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A new vision for night trains in Scandinavia

Night trains are an important part of the transition to more sustainable travel. But it must be done right to succeed in attracting travelers. Based on our experience from developing and operating night train traffic, we see a number of important keys to making night trains a success in the Scandinavian market.

Great potential for night train

In recent years, sustainable travel has become an increasingly burning issue, and Scandinavian travelers have shown great interest in switching flights to trains - especially on shorter distances. Nordic Facebook groups about train travel have hundreds of thousands of members, and "flygskam" is the Swede's latest loanword for export.

The night train in particular is particularly interesting as a solution for a region such as Scandinavia with several hours between the hubs, which makes day travel by train less efficient. With attractive services on the right routes, the night train will thus be able to be an important piece of the puzzle in the transition to future travel.

The right distances provide the right conditions

In order for the night train to be able to fulfill its potential in Scandinavia, it is necessary to identify the routes that are best suited for night trains in particular. We believe, for example, that single journeys that with today's means of transport take around four hours, and therefore are rarely booked round trip in one day, should instead be carried out comfortably and efficiently overnight.

One line that would be ideal for a new night train concept is Stockholm – Oslo, two cities between which there are currently 1.4 million flights a year. Many of those who travel between Oslo and Stockholm are business travelers, which makes the route extra interesting from a profitability perspective. One could also imagine a triangle of distances between the three capitals: Oslo – Gothenburg – Malmö – Copenhagen, Stockholm – Copenhagen and Oslo – Stockholm.

Caledonian Sleeper staff next to sleeper train at station

A modern partnership

The new night train concept we propose is based on a new way of thinking about financing and service development: a modern partnership between the state and private actors. We believe that neither a one-hundred percent procured line nor a completely commercial one will work financially in a long-term perspective. Instead, the various actors need to work together to create a successful concept: the government must set requirements and co-finance based on societal and environmental benefits, and the operator must focus on developing an attractive night train based on the customer experience.

Caledonian Sleeper female passenger drinking tea onboard

Market analysis key to success

To be attractive, night trains must be designed according to market demand, primarily in terms of comfort, quality and experience.

Despite the business community's great focus on sustainability, many business travellers are hesitant about night trains, partly because the standard is considered too simple. A night train that is liked by both private and business travelers, with their often widely differing needs, requires careful market analysis and extensive experience of service development in travel.

The design of the trains is among the most important: old, worn night trains are not suitable for either private or business travellers.

Caledonian Sleeper passengers and staff on the Sleeper train

Collaborations will be important

Strategic collaborations between different types of actors - for example operators, service developers and tourism organizations - will be important in creating an exciting night train concept. One example is the choice of local, small-scale suppliers for food and drink, which can also make a positive contribution to the local business community and tourism at the destinations.