Sleeper trains in Europe boosted by two new cross-border lines in 2021

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By Euronews
A woman is waiting in a compartment of a night express train in Westerland, Germany. on July 4, 2020.
A woman is waiting in a compartment of a night express train in Westerland, Germany. on July 4, 2020.   -  Copyright  Axel Heimken/dpa via AP

Sleeper trains across Europe got a boost on Tuesday with the announcement that four new cross-border lines will come online over the coming years.

By the end of 2021, travellers will be able to close their eyes in Vienna and wake up in Paris. Another line will see passengers sleep their way through Germany as they go from Zurich to Amsterdam.

Two other services are scheduled to be inaugurated in December 2023 and December 2024. They are Vienna-Paris via Berlin and Brussels and Zurich-Barcelona.

"It is only with close cooperation between railway operators in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria that we will be able to develop the Nightjet network and offer even more respectful mobility climate in Europe," Andreas Mattha, CEO of the Austrian operator OEBB, said in a statement.

"With Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Vienna and Barcelona, other European cities will be connected by the Nightjet lines of environmentally-friendly way in the future," he added.

The announcement was welcomed by Back on Track, a movement aimed at boosting pan-European rail services as "showing the right way forward when it comes to alternatives to flying in Europe."

"Despite our joy at the good intentions and strong ambitions demonstrated at today's press conference, there is a strong need for the initiative to grow in volumes and spread to more regions in Europe," it added.

Next year is the European Year of the Rail with the European Commission and Parliament keen to promote rail travel as green and key to the bloc's efforts to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Several cross-border routes already exist or are in the pipeline. From March 2021, a train will connect Berlin and Hamburg in Germany to Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmo and Stockholm in Sweden.

Germany, meanwhile, unveiled a TransEuropExpress 2.0 strategy earlier this year for accelerating the deployment of sleeper trains. It plans for some 15 services to come online over the next decade.

East-west lines will connect Paris to Warsaw, Budapest and Zagreb or Berlin to Barcelona. North-south services are projected to connect Amsterdam and Berlin to Rome or Stockholm to Paris and Munich.