This New European Overnight Train Line Wants You to Ride the Rails in Style

You can soon take a Midnight Train going anywhere. Well, sort of

Midnight Trains

Courtesy of Midnight Trains

A French startup is hoping to get us all back on track with a new sleeper train service operating out of Paris—and we’ve got the pandemic to thank for it. After peering out the window at an almost post-pandemic travel landscape, founders of Midnight Trains saw a second chance for the European sleeper train. And, in true Parisian fashion, they’re looking to make it a stylish journey.

Before country-hopping flight routes became plentiful and ultra-budget airfares inundated the scene, train travel was often the most economical and even preferred way to travel between European countries. If you needed to save time or money on a hotel (or both), you’d opt to travel through the night, tucked into a pull-down bed on a sleeper train.

However, with the rise of more affordable and more available air travel routes (along with hefty border taxes and overall growing unprofitability), overnight train travel has all but come to a screeching halt over the last decade. At the close of 2014, train operators in several European countries, including Germany, Italy, France, slowly began phasing out or completely discontinuing overnight sleeper train service—new and old—en masse.

Then, the pandemic hit. Coupled with an already growing awareness around carbon emissions and climate change, travelers have become less willing to fly and more interested in a greener way to travel.

Enter the new Midnight Trains.

“What we aim to do is to make people who want to travel in Europe hesitate to take the plane, to make a 90-minute flight a thing of the past," said Midnight Trains co-founder Adrien Aumont. For example, the company claims that a ride from Paris to Rome on one of their trains will produce 23 times less pollution than taking a flight on the same route. However, the mission doesn’t stop there. Midnight Trains was born out of the idea of not only providing a greener way of travel but a better overall night train service, ultimately mimicking “a hotel on rails”.

Passengers aboard Midnight Trains will find upscale interiors and onboard amenities such as a dining car sporting a wine and cocktail bar, plus seasonal menus available for takeout or table service. Private, hotel room-like accommodations are snug but stylish with high-quality bedding, on-demand movies, and private bathrooms.

“People want intimacy,” says Aumont. “They don’t want to be sharing a sleeping space with a stranger. They want privacy, security, and a good quality bed. By offering a bar and restaurant, we are also offering conviviality and a certain art de vivre."

Set to launch in 2024 with 12 long-distance routes to and from Paris, the new service seeks to bring a little comfort, oomph, and romance back to overnight rides on the rails. While it won’t match the swank (or exorbitantly high bucket-list prices) of legendary trains like the Venice Simplon Orient Express, rides on Midnight Trains promise big upgrades from the no-frills options found on most of Europe’s remaining overnight trains.

The price point? To coax people away from low-cost air carriers serving the same routes, Aumont has alluded that taking a Midnight Train will likely be competitive with the total cost of taking flight—inclusive of the taxi, train, checked baggage fees, and actual plane fare.  

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  1. The Guardian. "End of the Line for Europe's Iconic Night Trains?" September 12, 2014