Breakdown at the SBB: The night train to Amsterdam doesn’t always have a sleeper car with it
The SBB are currently short on one sleeping car for the new connection to Amsterdam. That’s why some travelers have to do without their beds. The railway promises improvement.
“It’s every night train passenger’s nightmare,” writes Mark Smith on February 1st on TwitterR. Under the name “The Man In Seat 61” he keeps tens of thousands up to date on his train journeys in Europe. When he wanted to board the night train from Amsterdam to Zurich, he realized that he might be getting less sleep than he thought.
Because the car with the compartment he booked is missing. And with it his bed. Instead, the train offered him a place to sleep in a couchette car. Like Smith, many travelers are currently on the night train between Switzerland and the Dutch metropolis. Like Smith, they too have to do without a bed on their night train journey. “The train runs between Zurich HB and Utrecht Centraal without sleeping car no. 176, 182,” says the SBB online timetable for the connection to Amsterdam on Thursday.
The situation improves towards spring break
The SBB confirm the problem with the night train, which has been running since the timetable change on December 12, 2021: “Due to corona-related bottlenecks in spare parts and scarce personnel resources in the workshops, only four instead of the planned five sleeping cars were available for the timetable change in December,” says Speaker Sabine Baumgartner.
“So there was no reserve and if a sleeping car failed, we had to relocate the travelers to a couchette car,” she says. Their seats can be converted into a bunk for sleeping, but they don’t come close to the comfort of a bed. In addition, the compartments are more densely occupied with 4 to 6 berths. The sleeping cars have a maximum of three compartments.
Improvement from March
The affected travelers could have the price difference refunded, says SBB spokeswoman Baumgartner. Similar situations could arise in the next few days, after which the railways promise improvement.
“The fifth sleeping car is still being renovated,” says Baumgartner. “We expect its use from mid-March. This should ease the situation again so that full capacity will be available again for the spring and summer season.”
New trains for the Amsterdam connection
In contrast to other night trains from Switzerland, no night train material from the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) is used on the night trains to Amsterdam, but rather older cars that the SBB rents from the German vehicle rental company RDC Asset.
Because there are currently not enough of ÖBB’s “Nightjet” compositions available to also be able to operate the night train from Zurich to Amsterdam. The SBB announced that this should change in December 2024 or at most a year later. Then this connection should also be operated with the well-known ÖBB night trains.
New night trains
ÖBB is currently modernizing its night train fleet. They have ordered new compositions from the manufacturer Siemens, which are to be used on the first connections from the end of the year. New mini suites in the couchette cars are intended to give single travelers more privacy. The sleeping cars also have their own toilet and shower facilities in the standard compartments. There will also be free WiFi, and every train WILL have a low-floor entrance, making it barrier-free.
ÖBB currently operates nightjet trains from Zurich to Berlin, Hamburg, Graz and Vienna in cooperation with SBB, as well as Euronight trains and individual direct carriages to Budapest, Prague and Zagreb. The SBB want to further expand their night train network, for example with connections to Rome and Barcelona. Because the CO2-Act was rejected in June and the planned financial support for night trains is therefore not guaranteed for the time being, its introduction has been delayed to an unspecified date.