A new sleeper service between Berlin and Paris will set off from the German capital on Monday evening after nearly a decade-long hiatus, as night trains gain in popularity as an alternative to short-haul flights.

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People protesting against the cessation of the Paris-Berlin line at Gare de l'Est in Paris in December 2014.
People protest the cessation of the Paris-Berlin line at Gare de l’Est in Paris in December 2014. © Michel Euler, AP

The connection will be operated by French and German national train operators SNCF and Deutsche Bahn, while the rolling stock will be provided by Austrian train company OeBB, whose “Nightjet” trains already criss-cross central Europe.

The maiden voyage will leave from Berlin’s main station with ministers from Paris and Berlin, as well as the chiefs of the train companies in attendance to wave it off.

The overnight connection returns nine years after the previous service was stopped.

Initially running just three times a week, the frequency is set to rise to a train per day from October 2024.

Night trains lost out to competition from budget airlines and high-speed trains at the beginning of the century, with many services closing.

But the sector has experienced a renaissance as passengers and policy makers look for a cleaner alternative to air travel.

Read more‘Fed up with airports’: Long-distance trains take on air travel in Europe

In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron set the aim of opening 10 new sleeper services by 2030, with the results already visible.

As well as the Berlin link, several new connections between Paris and peripheral destinations in mainland France have already begun operation.

Some 100 million euros ($108 million) have been invested by the French government to revive the network and ready new carriages for service.

For clients, the climate benefits and charm of train travel have proven a draw. In 2023, around 215,000 passengers took the night train to their destination, a 15-percent increase on the previous year.

Despite generating excitement beyond the ranks of rail enthusiasts, night trains remain an unreliably profitable business for operators.

In France, many lines are kept going by subsidies, with no less than 10 million euros a year going into the Berlin link.

Without public money train companies would be hard pressed to offer competitive prices for a bunk in the sleeping car.

The challenges have not prevented private companies from entering the market however, such as the Dutch company European sleeper, which launched a Berlin-to-Brussels service earlier this year.

(AFP)

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