Sleepers are thriving in Europe. Whereas the UK has the Anglo-Scottish service (not sure what will become of that post independence -border checks at Carlisle!) and the Cornish sleeper ( London to Exeter for 2am then sits there 3 hours and then becomes the first Plymouth-Penzance stopper). In contrast in mainland Europe sleeper services are thriving with lots of odd combinations of destinations served such as Metz (France) to Port Bou (Spain) the equivalent of us having a Southampton to Scarborough sleeper (not via London). From my own travels they are well used though and admittedly the distances are greater then in the relatively small UK. You do wonder when they do any engineering work on the tracks though although I did pass a worksite in the night on the adjacent line which we slowed down for.
I took the DB City Night Line (CNL) from Munich to Amsterdam. I opted for the reclining seats as I was travelling alone. I think it is a British thing that makes you weary of sharing a berth with strangers. The seats were slightly more comfortable then the UK’s Night Riviera FGW service where the seats are fixed and don’t recline. I thought I had got away with anyone sitting next to me until a man who snores very loudly got on at Stuttgart. A Syrian with no ticket and no papers was also removed from the train by the onboard security guard adding to the excitement and strange goings on one expects on a sleeper train across Europe. Unlike the Night Riviera the CNL moves at speed with only operating stops and calls at the likes of Frankfurt , Bonn, Cologne and Utrecht arriving at Amsterdam 10 hours later. We were half an hour late but all my previous CNL journeys have been significantly late so I took this into account when booking onward connections.
The sleeper workings must be very crew and rolling stock intensive. On arrival at Mannheim the front of my train is dragged off to another platform to be attached to a portion from Berlin. A portion of a train from Innsbruck then attaches to the remaining bit of my train. There are also run rounds at Stuggart and various loco changes as we cross international borders. FGW crews struggle when they have to run round at Exeter during engineering work. It is hard to see how productive and efficient these sleepers are.
There also seems to be a lack of health and safety on mainland Europe’s rail network. Odd considering the UK blame Europe for our over the top HandS. Railway workers (I’m assuming they were anyway) walking across tracks with no high viz, guards dispatching trains whilst on their phones, trains being propelled with doors open and passengers on. They could do well to have a flick through our RSSB rule book. It also seems mandatory for staff to smoke over customers whilst going about their job with a cig in their mouth and for customers to ignore no smoking signs on trains and stations. I expect it is very much like the UK before the smoking ban but it seems odd now you are so used to no smoking on the UK network.
After a dubious Omelette for breakfast in a hazy local produce smokey bar I’m heading down to Rotterdam then Brussels for the Eurostar back to London hoping for a better journey then the one out on Monday with the Belgium national railway strike. Annoyingly Eurostar put all the passengers in the same carriage on what was quite an empty train from Brussels. It is a blatant act putting its reservation system over its customers comfort. After being squashed as far as Ebbsfleet I got up and noticed the next carriage was empty!
Back in the UK and I missed my connection thanks to border checks at StPancras because my train called at Lille making the border check at Brussels invalid apparently. Really is time we signed up to Schengen agreement!