Elipsos sleeper train withdrawn from service

16 Dec 2013 by Alex McWhirter

Elipsos, the Franco-Spanish sleeper train, is no more.

The overnight service, featured in September's Platform, is a victim of the new faster daytime TGV service, launched yesterday, linking Paris with Barcelona and Madrid (see news, November 25).

Elipsos will be missed by discerning travellers. Each train — one service ran between Paris and Barcelona, the other linked Paris with Madrid — was one of the few intra-European sleepers with hotel standards.

Passengers booking the best accommodation benefitted from en suite showers and toilets, while Elipsos was also possibly the last remaining sleeper service with a proper dining car in which you could make full use of the longer journey time.

This varied between 11.5 hours for Paris to Barcelona and 15.5 hours for Paris to -Madrid because Elipsos took the classic route involving a gauge change at the Franco-Spanish border. (Modern high-speed Spanish track is the same as in the rest of Europe, but older track has a wider guage).

It would be nice to think that Elipsos had a niche. But the problem is that sleeper trains cost a lot of money to run.

The staff to passenger ratio is much higher than with a daytime service and, crucially, utilisation is low. The special Elipsos rolling stock can only accomplish one trip in every 24 hours, whereas a modern daytime TGV could make two or three trips in the same time frame.

What I find annoying is how the rail companies can get away with a short notice cancellation at a busy time of year.

A few days ago when I was researching next February's Platform, the Elipsos website gave no indication that the service was about to end.

But when I checked yesterday, would-be passengers are simply directed to the daytime TGVs. And the announcement is only in French and Spanish.

Under EU consumer law airlines must give 14 days notice of a commercial cancellation otherwise passengers must be compensated. European rail firms are not subject to the same rules. Isn't it about time they were?

Alex McWhirter

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