SNCF (French railways) are about to close nighttrains from July 2016:

Save the sleeper trains from Paris

Imagine. You fall sleep on an overnight train from Paris and wake up at your destination the next morning. What a brilliant thing to be able to do. Children love this; adults love this. It's a fantastic, exciting, time-effective way to travel across Europe. And now it's under threat.

The French State Department of Transport, which owns the national rail operator SNCF, has announced that unless a viable proposal from a train company is received by 1 July 2016, all but two of the night train routes from Paris will be axed, including journeys popular with French, British and Belgian skiers to reach the Alps. If these trains stop, it would be a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of travellers.

The French Government and SNCF say that the services are too expensive to run. But rail experts strongly disagree because most of the costs apply to the tracks (shared by daytime and overnight trains) and not the actual overnight trains themselves. The French Government and SNCF state that the trains are not as popular as they used to be, while at the same time not bothering to market or promote the trains effectively and neglecting to improve comfort and services.

Currently, most overnight services run every night. Suddenly going from that to zero nightly services on popular routes is not the way forward. 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.

Please join us in this campaign to keep sleeper trains running successfully.

We on the French State, SNCF and any relevant train companies to:

Release tickets for sleeper trains further in advance

Historically, tickets for sleeper trains from Paris have been put on sale erratically. While they should be available three months (90 days) in advance, travellers have been frustrated by consistently failing to find them on sale when expected. If reliably released six months (180 days) in advance, this would level the playing field with airlines and be consistent with Eurostar, enabling simultaneous booking by skiers travelling from the UK.

Run some trains from Gare du Nord to the Alps

Travellers from Belgium and the UK arrive at Paris Gare du Nord, so if sleeper trains departed from the same station (instead of Gare d'Austerlitz, across Paris), this could make the combined journey easier and more attractive, while of course still serving Parisiens.

If you can't run trains daily, run them weekly

Currently the sleeper trains run every night and are busy on popular nights of the week. Yet the French State reports poor rates of occupancy. Rather than cancel the trains completely, concentrate demand on the most useful nights of the week.

Provide ski-tour operators with fixed or shielded prices

Ski tour operators would promote journeys via sleeper trains if they were confident of a certain price that they could include as part of a rail-ski package. Train companies could give them some fixed or shielded prices around which to create packages.

Create a Eurostar + sleeper train through-fare

For daytime indirect journeys from the UK that combine a Eurostar with a fast TGV train, travellers benefit from a reduction in price. Why not do the same for journeys that involve a Eurostar and then a sleeper train?

Engage destinations to incentivise sleeper-train travellers

What if ski resorts, for example, offered a free day's ski pass, to reward travellers who come by overnight train and spending more time on the slopes? Incentive packages for train travellers could encourage travel this way.

Improve comfort and services

There is so much potential to improve the comfort and services in these trains – making the couchettes a little more luxurious and reinstating a café-bar where people can hang out and socialise. Think in terms of improving the traveller experience and watch people flock to these trains.

Many thousands of people love and rely on these overnight trains. Please support this campaign to save these important rail services by signing the petition and sending to/sharing the campaign with your friends and network.

This petition has been jointly initiated by Snowcarbon, Loco2, Seat61, Back on Track and Futerra – and is supported by many other organisations and destinations.