A Motorail train or accompanied car train (ACT) is a passenger train on which passengers can take their car or automobile along with them on their journey. Passengers are carried in normal passenger carriages or in sleeping carriages on longer journeys, while the cars are loaded into autoracks, car-carriers, or flatcars that normally form part of the same train.
Motorail services are not the same as car shuttle trains or car-carrying train services. The latter usually operate over relatively short distances, on lines passing through a rail tunnel and connecting two places not easily accessible to each other by road. On car shuttle train services, unlike on motorail services, the occupants of the road vehicles being carried on the train usually stay with their vehicle throughout the rail journey.
Examples of Motorail services
The Victorian Railways once offered Motorail on their Mildura line Vinelander, and Sunraysia and still does offer Motorail on the GSR Overland service. The railways of New South Wales also once offered a motorail service on their long distance lines.
A North American predecessor to the original Auto-Train was a service run by the Canadian National Railway (CN) that allowed passengers to bring their automobiles along on selected passenger trains. This service proved unsuccessful.
Currently, there are two services per day all-year-round to Košice, Slovakia (EuroCity Košičan daytime and Euronight Slovakia overnight) and an additional daily overnight service between Prague and Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia (fastrain Hornád since 1997, now EuroCity Košičan). There used to be a seasonal service between Prague and Split (fasttrain Jadran) which took 24 hours, in seasons 2003–2005 weekly, in seasons 2007–2009 daily.
In Finland, VR (website) has a popular automobile-carrying service on its night trains between the south and the north; the service transports 35,000 automobiles a year. VR recently bought 15 new auto carriers for €8 million. The service operates with trains originating from both Helsinki and Turku first stopping at Tampere; from there they follow the same line to the next stop in Oulu. Thereafter, the line splits with one line going up to Kolari and another line making stops at Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. These trains also include sleeper cars allowing passengers to sleep well before driving the next morning.
In France, the SNCF's Auto/train service comprises several overnight automobile-carrying trains throughout France. In the past, all of the Auto/trains also carried sleeping cars. Nowadays passengers travel on a separate train to their automobiles. Typically, passengers drop off their car any time during the day and then use a separate train to reach their destination, where they can pick up the car any time the following day.
This service is available between 13 railway stations: the Gare de Bercy in Paris is the main auto-train terminal. There are also terminals in the stations of Avignon (separate station), Biarritz, Bordeaux, Briançon, Brive, Fréjus-St-Raphaël (separate station), Lyon-Perrache, Marseille-Saint-Charles, Nice, Narbonne (separate station), Toulon, and Toulouse. The automobiles are carried in open railcars. Other services are offered to the Auto Train service : a jockey to pick your car up at home, complementary insurances, free bus to leave the arrival station (Bercy, Avignon, Fréjus...), free parking... Since 2012, connections between other cities than Paris have been created, for instance, Bordeaux-Biarritz or Bordeaux-Nice. But to have a reservation for such journey, you'll have to call +333635 and say "Auto Train", because these reservations are made one by one given the wishes of each customer.
In Germany, DB AutoZug has services from sixteen stations to cities in France, Italy, Austria, and Croatia. These are very popular, with 200,000 automobiles transported yearly and half a million passengers. In 2005, DB AutoZug celebrated 75 years of automobile-and-person-carrying trains.
- north of Rome: Bologna Centrale, Bolzano, Bruneck, Calalzo di Cadore, Firenze Campo di Marte, Livorno, Milano San Cristoforo, Torino Porta Nuova, Venezia Mestre;
- Rome and southern Italy: Bari Centrale, Foggia, Lamezia Terme, Napoli Centrale, Roma Termini, Roma Tiburtina, Villa San Giovanni;
- Sicily: Catania Centrale, Milazzo, Palermo Centrale;
Several overnight "car train" (カートレイン) services were operated by the Japanese National Railways and its successor JR Group between 1985 and 1999. The first such service operated between Shiodome Freight Terminal in Tokyo and Higashi-Kokura Freight Terminal in northern Kyushu. At various times during the 1990s, similar services were operated between Nagoya and Kyushu, between Tokyo and Hokkaido through the Seikan Tunnel, and within Hokkaido.
The freight terminal at Ebisu Station was used as a terminal for car train services prior to its closure for redevelopment as the Ebisu Garden Place complex, at which point such services were moved to Hamamatsucho Station.
There were a number of problems with these services which contributed to their eventual cancellation, including fairly severe size restrictions on the vehicles that could be transported, lack of on-board dining facilities, revenue sharing issues between regional operating companies following the privatization of JR, and competition with both long-distance car ferries and combination air/rental car travel products.
The AutoSlaapTrein service runs in the summer months from 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) in the Netherlands to Koper in Slovenia, to Alessandria and Livorno in Italy, and Frejus and Avignon in the South of France.
In the early 1980s PKP offered motorail services between the following stations: Szczecin Dąbie, Trzebiatów, Gdynia Główna, Warszawa Główna, Poznań Główny, Katowice, Kraków Główny, and Zakopane. Services ran overnight and passengers were carried in sleeping cars and couchettes.
By the end of the 1990s PKP operated only a single motorail service on overnight trains between Gdynia and Zakopane. The service never gained essential popularity and ultimately was withdrawn in 2004. Among many factors which led to closure of this service, it was criticised for being too cumbersome: while in Zakopane the passengers' cars were available almost immediately, it took nearly two hours to load or unload cars in Gdynia.
In Switzerland, several car shuttle trains run, called Autoverlad; no motorail services exist.
British Rail operated Motorail services from 1955 serving various destination, but had discontinued them by the time the state-owned body was wound-up in the mid 1990s. Privatised train operator First Great Western went on to revive the service between London and Penzance in 1998, operating it until September 2005.
- "Indian Pacific Motorail". www.gsr.com.au. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "The Ghan Motorail". www.gsr.com.au. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "The Overland Motorail". www.gsr.com.au. Archived from the original on 2008-07-20. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "Australian Adventures with Rail - Traveltrain Holidays - Motorail - Overview". www.traveltrain.com.au. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "AX automobile transport". www.victorianrailways.net. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- Motorail Trains
- (French)Guide auto-train 2008
- (Italian) "TrenItalia → Informazione per il viaggio → Viaggare con auto e moto al seguito". www.trenitalia.com. Retrieved 2010-10-19.