Motorail:  Car-carrying trains across Europe...

Take your car by train...

...to Italy, Austria or Bavaria with Dutch Motorail or German & Austrian motorail

...to Spain with Brittany Ferries.

 DB Autozug (German Motorail) logo Auto Slaap Trein (Dutch Motorail) logo

Motorail:  Trains that carry cars!

On this page you'll find a beginner's guide to the few remaining European motorail services of interest to UK travellers.  But first, a reality check.  Normal passenger trains don't carry cars or motorbikes, just passengers and sometimes bicycles.  Only special Motorail trains carry cars & motorbikes, on car transporters attached to the train.  These run on a dwindling handful of holiday routes, often summer-only and usually only once or twice a week, see the motorail route map below.  You must first take a ferry across the Channel, as motorail trains do not use the Channel Tunnel, they start at either Düsseldorf in Germany or 's Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands or Paris, but no longer (since 2010) Calais.  Motorail trains carry cars, motorbikes, small trailers & roof boxes, and on many routes you can now take some over-height 4x4 vehicles & people carriers.  However, they can't carry big 4X4s, vans, caravans or campers, as these are too high.  There are no motorail trains within the UK, these ceased in 1995.

Why use Motorail?

Motorail means a relaxed holiday experience, away from the stress & hassle of airports & flights.  It offers door-to-door convenience, taking your own car to the South of France, Italy or Austria with as much luggage & toys for the kids as you like, bringing back as much wine or beer as you can pack in.   The journey is part of the holiday:  No baggage fees, no weight limits, no crowded airports, no expensive airport parking, no car hire bureaucracy.  It needn't take much longer than flying, because motorail trains run overnight, so you leave the UK on day 1 and arrive in Italy or the South of France for breakfast on day 2.  It can save a hotel bill or two as well.  However, don't expect Motorail to be a budget option, except perhaps with one of DB AutoZug's Spezial fares.

Interactive motorail mapClick a route for information...

Car ferries to Greece Stena Line car ferry to Hoek van Holland Auto Train car-carrying service DB AutoZug - German Motorail Autoslaaptrein - Dutch Motorail trains DFDS Seaways car ferries to Denmark & Holland Britanny Ferries car ferry to Spain

How do I get my car from the UK to..? 

Click your destination to find out how to get you & your car to these countries by motorail train or ferry:

France     Italy     Spain & Portugal     Switzerland     Germany & Austria   Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg   Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland     Eastern Europe, Turkey, Greece   North Africa, Cyprus, Malta    Motorail trains in the UK

Motorail routes, timetables, prices & information...

On this page you'll find information on each motorail operator, with a summary of prices, routes, on-board accommodation & how to buy tickets:

French Motorail   French Auto-Train     Dutch motorail (Auto Slaap Trein)   

German & Austrian motorail (DB Autozug & ÖBB)      Optima Tours      Other motorail trains

Sponsored links...

 

How do I get my car from the UK to...?

 

Who uses motorail?

  Cars on the motorail train above to leave s'Hertogenbosch for Italy.

Well, families and couples for a start.  The door-to-door convenience of taking your own car makes the logistics of a family holiday to the South of France, Italy or Austria easy.

  A classic Jaguar takes the train to Italy...

Classic cars:  It's not just families.  Classic car owners who'd rather drive their vintage Jaguar than a characterless hire car take it with them using motorail. Classic cars are usually allocated a place on the lower deck.

  Motorbikes on the Dutch Motorail train to Italy...

Bikers:  Motorail is a bikers' favourite too...

Here are the options for getting you & your car from the UK to the main holiday areas of Europe:

UK to France...

UK to Italy...

UK to Spain & Portugal...

UK to Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg...

UK to Switzerland...

UK to Germany & Austria...

UK to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland...

UK to Eastern Europe, including Turkey & Greece...

UK to North Africa, Cyprus, Malta, Egypt, Israel...

Within the UK, to Scotland & Cornwall...


French Motorail...

All French Motorail trains from Calais were discontinued in 2010...

French Motorail from Calais to Southern France was operated by Rail Europe through their parent company SNCF (French Railways).  In early 2010, Rail Europe announced the complete closure of the French Motorail service from Calais, due to rising costs and poor exchange rates.  It may never run again.  A great shame, it had run for many years and had many loyal customers.

... but 's Hertogenbosch is the new Calais!

But all is not lost.  Dutch Motorail runs from 's Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands (3 hours from Calais, 2 hours 30 from Dunquerque, 1 hour 15 minutes from Hoek van Holland) to Alessandria & Livorno in Italy.  Dutch motorail trains have proper sleeping-cars as well as couchettes, and in many cases there's a proper restaurant car too.


Auto Slaap Trein

  Auto-Slaaptrein logo

Click to book online

 

's Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) to Livorno, Alessandria, Koper...

Auto Slaap Trein is a operated by Euro Express Trein Charter, a private company which took over the Dutch Railways' motorail services when they were privatised in 1996.  They run excellent motorail trains from the Netherlands to Italy and Slovenia.

Website:

www.autoslaaptrein.nl

Online booking:

www.autoslaaptrein.nl has easy online booking in English.

Booking tips:  'Single seats (automatically placed)' gets you sleeping berths in 4 or 6 berth couchette compartments shared with other passengers, the cheapest option.  For privacy, select 'Own compartment' then the number of couchette or sleeper compartments (that's the number of compartments you want, not the number of people).  Each  sleeper compartment comes with 3 beds, so if there's 1, 2 or 3 of you just select '1' compartment.

It's easy to book online, but UK residents can also book by phone through UK agency www.railsavers.com.

Phone:

UK residents can call www.railsavers.com on 01253 59 55 55, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Saturday, 10:00-16:00 Sunday.

Terminal:

Trains depart from 's Hertogenbosch in the middle of the Netherlands, 3 hours drive from Calais, 2 hours 35 minutes from Dunquerque, or 1 hour 15 minutes from Hook of Holland, Rotterdam or IJmuiden (Amsterdam).  The motorail terminal is adjacent to 's Hertogenbosch Centraal station.

Routes:

Trains run from 's Hertogenbosch to Livorno & Alessandria in Italy.

In July & August 2014, they are also running a weekly motorail from 's Hertogenbosch to Koper in Slovenia, handy for both Trieste & Venice and Croatia.

Auto Slaap Trein used to operate a motorail service from 's Hertogenbosch to Avignon & Fréjus, but unfortunately, all Dutch motorail trains to Avignon were cancelled since 2011, due to the idiotic French trying to charge a €350 surcharge for motorail travellers to Avignon station.

Outward departure dates & times:

The 's Hertogenbosch to Livorno motorail runs on Fridays from 25 April to 3 October 2014, loads cars 09:45-12:15, departs 's Hertogenbosch 13:12, arrives Livorno 11:30.

The 's Hertogenbosch to Alessandria motorail runs on Fridays from 30 May to 29 August 2014, loads cars 13:15-14:45, departs 's Hertogenbosch 16:12, arrives Alessandria 10:23.

Check times & dates at www.autoslaaptrein.nl or www.railsavers.com.

Return departure dates & times:

The Livorno to 's Hertogenbosch motorail runs on Saturdays from 26 April to 4 October 2013, loads cars 13:00-15:45, departs Livorno 17:03, arrives 's Hertogenbosch 12:40.

The Alessandria to 's Hertogenbosch motorail runs on Saturdays from 31 May to 30 August 2014, loads cars 13:00-15:00, departs Alessandria 16:00, arrives 's Hertogenbosch 10:00.

Check times & dates at www.autoslaaptrein.nl or www.railsavers.com.

Cost?

The cost varies, depending on your destination, date of travel, car type and passenger accommodation.  But as an example, a car and 4 people travelling in a private 4-berth couchette compartment from 's Hertogenbosch to Livorno or Alessandria costs £450-£837 each way depending on the date.  A car + 2 adults in a sleeper costs £611-£817.  Motorbike & 1 adult in shared couchettes £225-£310.  Ferry crossing not included.  But many discounts and deals are available, so check online at www.autoslaaptrein.nl or call www.railsavers.com on 01253 59 55 55 to check.

Vehicles carried:

Cars & motorbikes are carried, also small trailers and bicycles, maximum vehicle height 1.55 metres or up to 1.68m on request.  For example Volkswagen Tourans are carried but not taller vehicles such as Land Rover Discoveries, campers, caravans or vans.  If you've a roofrack, see www.autoslaaptrein.nl or www.railsavers.com.

Accommodation on board:

There are 6-berth couchettes, more spacious 4-berth couchettes, and proper sleepers with 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin.  Sleepers are only sold as private compartments, couchettes are also sold as private compartments, but as an economy option you can book an individual berth in a shared couchette compartment.  Fares include an evening tray meal and light breakfast served in your compartment, but there is a restaurant car and you can upgrade to a 3-course dinner for around £33 extra per person (£17 for children up to 12) when you book.

Pets:

Yes, dogs and other pets can be carried for an extra charge of around £38 each way.

UK ferry connections

RailSavers can also arrange your Channel Crossing at special rates, but also check prices yourself too. 

The cheapest option is to use the short sea routes, Dover-Calais or Dover-Dunkirk, see www.poferries.com or www.dfds.comTop tip www.dfds.com Dover-Dunkirk (formerly Norfolkline) always seems by far the cheapest operator, typically charging £45-£70 return for a car and occupants when Dover-Calais operators persist in charging over £100 return. 

The hassle-free direct option from East Anglia or the North of England is to use www.stenaline.co.uk (Harwich-Hoek van Holland), www.dfds.co.uk (Newcastle-Amsterdam overnight cruise ferry), or www.poferries.com (Hull-Rotterdam overnight cruise ferry).

The Man in Seat 61 says:  Auto Slaap Trein is the 'real deal' for getting your car to Italy, a wonderful overnight experience with friendly English-speaking staff, proper sleeping-cars as well as more economical couchettes, and an elegant restaurant car serving a 3-course dinner with great wine too.  The terminal at 's Hertogenbosch is ideal for anyone living in East Anglia, the North of England or Scotland because of the direct ferries to Holland from Newcastle, Hull & Harwich, but it's not too far from Calais or Dunquerque either.  It's very popular with both the Dutch and many Brits, with families, classic car owners and bikers, and you can even take your dog along.  Auto Slaap Trein gets a lot of repeat business, and having used it myself, I'm not surprised!

Booking tips:  The popular June & September departures sell out fast, so book these well before Christmas if you can.  Also book early for high vehicles, as there are only 7 places per train for vehicles over 1.55 metres high.

What's a journey on the Auto Slaap Trein like?

Checking-in at the entrance to the motorail terminal at s'Hertogenbosch   Dropping off passengers and overnight bags...   Driving the car up the ramp onto the motorail car-carrying wagons...

1. Check-in:  It's easy to find the Auto Slaap Trein (motorail) terminal, right next to 's Hertogenbosch station, using the directions you're given when you book.  It's well signposted.  You're met at the entrance, your ticket is checked and everything is explained...

 

2. Drop off:  You drive round the corner and park up to drop off your passengers & overnight bags.  There's a holiday atmosphere, easy and relaxed, no rush!  The motorail terminal has toilets, and there's a waiting room with an urn for complimentary tea, coffee & squash.  There's an outdoor seating area with tables & chairs.

 

3. Loading the car:  When you're ready, follow the directions of the loading staff and drive your car up the ramp and onto the double-deck car transporter wagons.  Tall vehicles go on the top deck, motorbikes and classic cars get the lower deck.

Securing the cars on the train...   Complimentary fizzy in the Auto-Slaap-Trein sleeping-cars   2 or 3 bed sleeper in day mode on the Auto Slaap Trein to Italy   3-bed sleeper in night mode on the Auto Slaap Trein to Italy

Drive on until told to stop.  Handbrake on, leave it in 1st gear, and remember to disable the alarm when you lock your car.  Staff secure the vehicle with metal bars against the wheels.  Walk back along the wagons and down the ramp to the terminal.

 

4.  Boarding the passenger coaches:  The passenger coaches arrive at platform 1, right next to the terminal, about 40-60 minutes before departure.  Soap, towels & mineral water are provided, and in the 2-3 bed sleepers you're welcomed with a small complimentary bottle of fizzy that really gets the journey off to a good start...  Couchette passengers are welcomed aboard with a white wine or fruit juice...

 

Sleepers:  Sleepers are ideal for couples or small families.  This is a 2 or 3 bed sleeper in its daytime mode with beds folded away & sofa folded out.  There are toilets at the end of the corridor.

 

The same sleeper, in night mode with the beds folded out, each with crisp clean sheets & cosy duvets.  The sleepers are carpeted, air-conditioned and have a washbasin in each room.

4-berth couchette on the Auto Slaap Trein motorail to Italy   6-berth couchette on the Auto Slaap Trein Dutch Motorail train to Italy   Nathaniel spots our car!

Couchettes, 4-berth: Couchettes are more basic than sleepers, but are ideal for families.  This is a 4-berth air-conditioned couchette is in daytime mode with the bunks folded away.  At night, an upper & lower bunk folds out from the wall on each side of the compartment.  In couchette cars there are toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor.

 

Couchettes, 6-berth:  This is a 6-berth couchette compartment, in daytime mode.  At night, upper, middle & lower bunks fold out from the wall on each side of the compartment.  Sheets, pillow & blanket are provided for each berth.  The 6-berth couchettes are not air-conditioned, but the windows open for ventilation.

 

Look daddy, there's our car!  Suddenly, the car transporter wagons are shunted past our sleeper window, as they are taken to the back of the train...

The motorail to Italy, about to leave s'Hertogenbosch...   Starter in the Auto Slaap Trein restaurant car   Main course in the Auto Slaap Trein restaurant car

All set to go: The car transporters have been loaded and attached to the back of the passenger coaches.  The Auto Slaap Trein now awaits its departure time for Italy...

 

5. Dinner in the diner:  The fare includes a basic evening tray meal served in your compartment by the sleeper attendant, but for £35 per person you can upgrade to a proper 3-course meal in the restaurant car, pre-booked & pre-paid when you buy your motorail ticket.  Travel tip:  Booking the meal is well worth it, as dinner is a highlight of the trip, especially along the Rhine Valley on the Livorno run.

The Auto Slaap Trein restaurant car...   Rhine castles, seen over dinner from the motorail train...   The famous Lorelei Rock on the Rhine, seen from the restaurant car of the Auto Slaap Trein to Italy...

When you reach the restaurant car, you'll find a reserved table marked with your name on a card.  Highchairs for infants are available if you need one. 

The pre-paid meal doesn't include drinks, but wine, beer or spirits are available, 75cl of wine costs around €18-€22.

 

Along the Rhine Valley:  The Livorno train heads down the Rhine Valley in the early evening, past castles, Rhine river barges & vineyards.  Pictured, above right:  As the waiter brings dessert, the evening sun catches the famous Lorelei Rock, the stuff of German legend, on the far bank of the Rhine...  Travel tip:  This is one reason for picking the afternoon Livorno train over the evening Bologna one.  Pre-book dinner in the restaurant car and request the first sitting.  The Bologna train travels via the Rhine Valley too, but you'll have to watch it in the moonlight late at night!  The trains to Italy then pass through Switzerland, via the Gotthard route.

Breakfast, included in  the fare...   The Auto Slaap Trein arrives in Livorno...   Unloading the cars at Livorno.

5. Breakfast in your compartment:  Next morning, a light breakfast is served in your compartment, included in the fare.

 

6. Buongiorno Italia!  Here, the Auto Slaap Trein has arrived right on time at Livorno.  Passengers leave the train and walk via the subway to the unloading dock near platform 1.  Over the next half hour, the car transporters are detached and shunted into the loading dock.

 

6. Unloading:  After a short wait, names are called out, and you walk up the ramp and along the transporter wagons to drive your car off.  Within an hour of arriving, you're in your car driving through the uncrowded back roads of Tuscany & Umbria, or heading down the Autostrada to the Bay of Naples.

     

Watch the video:

A journey on Auto Slaap Trein...

 

 

 


DB AutoZug

 

DB Autozug logo

Book online here

Düsseldorf (Germany) to Munich & Vienna

DB AutoZug is a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, German Railways.  Their Autozug Spezial fares from just €149 (£129) for car+driver make them the most affordable motorail operator, and they have easy online booking.  Düsseldorf is 3 hours 45 minutes drive from Calais, 3 hours 20 minutes from Dunquerque.  However, massive cutbacks have hit DB Autozug in 2014, with almost all motorail services from Dusseldorf discontinued.  Only two remain, to Munich and Vienna.

Website:

DB AutoZug website.

Online booking:  

See the online booking system below or go to DB AutoZug website

Phone:

See website

Terminal:

Trains depart from Düsseldorf, a 3 hour 45 minute (245 mile) drive from Calais, 3 hours 20 minutes from Dunquerque, or 2 hour 30 minutes from Hook of Holland (157 miles), Rotterdam or IJmuiden (Amsterdam).  The DB Autozug motorail terminal is next to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof.

Routes:

Trains run from Düsseldorf to Munich, and from May 2015 every day to Vienna in Austria run by partner ÖBB.  All other routes discontinued as from late 2014.

Dates & times:

To check times & dates, use the online booking system below.  But here's a summary to give you a rough idea:

The Düsseldorf-Munich motorail service runs most Friday nights all year - check dates & times using the online system.  Motorbikes are not carried.  Northbound, it runs on most Sunday nights.  Cars transported by road, passengers take a Friday night City Night Line sleeper train or Friday, Saturday or Sunday daytime ICE train.

Dusseldorf to Vienna will run daily all year from May 2015.  Run by partner ÖBB (Austrian Railways) it's the EuroNight train shown here which will have car transporters attached.

How much does it cost?

Use the online booking system on the DB AutoZug website.  Ferry crossing not included.

Vehicles carried:

Cars & motorbikes are carried to Vienna, cars only (no motorbikes) to Munich.  See the DB AutoZug website for full details.

Accommodation on board:

Pets:

Yes, dogs and other pets can be carried.

Suggested ferry connections

The cheapest option is to use the short sea routes, Dover-Calais or Dover-Dunkirk, see www.poferries.com & www.dfds.comTop tip www.dfds.com Dover-Dunkirk (formerly Norfolkline) always seem by far the cheapest operator, typically charging £45-£70 return for a car and occupants when Dover-Calais operators persist in charging over £100 return. 

The more direct option from East Anglia or the North of England is to use www.stenaline.co.uk (Harwich-Hoek van Holland), www.dfds.co.uk (Newcastle-IJmuiden overnight cruise ferry), or www.poferries.com (Hull-Rotterdam overnight cruise ferry).

How to reach Düsseldorf Autozug terminal:  Leave the autobahn and follow the signs for Düsseldorf city centre, then follow the signs for 'Hauptbahnhof' ('main station').  Near the Hauptbahnhof, you'll pick up signs saying 'DB Autozug'.  If you have a Tom-Tom satnav, the DB Autozug terminal is listed as a 'point of interest' in Düsseldorf.  It's not difficult to reach, it's down a side road at the north east side of the Hauptbahnhof, the address is DB Autozug Terminal, Schlägelstrasse, 40210 Düsseldorf.

Autozug - bequeme,staufreie Anreise-Alternative

 Book German Motorail online...

DB Autozug is the only motorail operator to offer 'live' online booking, and this form links directly to the DB AutoZug website.  You book online and print out your own ticket.  Booking tip:  If you select 'Couchette car, 5 berth' you'll get berths in a 5-berth couchette compartment shared with other passengers, this is the cheapest option.  Select 'Couchette car, compartment' if you want private use of a whole 5-berth couchette compartment just for your party.  With sleepers on Autozug you'll always get a private room.

 
   

If no form appears above, click here to go to the DB AutoZug website

 

Auto-Train

Paris to Nice, Geneva, Avignon, Biarritz, Marseille, Tarbes, Narbonne, St Raphael, Toulon, Toulouse


Optima Express

Villach (Austria) to Turkey (Edirne):  www.optimatours.de...


Other motorail services

Austria:  Vienna to/from Innsbruck, Feldkirch, Villach (Austrian domestic), Vienna-Hamburg (Germany), Vienna-Florence (Italy), Vienna-Düsseldorf (Germany)

See http://www.oebb.at/de/Reiseplanung/PKW_Motor-_und_Fahrrad/Autoreisezug/index.jsp.

Czech Republic:  Prague-Poprad Tatry, Prague-Kosice

See www.cd.cz/scripts/detail.php?pgid=628.  Cheap overnight Motorail services.

Croatia:  Zagreb-Split

The daily summer-only Zagreb-Split overnight sleeper train also has a car-carrying wagon.  Information about this isn't readily available online, ask at the station when you get there.

Finland:  Various domestic routes...

See www.vr.fi.


Back to 'Rail travel to Europe' general page

Back to home page