EUROPE: A Paris – Edinburgh service is among the most eye-catching proposals for a network of premium overnight sleeping car services set out by French start-up Midnight Trains on June 16.

Midnight Trains has been established by entrepreneurs Adrien Aumont and Romain Payet, who previously set up crowdfunding company KissKissBankBank, alongside various executives who have worked in the rail and hospitality sectors with organisations including SNCF, Thalys and Accor Hotels.

The promoters are clear that Midnight Trains is intended to be a premium inter-city operator targeting routes of between 800 and 1 500 km which it says are beyond the reach of high speed trains, leaving travellers with no alternative to uncomfortable and environmentally damaging short-haul flights.


Its proposed route network would radiate from Paris, where the operation would be based; proposed destinations include Roma, Hamburg, Porto, Wien and Budapest.

Hotel on rails

Midnight Trains would have a clear emphasis on comfort, offering a markedly more upscale proposition than most existing overnight services.

Privacy is a watchword; there would be no seating or couchette accommodation and sleeping compartments would be offered only to individuals or groups travelling together. The era of strangers sharing a room is over, the company says.


Midnight Trains believes there is a gap in the market for a true hotel on rails, noting that a bar and restaurant would be provided on every train, offering high-quality seasonal food and drinks including fine wines and cocktails. Every passenger would be offered a dedicated concierge service ‘accompanying them from the point of ticket purchase to the arrival at their destination’, the company adds. This would help it to ‘restore the mystique and legend of a bygone era of night trains’.

The new entrant hopes to run its first revenue-earning services in 2024, once it has sourced appropriate new or refurbished rolling stock and signed an agreement with a train operator to provide traction.

Edinburgh complexity

By far its most ambitious proposal is a Paris – Edinburgh route, although as yet there are no details as to how this could be realised given the complexity of running a service through the Channel Tunnel and onto the conventional British network.


Deutsche Bahn’s multi-year effort to launch a Frankfurt-am-Main to London inter-city passenger service was eventually stymied largely by UK border control complexity.

To date, all efforts to launch more services between continental Europe and destinations in Britain to complement Eurostar have foundered because of the stringent Channel Tunnel safety requirements, high access charges on High Speed 1 and — perhaps most daunting of all — the UK government’s insistence on juxtaposed border controls and secure ‘airside’ depot and stabling facilities for international trains, both in Britain and in Europe.

Midnight Trains’ proposition is further complicated by the need to procure bespoke rolling stock able to fit the restricted British loading gauge away from HS1.