New sleeper train from Sweden will get passengers to London by morning

Jon Stone
Austria's state railway OBB runs many sleeper trains around the continent: AFP via Getty Images

Rail passengers could soon be leaving Sweden after dinner and arriving in London the next morning, under plans unveiled by the Swedish authorities.

Trafikverket, Sweden's rail infrastructure manager, says overnight sleeper trains should run from Malmö in the country's south to the German city of Cologne – with onward connections to other European countries.

Under a proposed timetable unveiled by the Trafikverket, the train would leave Malmö at 7.40pm, pick up passengers in Copenhagen at 8.40pm, and then arrive in Cologne for 6am after a night's sleep.

Already-existing connections would allow passengers to arrive in London at 11.57am, in time for a lunch meeting in the British capital. Other connections include Amsterdam by 9.28 am, Munich by 11.08am and Paris by 10.05am.

The planned service, which is set to start in 2022 or 2023, is part of an expansion of night trains proposed by the Swedish government to provide a practical alternative to short-haul flights – which contribute to climate change.

“As a first step, we propose to proceed with a connection between Malmö and Germany, preferably Cologne,” said Anna Fällbom, a senior official at Trafikverket.

“Travel time on the route is reasonable and there is good opportunity for continued connections from Cologne.”

The authority says it also wants to start a service to Hamburg, and that “in the longer term" cities such as Frankfurt, Brussels, Berlin and Basel are also possible direct destinations for sleepers.

A service to Brussels in particular would cut journey times between Scandinavia and the UK even further because it would provide a direct connections to Eurostar services, which call at Brussels Midi. Under the Cologne plan, passengers bound for London would take a German high-speed train to connect with the Eurostar.

Passengers would change trains in Cologne for onward destinations such as London (Getty Images)

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 The last direct ferry from the UK to Sweden, the DFDS Seaways route from Newcastle-Gothenburg, was withdrawn in 2006.

Trafikverket is currently deciding on the next steps for the sleepers, such as how new carriages could be procured and whether the service should be put out to competitive tender or directly awarded to a preferred operator.

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.

Austria's state railway company ÖBB is the undisputed guardian of sleeper services on the continent, running a network of night trains to destinations including Rome, Wroclaw and Hamburg. The operator is next week formally extending its Vienna to Cologne service as far as Brussels, which will allow easier connections to the UK.

Advance ticket prices on ÖBB services such as Vienna–Rome typically start at €29.90 for a seat, €49.90 for a basic "couchette" bed in a shared cabin, or €69.90 for a full bed.

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