Going to sleep in Brussels and waking up in Berlin is no longer a faraway dream. Dutch-Belgian rail initiative European Sleeper announced on Wednesday that the long-awaited route will be launched in May next year.
The first so-called "Good Night Train" will take to the railway tracks on 25 May 2023, the company announced via its social media accounts on Wednesday morning. Starting out, the train will run back and forth between Brussels and Berlin, stopping in Amsterdam, three times a week.
"We will start three times a week, daily if possible from 2024. From December 2023, the intention is to extend the rail service to Dresden and Prague, according to the original plan," Eurosleeper noted.
Ticket sales will start on 20 February via the company's website. Ticket prices range from €49 for a seat and from €79 for a "couchette" and €109 for a sleeping car. Breakfast is included in couchette and sleeper coaches.
The first train with ten carriages will leave Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 22:56 on 25 May next year and make its way to the Low Countries. The train will stop in Antwerp at 08:47 the following day before making its way to Brussels-Midi station, where it will arrive at 09:27. This route will be scheduled to depart the German capital on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In the other direction, trains will depart from Brussels-Midi at 19:22 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with the very first run scheduled to depart on 26 May. This train will then arrive in Berlin at 06:48 the next day.
Aside from the three key stops, the night train will also allow passengers to hop on or off in Roosendaal, Rotterdam Centraal, Den Haag HS, Amersfoort, Deventer, Bad Bentheim and Hannover Hbf. However, when travelling from Berlin to Brussels, stops in Amersfoort and The Hague are dropped.
Couchettes with berths (four or six beds) and sleeping berths (three beds) can be booked completely privately. Bicycles and pets (in the case of a private compartment) can also come along.
An uphill battle
The launch date for this route has been repeatedly pushed back. Initially, the aim was to launch the night train by spring 2022, which was postponed to "the beginning of summer." However, this target date was not met either, the company announced in May this year, without putting a new start date forward to avoid disappointment.
The delay was mostly down to finding the necessary carriages, which according to the company is the most difficult aspect of launching a new night train service, as loungers have not been produced in Europe since the 2000s. Small series of sleeping cars – with better beds – have been made, but mainly on behalf of national railway companies.
Starting out, European Sleeper is working with rented carriages, and it plans to invest in its own carriages in the shorter term. "By refurbishing existing second-hand seated coaches and converting them into sleeping coaches, we expect to have around 30 sleeping coaches available within two to three years with more comfort, more privacy options and a modern look," said co-initiator Chris Engelsman.
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The launch of this night train will mark the second of such a service running from Brussels, as Austrian railway utility ÖBB already runs a night train service between Austria and Belgium.
European Sleeper also previously announced plans for night trains to the French ski resorts and Barcelona, but no additional details regarding this service have been made available yet.