The website of Deutsche Bahn, the German rail company, is advertising new through tickets for visitors from the UK to travel to Berlin from London by train. This is an attempt to claw some of the market for weekend trips back from the low-cost airlines and is billed as ‘a comfortable and time-saving alternative to flying.’ With environmental issues still pressing for us all but economic concerns becoming ever more immediate, it would seem that there is indeed a market for this product family.
The logistics of the journeys are simple. The Eurostar departs St Pancras at seven each evening and arrives in Brussels two hours later. Passengers then switch onto the Deutche Bahn overnight train from Brussels to Berlin, arriving at eight the next morning feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready for a full day of fun in the German capital. Or at least, this is the idea, but I have my suspicions.
The advertised cost of this is from seventy pounds for a seat and seventy five for a ‘couchette,’ either of which compares favourably with low-cost airline prices, especially if you are travelling at the weekend. But the whole crux of the train argument relies upon the mysterious ‘couchette.’
The pictures on the webpage detailing travel on the night train show a couple in very comfortable looking bunk beds. With the carriages ‘cushioned axels’ it would seem that the good night’s sleep promise will be fulfilled. However, the picture is of the sleeping compartments and does not show a ‘couchette.’ These are beds in communal sleeping compartments that are relatively hard and not particularly comfortable. They allow sleep, but they do not suggest it.
A further concern with the train option here is that it claims to be ‘time saving.’ Even adding considerable padding to the time of a London to Berlin flight to allow for journey’s to the airport, security and waiting time, the plane doesn’t come anywhere near the twelve hour journey of the train.
I presume what Deutche Bahn mean is that after their good night’s sleep passengers are ready to leap off the train and into a full day of activity. Flying visitors, however, will have arrived at their hotel late the night before and presumably still be in bed having a lie-in.
Despite the concerns outlined above, I do believe that there is considerable merit in taking the train on short breaks to Berlin. If you have concerns about sleeping comfortably on the train think about flying in one direction and taking the train in the other. I see the train journey as being more romantic, environmentally friendly and cheaper. In contrast the plane is quicker. Travellers must base their decision on whether the destination itself is the most important thing, or if the journey is going to be part of the fun.
Top 5 Berlin hotels, Germany
- Hotel Kima – 2-star hotel in Wilmersdorf – double room from €50,00
- Motel One Berlin-Urania – hotel in Schöneberg – double room from €74,00
- Hotel NH Berlin Potsdam – 4-star hotel in Potsdam (Kleinmachnow) – double room from €55,00
- Hotel Bernhard Garni – 3-star hotel in Wilmersdorf – double room from €49,00
- Hotel-Pension Arche – hotel in Charlottenburg – double room from €45,00
Photo of a train in Hautbahnhof, Berlin, by LHOON.