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‘Sleeper trains’ London to Berlin and Prague a new possibility

For those who have grown a travel bug during lockdown, the truth is that flying looks like it won’t be a viable option as a global pandemic persists.  However, for those who dream to travel again, there might be some hope.  With growing new interest, there are ambitious plans to take overnight ‘Sleeper trains’ services through the channel tunnel from London to cities around Europe .

Last week it was announced there will be a new night service in 2022 between Brussels and Prague, stopping at Amsterdam, Berlin and Dresden, with tickets expected to cost from €60 one way.  

Though it being great news for mainland Europe as it it is naturally geographically connected, however what does this main for the UK as it begins a new trajectory of Brexit? Which many see as a potential barrier and obstacle in regards to travel.

Its co-founder of the European Sleeper cooperative Elmer van Buuren in regards to this said:

“London and the UK is just that much further away from the rest of the continent that it would actually be very sensible to have a sleeper service,” he said. “Despite Brexit, I think there’s still many people in the UK that want to come to Europe for holidays and business so I think there’s definitely a market there” 

This conversation however was thoroughly held back in the 1990s with plans for a “Nightstar” service connecting London, Plymouth, Swansea and Glasgow to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Cologne. But rising construction costs and the rise in the popularity of budget airlines was thought to have made the project redundant.

Making the resurgence of this idea an obvious result of circumstance, which are climate change and COVID19. 

Van Buuren, who founded the European Sleeper with Chris Engelsman, who runs the Noord West Express website promoting rail travel, nevertheless said he believed that the “Greta Thunberg effect” on public attitudes to flight and the impact of the recent health crisis.

However though the optimism and potential there are many issues the Channel tunnel will have to resolve and address if it is to be a viable, alternative and consistent route for travel to mainland Europe, not taking into consideration the inevitable future challenges and return of airline business. 

Last year for example the UK rail industry’s High Speed Rail Group published a report blaming the overly stringent tunnel regulations for holding back plans for sleepers. Calling government to modernize the regulations in time for the Channel tunnel’s 30th anniversary in 2024. Whether those changes come or not, the costs would be significant for any such service.

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