go to bed in the Hague, wake up in Berlin

Snooze around It is possible from Friday 26 May, when The Hague gets a sleeper train to Berlin. Then the European Sleeper, a new Dutch-Belgian railway company, runs three times a week with a direct night train from Hollands Spoor (HS) to Berlin. “It’s efficient. You travel while you sleep so you don’t waste time,” says Chris Engelsman, founder of European Sleeper.

The new line marks the advance of the sleeper train that emerges at lightning speed from the dark corner. In 2017, the night train seemed to be phased out forever. The curtain fell on the last line of the Dutch railway. Too slow, too old-fashioned, too expensive, that was the trend. Travelers chose the plane. Thanks to low-cost airlines spreading stunt fares, any Western European city was within reach.

But it can be. Due to corona, the lack of staff at Schiphol and rising fuel prices, the picture has changed: planes pollute the environment, airports are chaotic and plane tickets are expensive. The result is a revival of night trains, according to travelers and governments the environmentally conscious travel alternative.

Night train to Berlin Hauptbahnhof

The Dutch Railways (NS) introduced sleeper trains from Amsterdam to Zurich, Munich and Vienna at the end of 2021. These do not stop in The Hague, but from 26 May the European Sleeper also connects the royal city with the international night network. The new line starts in Brussels South and runs via Antwerp, The Hague HS, Amsterdam and Deventer to Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

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The full route of the European Sleeper. Click on the map to enlarge it. (hansfresen.design)

It departs from HS on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 21.42. The next morning the train arrives in Berlin at 06:48. Breakfast in bed is included. Engelsman: “Rail travel is a comfortable, sustainable form of transport, certainly compared to the plane. Especially over distances of up to 700 to 800 kilometers.”

Enthusiasm

The aviation sector is now struggling to find staff again after air traffic almost came to a standstill during the corona crisis. This has resulted in long waiting times for months. “You don’t have that hassle with the train,” says Engelsman. “Right now, train journeys over relatively short distances hardly take any longer.” According to Engelsman at European Sleeper, the staff shortage that the ‘regular’ railway companies are struggling with is ‘no problem’. “Søvletoget is a different product. There is great enthusiasm for this.”

Engelsman states that the night train can also compete economically with aviation. Airline tickets are quickly becoming more expensive due to rising fuel prices. “A sun lounger including bed linen costs 79 euros. Then you get an unfolded sofa, of which six are in one room. Sleep more luxuriously? Then you have a bed with a mattress for 109 euros and then you sleep with a maximum of three people in a room, which also has a sink. Finally, you can also only book a place from 49 euros.”

chin

And so The Hague will soon be connected to the international rail network again. Since the last Brussels train departed from HS in December 2021, only national place names appear on the departure boards. That is changing, although there is a catch: the trains stop on the way to Berlin, but not in The Hague on the way back. “Then you unfortunately have to change trains in Amsterdam,” says Engelsman. “During the morning rush hour, the track is too busy to stop at HS, there is no time for that. So we drive past HS. It is intended that this will change in December, when the updated timetable will come into force. Until then, you cannot travel from The Hague to Brussels, but you can travel from Brussels to The Hague.”

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Berlin Hauptbahnhof. | Photo: Ondřej Žváček

Incidentally, GreenCityTrip started last year with a night train between The Hague and Milan and Prague, but this travel organization only offers package tours. The European Sleeper provides a regular line. You can also book a one-way ticket with us. Only domestic travel is not possible,” says Engelsman.

Investors

Where the NS sleeper trains could count on a billion subsidy from the public sector, private parties such as European Sleeper must do without state support. The start-up still managed to establish the connection with the help of 1700 investors, e.g. small shareholders. Engelsman: “Especially train enthusiasts who see the importance of sustainable train travel.”

The European Sleeper originally wanted to start in mid-2022, but because there are few sleeper cars available, there was a delay. “Because of the growth, there is a lack of new wagons. We now solve this by renting vehicles from a German company. But we want to invest in our own wagons with more comfort and a modern look.” It is necessary for growth, says Engelsman. “We want to have the train to Berlin running daily by 2024 and expand to Dresden and Prague. We also hope to start a line to the south of France and Barcelona in 2025. This also goes via The Hague.”

Ticket sales for the European Sleeper to Berlin start on Monday 20 February. More information: www.europeansleeper.eu

Our editors offer this story from The Hague Central (DHC) on Thursday, January 5, 2023 on free. Want to read more Hague news? Then buy the paper edition of the Den Haag Centraal newspaper. Click here for all points of sale. You can also take out a (trial) subscription. You receive DHC 10 weeks for only 10 euros.

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