Overnight sleeper trains used by thousands of skiers to get to Alps ski resorts each winter could be stopped by French operators who say they’re underused and too expensive to run.
Under plans by SNCF, the French national rail operator, the overnight routes to Bourg St Maurice and St Gervais will be axed leaving some of the most popular resorts including Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes and Val d’Isere, Chamonix, Megeve, Val Thorens, Meribel, Courchevel, cut off next winter.
The sleeper service offers an alternative, more eco-friendly travel option to the Alps. Travelling overnight on Friday allows you to bag an extra two days of skiing – arriving before everyone else on Saturday and leaving after them the following week. Plus it has a lower carbon footprint than flying or individuals driving, and cuts down on the huge traffic queues coming through the valley.
The Eurostar sleeper trains will still be available, but they get booked up quickly every year. Plus the French service offers a fun, cultural start to your holiday. Drinking has now been banned on the Eurostar, but the French would not consider passing an evening on the train without some wine. Plus the French trains offer traditional sleeper cabins with flat beds, as opposed to the Eurostar reclining seats.
However SNCF say that unless a viable option is presented to them by 1 July the services will stop. An online petition against the plans has now gathered over 1,100 signatures.
One of those that started the petition, Daniel Elkan of Snowcarbon – an independent information site for skiers and snowboarders – says: “We urge SNCF to continue to offer sleeper trains from Paris at least once per week – and preferably more. To cease the operation of overnight trains while maintaining track infrastructure would be a huge waste of resources and deny people the chance to travel overnight while making the journey part of the holiday – at a fraction of the pollution and emissions of flying or driving.”
He’s made a video to show the benefits of the service and how much it’s valued, below:
Mark Smith, founder of independent rail guide Seat 61 says the saving made by SNCF by stopping the service will be negligible as the tracks will still be run in the daytime and SNCF already own the actual trains.
The petition offers several ideas as to how SNCF can make better use of the service and increase its popularity and revenue. They include keeping the most popular nights in service, releasing tickets further in advance so people can better plan holidays, running the trains from the Gare du Nord for an easier change over from Eurostar (instead of travelling across Paris to another station), working with tour operators and resorts to provide people with incentives to use the trains and improving the decor of the trains to make them more attractive.
To sign the petition follow this link where full details of the proposed action can also be found.
Featured image by Snowcarbon