Swedes climb aboard charter trains

A growing number of Swedes have begun switching their preferred mode of transport for charter holidays from planes to trains.

Having watched the emergence of a renewed interest in rail travel as a viable option for long-haul holidays, tour operator Fritidsresor got in touch with rail company SJ to discuss possible common ground.

Within a month the collaboration had borne fruit and by the end of March Fritidsresor had started advertising its ten-day ‘Blue Train’ package deal from Malmö to Verona and Lake Garda.

“We initially made 160 seats available. But within 24 hours they had all sold out,” Fritidsresor’s Marie Malmros told The Local.

The package was initially designed to coincide with the Verona Opera Festival, which runs from June 22nd to September 1st.

But interest in the holiday has been such that Fritidsresor has extended the dates and increased the number of available seats from 160 to 850.

“We have been adding new seats all the time and we have even expanded the season to include dates from May 25th to September 14th,” said Marie Malmros.

She believed that the popularity of the train charter could best be understood as the result of “a slow philosophy” and “environmental concern”.

The price for a ten-day holiday comes in at just under 5,000 kronor ($730). This includes two nights in a sleeper carriage between Malmö and Berlin, as well as seven nights at a hotel by Lake Garda, with breakfast included.

The train pulls out of Malmö shortly before 10pm on a Friday. The overnight journey takes passengers to Berlin. A change of train in the German capital is followed by another in Munich before arrival in Verona at 7pm on Saturday.

Fritidsresor has no plans this summer to send its train charter customers anywhere other than Lake Garda.

“But we are definitely looking at pursuing this more in the future and extending the idea to include other destinations,” said Marie Malmros.