Motorail:  Car-carrying trains across Europe...

Take your car by train...

...to the South of France, Italy, Austria or Bavaria with German Motorail or Dutch Motorail,

...to Spain with Brittany Ferries.

...to Scandinavia with DFDS Seaways

 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 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 handful of holiday routes, usually 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 Motorail (DB Autozug)      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 Düsseldorf & 's Hertogenbosch are the new Calais!

But all is not lost.  High-quality German Motorail services run from Düsseldorf to Narbonne, Alessandria & Verona in Italy.  Düsseldorf is 3 hours 45 minutes drive from Calais, 3 hours 20 minutes drive from Dunquerque, or just 2 hours 30 from Hook of Holland or Rotterdam.  Fares start at just €149 for car & driver.  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 Avignon & Fréjus in the south of France and to Alessandria & Livorno in Italy.  Both German & Dutch motorail trains have proper sleeping-cars as well as couchettes, and in many cases there's a proper restaurant car too.  German motorail trains even have some deluxe sleepers with toilet & shower.  Regular users of French Motorail might be pleasantly surprised by these alternative services!


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 Verona, Alessandria, Trieste, Bolzano (Italy), Munich (Germany), Villach, Salzburg, Innsbruck (Austria)...        

DB AutoZug is a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, German Railways.  Their Autozug Spezial fares from just €149 (£129) for car+driver from Düsseldorf to Italy or Austria 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.  Some services run all year round, not just in summer, although their network is going to contract significantly from winter 2014 onwards.  What's a journey on DB Autozug like?

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 Alessandria (Italy), Munich (Germany), Villach, Innsbruck (Austria).  From Dec 2014: Vienna (Austria)(run by partner ÖBB)

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-Alessandria motorail train runs every Friday night from late April until late October, also Wednesday nights from early May to late September, loading around 14:40-15:00, departing around 16:00 arriving in Alessandria at 09:06 next morning - check dates & times using the online system.  Northbound, it runs on Saturday nights from late April to late October, also Thursday nights from early May to late September, loading 15:00-16:30, departing Alessandria 17:41, arriving Düsseldorf around 11:00 next day - check dates & times using the online system.  It will no longer run in winter, as of 2014.

Dusseldorf to Verona and Trieste have been discontinued.

The Düsseldorf-Bolzano (northern Italy) motorail train has hitherto run all year round, usually on Friday or on Sunday nights southbound and Saturday or Monday nights northbound, use the online booking system below for dates.  Bolzano is also written as 'Bozen'.  However, it will not run in winter 2014.

The Düsseldorf-Narbonne Motorail train runs Spring until Autumn, Southbound on most Friday nights, also on Wednesday nights May to September.  Departure from Dusseldorf around 16:00, arriving Narbonne around 11:00 next morning.  Northbound it runs on Saturday nights late April to late October, also Thursday nights May to September, departing Narbonne around 16:00, arriving Dusseldorf around 11:00.  Use the online booking system below to check dates & times.

The Düsseldorf-Innsbruck motorail train has hitherto run all year round, usually on Friday nights, usually departing 17:13 and arriving Innsbruck at 06:35 next morning.  Times vary, so use the online system to check.  However, it will not run in winter 2014.

The Düsseldorf-Villach motorail train runs every Sunday night from mid-April to mid-October, departing 17:13 and arriving Villach at 07:34 next morning.  Northbound it runs on Monday nights mid-April to mid-October.  Use the online booking system below to check dates & times.

The Düsseldorf-Munich motorail train runs all year round several times a week, use the online booking system below for details.  Cars are taken by road transporter, motorbikes are not carried.

The Düsseldorf-Vienna motorail train makes a comeback from mid-December 2014, having been discontinued in 2009.  It's run by DB's partner, Austrian Railways ÖBB.  It will operate overnight daily, with Austrian sleeping-car and couchettes as an extension to the long-standing Cologne-Vienna EuroNight passenger train, see the photos here.

How much does it cost?

Fares start at just €149 (£129) for a car + driver in shared couchettes.  DB's cheap 'AutoZug Spezial' online fares make DB Autozug probably the cheapest motorail operator, if you pick your dates carefully.  However, the cost varies, depending on your destination, date of travel, car type and passenger accommodation.  As an example, an AutoZug Spezial from Düsseldorf to Alessandria for a car, 2 adults and 2 children in shared couchettes in October costs from €329 one-way (£286), normal price around €426 (£373).  With just 2 adults and 0 children, that falls to €209 (£181), normal price €346 (£300).  A motorbike + 1 adult in shared couchettes starts at €149 (£130) one-way.  But check fares for your dates, passenger numbers and type of sleeping accommodation using the online booking system on the DB AutoZug website.  Ferry crossing not included.

Vehicles carried:

Cars & motorbikes are carried, also small trailers & bikes, maximum vehicle height 1.75 metres or on some routes up to 1.83m (Alessandria), or even 2.05m (Salzburg, Innsbruck, Villach).  Also depends on roof width, see the DB AutoZug website for full details.  Motorbikes not carried on the Dusseldorf-Munich route.

Accommodation on board:

  • Individual berths in shared 5-berth couchette compartments.  This is the cheapest option;

  • Sole occupancy of a 5-berth couchette compartment for up to 5 people;

  • Sole occupancy of a standard sleeper compartment with beds and washbasin for up to 3 people;

  • Sole occupancy of a deluxe sleeper with beds for up to 3 people plus private shower & toilet.

  • A bistro car runs on the longer routes.  Sleeper & couchette fares include a light breakfast with tea or coffee served in your compartment.  

  • See the couchette & sleeper photos below.

  • Passengers with disabilities:  These Autozug trains also include a wheelchair-accessible 2-berth couchette compartment, adjacent to a wheelchair-accessible toilet.  A huge door to the compartment (and a similar one to the toilet) slide back at the touch of a button.  There are photos of this special compartment here.

Pets:

Yes, dogs and other pets can be carried for an extra charge.

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).

Comment:  DB AutoZug offers overnight motorail trains from Düsseldorf to Italy, Southern Germany & Austria, a good quality service with modern sleepers, some with private shower & toilet as well as more economical couchettes.  They are the only motorail operator to offer easy online booking, an they have cheap 'AutoZug Spezial' fares if you pre-book and pick your dates carefully making them perhaps the cheapest and easiest motorail service to book.  Highly recommended!  However, DB are slowly discontinuing many of their motorail routes, due to cost issues.

What's a journey on DB Autozug like?

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.

German motorail:  DB Autozug check-in at Dusseldorf   Motorail terminal at Dusseldorf   Inside the motorail terminal building at Dusseldorf

Check-in:  You show your ticket at the check-in kiosk at the entrance to the terminal.  You're given an A4 sheet with your destination printed on it to put in your windscreen.  It's all very relaxed, no rush, no hassle.

 

Waiting for loading:  You're told to park up in one of five numbered lanes that sweep round the terminal building to the foot of the loading ramps.  A sign shows the destination for each lane.  Drop off your passengers and overnight bags.

 

Inside the terminal building:  You can wait in the terminal building, with tables, chairs, drinks and coffee machines and toilets.  Or you can walk onto the station (follow the 'bahnsteig' signs) and use the station facilities.

Driving your car onto the DB Autozug   Walking back off the car-carrying wagons   DB Autozug ready to leave platform 20 at Dusseldorf

Loading the car:  When the train is ready for loading staff open the gates at the foot of the loading ramp & you'll be asked to drive onto the motorail wagons.  Drive on along the wagons until told to stop.  Park with handbrake on, in 1st gear, alarm disabled.  In this picture you can see Düsseldorf station platforms 19 & 20 to the right of the train, where you board the passenger cars. 

 

Walk back to the terminal...  Climb off the car wagons onto the platform using the steps provided and walk back to the terminal to collect your passengers and bags.  Either wait in the terminal or walk back onto the station and use the station facilities, including various shops, Starbucks & MacDonald's.

 

Boarding the train:  Motorail trains leave from platforms 19 & 20 at Düsseldorf station, the platforms closest to the motorail terminal.  The platforms are accessed from the motorail terminal via a short subway, just follow the signs marked 'bahnsteig' (German for 'platform').  The passenger coaches are shunted into the platform & attached to the motorail wagons about 30-40 minutes before departure.  You can then board the train.

DB Autozug motorail train

On board the train...  The choice is between individual berths in shared 5-berth couchettes, sole occupancy of a 5-berth couchette compartment, sole occupancy of a 1, 2 or 3 berth standard sleeper with washbasin, or sole occupancy of a 1, 2 or 3 bed deluxe sleeper with private toilet & shower.  There are also wheelchair-accessible 2-berth couchettes.

More pictures & information about these trains...

 

5-berth couchettes on DB Autozug motorail trains

5-berth couchettes:  Couchettes are basic but comfortable sleeping accommodation, ideal for families.  In both couchettes & sleepers, berths convert to seats for daytime use.

 

A 1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper with washbasin on DB autozug

Standard sleeper:  A sleeper is the most comfortable & civilised option.  The photo above shows a standard sleeper set up as a 2-berth.  There's a shower at the end of the corridor.

 

Shower & toilet in deluxe sleeper, DB Autozug

Deluxe sleeper:  Deluxe sleepers are virtually identical to standard sleepers but have a private shower & toilet, seen here.  Sleepers can be set up as 1, 2 or 3 berth.

             
Complimentary breakfast on DBAutozug motorail train   Unloading cars from the motorail train at Salzburg

Breakfast:  The DB Autozug fare includes a simple box breakfast with tea or coffee served by the attendant in your sleeper or couchette compartment.  Deluxe sleeper passengers get a slightly more extensive breakfast.  Some trains have a restaurant or bistro car.

 

Offloading:  You leave the passenger coaches at the platform and walk to the unloading dock.  Drivers go to their cars when told to do so and you drive off into the terminal parking area.  You pick up your passengers and overnight bags and off you go.  You can be on the road within 30 minutes of arriving!  It really is that simple, a totally painless way to go...  This photo shows cars from Düsseldorf unloading at Salzburg in Austria.

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

The French Railways operate their own domestic car-carrying trains, called Auto-Train, some of which run all year round at least a few times a week.  Auto-Train is different from all the other motorail services in that cars & passengers travel separately:  You check your car in during day 1, the cars are transported overnight, and you pick your car up on day 2.  Passengers travel on any regular passenger train they like, either a daytime TGV or overnight train with couchettes.  You can find more information (in French) at www.voyages-sncf.com/services-train/auto-train.

Cost:  Paris-Nice costs around £220 each way for the car, Paris-Narbonne £205, Paris-Brive or Paris-Bordeaux £155.  However, there are some cheap deals if you book well in advance, from 49 euros one-way for the car.  Passengers pay normal rail fares, which start at 22 euros one-way, see www.raileurope.co.uk.

How it works:  You drive your car to Paris Bercy Station.  After a vehicle inspection, you hand over your keys and leave the rest to the very proficient SNCF staff.  You are now free to take any regular passenger train you like, either a daytime TGV or overnight Intercités de Nuit couchette train. Next day you make your way to the motorail terminal at your destination, present your travel papers and collect the keys to your vehicle.

Traveller John Rayner reports:  "In May 2010 for the Journey from Paris to Toulon we booked a single on the Auto Train for €49 and two single adult tickets on the TGV for €44. We stayed in a hotel not far from Toulon station for €40. A considerable saving on tolls, fuel and fatigue! An hours drive from Toulon got us to our destination just outside St Tropez refreshed and ready to enjoy our holiday!

How to book:  You can book up to 6 months in advance, and you'll get the best prices if you book as soon as booking opens.  In the UK, call Rail Europe's Motorail line on 0844 848 4050 (lines open 0900-1700 Monday-Friday).  Alternatively, you can now book your car on Auto-Train online at the SNCF website www.voyages-sncf.com, (click on Vol and then on Voiture Auto Train), this allows you to reserve a place on the Auto Train but you then have 48 hours to telephone SNCF, confirm your vehicle details (including registration number) and pay with a debit or credit card (this is where the French language and particularly alphabet is required).  You then book separate passenger tickets either at www.raileurope.co.uk (UK residents) or www.tgv-europe.com (residents of any country).


Optima Express

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

Optima Tours run their Optima Express motorail train at least weekly to Turkey on various departure dates between April & November, see www.optimatours.de for dates, times & booking information (if you click 'buchung' (booking) an English-language flag appears top right).  Edirne is near the Bulgarian border, so is also good for Bulgaria.  They carry motorbikes and cars up to 198cm high.

Times vary, so you'll have to check their site, but the journey from Austria to Turkey takes either 2 days & 1 night or 2 nights & 1 day.  The train has covered car-carrying wagons and Bulgarian couchette cars, with compartments that can be used for sole occupancy for 1-6 people, or you can book one berth in a shared 6-berth compartment.

They take cars up to 152cm high, or for a slightly higher price, vehicles up to 198cm high.

The cost is around €259 one-way for a car plus €149 for one person in a shared 6-berth couchette compartment or €299 per person in a couchette compartment allocated for the exclusive private use of two people.

You can use DB AutoZug's Düsseldorf-Villach motorail on Friday nights to connect with it, when the Optima train leaves on a Saturday evening, although sometimes it leaves on Tuesdays.


Other motorail services

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

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 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.


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