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Why aren't sleeping cars on overnight trains used more?

Why aren't sleeping cars on overnight trains used more?

Old Mar 4, 18, 8:46 am
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Why aren't sleeping cars on overnight trains used more?

If there are city pairs that can be served by an overnight train leaving at bedtime and arriving before the start of the workday, why isn't there more ridership (in sleeping cars)?

Amtrak has a few overnight trains left, and they do a good business; Amtrak is expanding its sleeping car fleet. However, there are plenty of trips that are potentially served by overnight trains, but aren't, or overnight trains that have a few sleeping cars on them but not as many as I'd think. European countries, I hear, are paring back their night trains.

I would think that leaving a city at 10pm and arriving at 7am would be ideal, particularly as hours during the workday would not be wasted. I take Amtrak overnight trains every now and then and find them comfortable and convenient (although expensive).

What gives? Is the US travel mindset just focused on flying? Or are night trains not as ideal as I think they are?
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Old Mar 4, 18, 8:50 am
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Sleeper trains still run between Scotland and England (as well as plenty of other places in Europe). But donít worry, youíre not missing much - the only way to actually get any sleep on them is to have a skinful beforehand!
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Old Mar 4, 18, 9:03 am
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The same two cities that I could leave on a train at 10pm and arrive at 7am I could fly out of at 10pm and arrive at 11pm, then sleep in a real bed.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 9:30 am
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
If there are city pairs that can be served by an overnight train leaving at bedtime and arriving before the start of the workday, why isn't there more ridership (in sleeping cars)?

Amtrak has a few overnight trains left, and they do a good business; Amtrak is expanding its sleeping car fleet. However, there are plenty of trips that are potentially served by overnight trains, but aren't, or overnight trains that have a few sleeping cars on them but not as many as I'd think. European countries, I hear, are paring back their night trains.

I would think that leaving a city at 10pm and arriving at 7am would be ideal, particularly as hours during the workday would not be wasted. I take Amtrak overnight trains every now and then and find them comfortable and convenient (although expensive).

What gives? Is the US travel mindset just focused on flying? Or are night trains not as ideal as I think they are?
Some parts of the world still have a brisk business in sleeper trains, though they're not as prevalent as they once were due to competition from LCC/ULCC airlines and high-speed rail options. That's the key, really - the price point has to be such that it's a better deal for many people than a faster plane ride + hotel night. In some areas of the world sleepers are often still a better value than the plane + hotel combo. Certain routes have different levels of sleepers, from open bunks in a communal area all the way to private first class compartments - with pricing reflecting each level.

And especially for tourists, there can be a time savings taking a late evening train departure and arriving in the next destination in the morning. This is compared to flying where even a short flight of maybe a couple of hours, still can entail a half day of time when you add transport time to the airport (often outside the city center), waiting time at the airport, etc. That's a half day of sight-seeing or activity that you're giving up.

But ULCCs and high-speed trains are putting a dent in the slower-speed overnight trains, as the coverage and costs for the former improve.

I think there is a cultural mindset in modern America focused on flying and driving, and a general disdain for practical long-term planning in the public sphere. Just look at the mockery any sort of high speed train concept seems to get here. Amtrak (which I love to ride on in sleepers) is complicated by under-investment and usage of freight tracks...the high cost and slow speeds aren't appealing to most folks. Airlines tend to lobby against rail options, too. Air and car travel have usually been fairly affordable in more recent times so I guess most people don't think about alternatives.

If (a big "if") there is ever going to be better and more widespread rail in the US - sleeper, high speed, etc. - I think it will take a generation or two for it to come into place.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 10:42 am
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Sleeper trains still run within Europe. In some places for some people they are the perfect way to take a ski trip as it may even save a night or two of lodging costs and minimize having to take vacation days for travel time while maximizing ski slope time during the days off.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 10:50 am
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One of my sisters has discovered the comfort of traveling via sleeping cabin on trains. But she has to take the train; her daughter has a medical condition that makes air travel risky. Aside from such cases I agree with Lost. I think most people would rather take a short flight than an overnight train.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 11:42 am
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In the EU, overnight trains have been decimated by LCCs. Demand has been going down year after year, resulting in elimination of many routes that fail to make a profit. The only place where you'll find them is Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, etc.) where they're still the primary way of intercity travel.

The first couple of chapters of this recent study provides some insights on conventional night trains.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 12:10 pm
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Last time I saw a reference to sleeper service on a passenger train it was in a history book. Maybe that's why ?
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Old Mar 4, 18, 1:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
In the EU, overnight trains have been decimated by LCCs. Demand has been going down year after year, resulting in elimination of many routes that fail to make a profit. The only place where you'll find them is Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, etc.) where they're still the primary way of intercity travel.
Thatís funny, Iím sure the sleeper train from Fort William to London goes past my house about 2330 six nights a week. Itís on its way to Edinburgh to join up with the sleeper trains from Aberdeen and Inverness. Separate sleeper trains run direct from Edinburgh and from Glasgow too - thatís 5 a night to/from Scotland.

Staying in the UK, thereís also a sleeper service from
London to Cornwall.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 1:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Lost View Post
The same two cities that I could leave on a train at 10pm and arrive at 7am I could fly out of at 10pm and arrive at 11pm, then sleep in a real bed.
Or sleep and take an early flight. I really don't see a reason to use an overnight train if there is flight. A train does ~100 mph and can barely cover 900 miles in that time frame. It takes a plane 2 hours to cover that kind of distance.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 2:07 pm
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
In the EU, overnight trains have been decimated by LCCs. Demand has been going down year after year, resulting in elimination of many routes that fail to make a profit. The only place where you'll find them is Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, etc.) where they're still the primary way of intercity travel.

The first couple of chapters of this recent study provides some insights on conventional night trains.
The sleeper berth night trains in Sweden do sell out at times, and they seem to be rather full at other times. The seasonal night trains to/from Ňre for ski trips seem to do decent business.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 2:18 pm
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
In the EU, overnight trains have been decimated by LCCs. Demand has been going down year after year, resulting in elimination of many routes that fail to make a profit. The only place where you'll find them is Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, etc.) where they're still the primary way of intercity travel.

The first couple of chapters of this recent study provides some insights on conventional night trains.
I've just been working on a trip plan to the Central European and Balkan capitals using trains as the primary mode.
I find that there is still night train service between Munich (my planned entry to Europe) and Budapest or between Prague and Budapest. Fairly reasonable pricing. But definitely, per the OP, underutilized. Many departures only carry one or two sleeping cars and many travelers report that tickets are obtainable on the night of travel.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 3:02 pm
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Originally Posted by Scots_Al View Post
But donít worry, youíre not missing much - the only way to actually get any sleep on them is to have a skinful beforehand!
I've had excellent nights sleep on the sleeper to Inverness, across Vietnam and across Thailand. That train noise really helps...tho a skinful never hurts.

I've dined on the orient express and I think you'd sleep pretty well on that too but by gum you'd pay for it...actually just had a peek and I think I'd get my head down quite happily in one of these

https://www.belmond.com/trains/europ.../accommodation
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Old Mar 4, 18, 3:09 pm
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post

I take Amtrak overnight trains every now and then and find them comfortable and convenient (although expensive).

What gives? Is the US travel mindset just focused on flying? Or are night trains not as ideal as I think they ae?
Why not take AMTRAK more often than "every now and then"? The OP has answered his own question.
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Old Mar 4, 18, 3:42 pm
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There is a sleeper car on Via Rail's "Canadian."

Toronto-Vancouver train - Classes and train cars | VIA Rail
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