European train travel is having a moment. Where short-haul flights and low-cost carriers once made sleeper trains unappealing and economically uncompetitive, there are now lots of new businesses offering budget and luxurious sleeper options to criss cross Europe in style. Paris-based Midnight Trains and the revival of the 1970s Trans-Europe Express linking 10 EU cities with a first-class overnight service are just two examples.

And to add to the growing number of fast train services between European cities, slow train travel is also making a comeback. The Marseille – Paris train route is celebrating 50 years of service, still enticing travelers to the French Riviera at a genteel pace – it is a route that allows voyagers to peruse the southern French countryside, hopping on and off at beautiful French postcard-perfect towns and villages. The Paris-Barcelona slow route is also a joy, heading through the mountainous Pyrenees via Limoges and Toulouse. Paris to Berlin can also be done on fast or slow trains.

France in particular is undergoing a slow train movement, where a new railway cooperative is planning to snake through long-forgotten village stations and reopen swathes of trainline, currently not served by the fast TGV trains. As reported by The Local, one of the first services will be from Bordeaux to Lyon, taking seven hours and thirty minutes to take in Libourne, Périgueux, Limoges, Guéret, Montluçon and Roanne. Later, a new route is planned from Le Croisic, in Brittany, to Basel in Switzerland, with 25 stops in just over 11 hours.

Part of the reason is that EU governments are making conditions more attractive for rail operators. Belgium is intending to position itself as the international railway hub for sustainable travel in Europe and many others are touting rail travel over air travel to meet carbon emission obligations – the French and Austrian governments are both outlawing air travel, if train trips to the same places can be completed in under two and a half hours.

And it might make sense on family purse strings. With flights increasingly insecure as fuel costs rise from the fallout of the Ukraine crisis, the idea of ​​taking a long-haul plane trip with possible additional surcharges might be unappealing.

What’s more, it’s an ideal way to visit places travelers might not otherwise experience and from the comfort of a sleeper cabin or restaurant table – seeing The Matterhorn on The Glacier Express or snaking around the five villages of Cinque Terre on the 19th century railway line along the Italian coast.

And in the case of the new railway lines opening up in France, the catering options offer another way to experience the country – in this case, there will be no buffet car. Rather, restaurants and cafés will be encouraged to sell local specialities at stops along the route, allowing people to dine on locally produced food and goods whilst taking in the sumptuous views at a leisurely pace.

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