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Sweden set to be within easy reach of London by sleeper train

Country's rail planners want to extend night train network

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 28 April 2020 17:22 BST
Passengers embark an Austrian sleeper train at Vienna station
Passengers embark an Austrian sleeper train at Vienna station (AFP via Getty Images)

Sweden could soon be within easy reach of London by overnight sleeper train under proposals drawn up by the country's rail planners.

Passengers from the UK would be able to catch the Eurostar to Brussels and then change directly onto a sleeper train, waking up in the city of Malmö the next morning.

The government of the Scandinavian country last year commissioned its rail authority Trafikverket to look at how to improve overnight connections to European cities – so that travellers can avoid flying when going abroad.

Original proposals were for a train to Cologne, which would have been useful for travellers from Britain but required two changes of trains to reach.

But this week Trafikverket said it thought an extension to Brussels - a major rail hub with hourly fast connections to London - should be considered.

The authority says proposals for such a service are "realistic and interesting" in the longer term, but that a number of "complicating factors" needed to be dealt with.

Swedish authorities notably need to decide whether to provide subsidy for night trains and who should run them.

There are also technical issues like sourcing the right locomotives and carriages - which are in short supply amid a boom in demand for night trains in the last year as climate change soars up the agenda.

Passengers arriving in Malmö could get onward connections to cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg. It has also been suggested that the train could make a stop in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, which is on the way.

The Copenhagen leg of the service could start in 2022, with the Brussels extension coming after that.

"Based on the analyses we have done in the first part of this government assignment, we are now submitting a proposal for services that we consider to be realistic and interesting to proceed with," said Anna Fällbom, the organisation's head of network planning.

"As a first step, we propose to proceed with a connection between Malmö and southern Germany, preferably Cologne. Travel time on the route is reasonable and there is good opportunity for continued connections from Cologne.

"We also see good opportunities for traffic between Stockholm and Hamburg. But there we first need to deepen the investigation, among other things, regarding competition.

"In the longer term, there are also Frankfurt, Brussels, Berlin and Basel as possible destinations. However, there are several complicating factors in the operation of cross-border traffic and all connections need to be further investigated."

It currently takes two full days of travel for a typical rail journey from London to Sweden, with an overnight stop half way, usually in Hamburg. The last direct ferry from the UK to Sweden, the DFDS Seaways route from Newcastle-Gothenburg, was withdrawn in 2006.

Just a few years ago sleeper trains were being cut by operators across Europe because of competition from low-cost airlines, but there has been renewed interest in the services with the rise of the "flygskam" or flight-shaming movement

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