There’s nothing quite like riding a train across Europe, falling asleep in one country only to wake up in another.
It’s an experience that’s gotten harder to find over the years as discount airlines have risen in popularity, but things are about to change. National rail operators in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland are joining forces to launch several new overnight train routes that will link 13 popular European destinations, Reuters reported.
The approximately $605 million expansion is set to be the largest extension of Europe’s overnight rail network in years and is driven in part by a European effort to cut carbon emissions generated by air travel.
Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s climate minister, described long-haul sleeper trains to Railway-News as “the future of climate-friendly mobility within Europe.”
Starting in December 2021, travelers will be able to take sleeper trains from Vienna to Paris via Munich, and from Zurich to Amsterdam through Cologne, Germany. By December 2023, new overnight rail routes are scheduled to launch between Berlin and Vienna and between Brussels and Barcelona. And by December 2024, passengers can expect to be able to travel overnight between Zurich and Barcelona.
Details about the sleeper trains have yet to emerge, but Austria is adding 20 new trains to accommodate the new services, which Reuters expects will serve up to 1.4 million riders across participating countries.
Though train travel has declined in Europe in recent decades as airlines have marketed rock-bottom fares, rail remains a convenient way to explore the continent.
Train stations are typically located in city centers, allowing travelers to maximize their time and avoid having to find their way from the far-flung airports favored by discount airlines. Trains also don’t require passengers to arrive as early as airports suggest, and most stations offer lockers, making it easy to hop off and enjoy stopovers along a journey.