Last week a spokesperson for Swiss Rail told Swiss broadcaster SFR that the rail company was discussing reintroducing long distance overnight sleeper trains.
15 years ago, Switzerland had an extensive overnight train network with destinations including Rome, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Graz Zagreb and Moscow. Progressively nearly all of these were shut down.
Today the only remaining ones, from Zurich to Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Graz and Zagreb, are all run by Austrian Rail.
Interest in long-distance train travel is rising again given its environmental advantages. Depending on the trip, travelling by train has around a quarter of the climate change impact of flying, according to calculations by Ecopassenger. In addition, it beats most car travel too, if for example the car is a mid-sized petrol one with fewer than five passengers in it, although the difference varies depending on how full the train is.
However, it is too early for Swiss Rail’s to give details of its plans. New sleeper carriages inspired by Japanese capsule hotels would be two to three years away, according to Armin Weber of Swiss Rail.
One of the challenges for overnight rail might be cost. A last minute search for travel from Zurich to Berlin arriving tomorrow morning yielded a direct early morning flight for CHF 117 and an overnight train ticket for CHF 175, for a traveller with a Swiss half price card.