Overnight Trains: Maybe Good Is Good Enough.
I have a friend who has made a lot of money in the restaurant business. When anyone asks about the secret to his success, he has a ready answer: “Good…fast…cheap.”
We have now heard that yet another overnight train in Europe is being cancelled. This one is Deutsche-Bahn’s Berlin-to-Paris sleeper which has been operating in one form or another since before World War II. Basically, there are two obvious reasons why the company is terminating the service: high-speed trains and cut-rate air fares. OK, so that’s “fast” and “cheap”, but—dammit!—what about “good”?
It’s hard for me to believe there isn’t a sustainable market for the unique pleasure of traveling overnight across Europe in a sleeping car … in this case, leaving Berlin in the early evening, having an interesting conversation with fellow passengers over dinner and a bottle of wine in a dining car, and waking up as you’re approaching Paris.
My advice to Deutsche-Bahn and other rail operators would be to provide better service, spruce up the accommodations a bit, add a restaurant car that prepares good food on board and serves it on real china … and stop trying to be price competitive! People will pay for value.
There has to be a nice niche market out there of people who can’t or don’t want to pay the considerable cost of one of the private, luxury trains, but who are willing and able to pay a fair price for the traditional overnight train experience—nothing more, but also nothing less.
Me, for instance.