Taking a sleeper train could be more cost-effective than flying, according to new research by Which? Travel.
Spot checks by the consumer champion discovered that a family of four could save nearly £100 traveling by sleeper train, while a bigger family could save more than £250.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Many of us want to reduce our carbon footprint by swapping the plane for the train, but price remains a barrier. While new sleeper train routes have launched across Europe, fares are prohibitive for many travellers.
“Our research found solo travelers and couples would have to pay significantly more to choose the train over the plane. But the good news is that there are savings to be made for families and larger groups who can share train compartments.”
Which? compared air travel against train trip for five sleeper routes: two in the UK and three in Europe.
The report said that flights might seem a far cheaper until you factor in the cost of baggage and an extra night’s accommodation.
And it’s not just the effect on the wallet to consider. Night trains are enjoying something of a renaissance in Europe as more tourists choose to travel by rail to reduce their carbon footprint. Which?’s research also compared carbon emissions for each route and found that plane journeys emit up to seven times more CO2 per passenger.
For the three European sleeper routes, Which? compared the price of the cheapest private compartment in the first week of August with the cheapest flight and an overnight stay.
While it was cheaper for two adults to fly and stay in accommodation in their destination, savings could be made when two adults and two children travel by rail instead.
Of the services looked at, two (Paris to Vienna and Brussels to Vienna) were run by the biggest European operator, Nightjet. The third is a new sleeper service from Brussels to Berlin, which launches on 25 May with new company European Sleeper.
|European Sleeper: Brussels to Berlin||By train||By plane|
|Two adults and two children||£522||£532|
|Two adults and four children||£592||£758|
|Nightjet: Paris to Vienna|
|Two adults and two children||£453||£538|
|Two adults and four children||£523||£790|
|Nightjet: Brussels to Vienna|
|Two adults and two children||£444||£426|
|Two adults and four children||£579||£514|
The prices include the cost of taking the Eurostar to Brussels or Paris to catch each of these night trains, or when flying, the cost of cheapest flight departing between 9am and 5pm, two items of hold luggage and a night in an Airbnb/Vrbo in the destination.
In the UK, the research looked at trips on the country’s two sleeper services: GWR’s Night Riviera from London Paddington to Penzance, and the Caledonian Express from London Euston to the Highlands.
|Night Riviera: London Paddington to Penzance||By train||By plane|
|Two adults and two children||£311||£353|
|Two adults and four children||£454||£508|
|Caledonian Sleeper: London Euston to Aberdeen|
|Two adults and two children||£325||£328|
|Two adults and four children||£490||£488|
While the price of the route to cornwall was similar to the cost of flights, it became cheaper with a Two Together railcard (and you can take a surfboard or bike for free). The research found that the Caledonian Sleeper was more expensive than flying for two adults and a similar cost for families of four and six (there’s no discount for railcard holders available).
Again, the cost of the cheapest flight departing between 9am and 5pm and two items of hold luggage, plus a night in an Airbnb/Vrbo in the Aberdeen or Newquay, was all added together to calculate the total price.
However, where travelers would really save is on the carbon cost: traveling from London to Aberdeen by rail emits 50kg of CO2 per passenger, while by air it more than doubles to 119kg per person.