.
As I've posted already, sadly I just can't see the business case being made, especially given the particular issue of what's allowed to operate through the Channel Tunnel.

Cheers,
Jason
 

LE Greys

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London is a great tourist draw and that market shouldn't be underestimated, however there is a limit to how convenient the services would be for incoming traffic (and indeed outbound traffic). If you're staying in Central London, especially somewhere closer to Victoria/London Bridge or points south than St Pancras, getting to Gatwick is potentially easier. Likewise with Liverpool Street and Stansted.

What I am saying is you can argue it both ways, for some getting to an airport like Gatwick rather than St Pancras is not much hardship. It depends on the individual circumstances.

That's true. I've found that moving Eurostar to St Pancras has been nothing but a benefit, but I know that some people didn't like it because it made things harder. Stopping at Ebbsfleet and Ashford as a 'collector' for areas south of London might be a possibility - the Caley Sleeper stops at Watford Junction after all.
 
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