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Not to be confused with Car shuttle train.
A MotoRail vehicle at the front of the Public Transport Commission's Gold Coast Motorail

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[edit]


In Europe, many motorail connections are running cross-border between different European countries. To be mentioned are trains between Austria—Germany, Austria—Italy, Germany—Italy, Czech Republic—Slovakia and Serbia—Montenegro. Some domestic services exist as well. Domestic motorail trains are running within Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Finland and France.

Almost all motorail services are offered in connection with overnight trains with sleeping cars.


Motorail, railway station Neu-Isenburg, Germany, 2011.
Motorail train lines between Germany, Austria, Italy and Turkey (2016-2017)

In Austria, roughly half of the night trains of the Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) (called ÖBB nightjet) include car-carrier wagons.[1] Most of the car-carrier wagons are running on a daily basis all-year-round to car terminals located in Austria (Vienna, Graz, Villach, Feldkirch, Innsbruck) and Germany (Hamburg, Düsseldorf). In addition, ÖBB nightjets are serving two car terminals in Italy (Verona, Livorno) during three seasons (spring, summer, autumn). For the motorail services from Austria to Germany, ÖBB took over operations from DB AutoZug, a German motorail company which ceased operations.

Also seasonal is the Optima Express, a three-season service (spring, summer, autumn) between Villach in Austria and Edirne in Turkey with up to four trains each week in summer.


In Germany, DB Autozug offered motorail services for more than 70 years. DB Autozug ceased to operate in October 2016 as these trains were not considered to be profitable. [2][3]

Three new motorail operators stepped in in 2015 and 2016, taking over the now abandoned motorail services claiming a sufficient market for motorail services in Germany.

Austrian railway ÖBB took over most motorail services from DB Autozug. ÖBB now (December 2016) offers daily or almost daily motorail connections (under the brand name ÖBB nightjet) running from Germany to Austria. These are a daily operated EuroNight overnight motorail trains from Vienna to Hamburg and also from Vienna to Düsseldorf. In addition, similar services are offered from Hamburg to Innsbruck and Düsseldorf to Innsbruck since December 2016 as a replacement for the former Düsseldorf to Innsbruck service being withdrawn by DB AutoZug in December 2014.

Another motorail service abandoned by DB Autozug was taken over by Bahntouristikexpress (BTE), a german rail tourism company, which is affiliated with the US-based Railroad Development Corporation (RDC). BTE took over the DB Autozug connection between Hamburg and Lörrach, offering all-year-round motorail services 1-3 times a week.

And finally, the German company Müller-Touristik is offering - under the brand name Euro-Express - three-seasonal (spring, summer, autumn) motorail trains between Düsseldorf and Verona, accompanied by summer-only motorail services between Düsseldorf and Livorno. Both destinations in Italy. The Euro-Express is operating on behalf of the Dutch travel agency Treinreiswinkel. Treinreiswinkel, by travelling from Düsseldorf, compensates for the loss of motorail services from the Netherlands to Italy, formerly starting from 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch).[4]


In Italy, Trenitalia operated national Motorail services, advertised as “Auto e moto al seguito”. As of 12 December 2011, all of these services have been withdrawn.[5] After the withdrawal of motorail services by state-owned Trenitalia the private-owned railway company Arenaways started overnight motorail trains running from Torino in the north of Italy to Reggio Calabria and Bari in the south. Talgo train coaches from RENFE group in Spain were used for the services.[6] After the bankrupty of Arenaways due to massively manipulated rules by state-owned Trenitalia to exclude the competitor from the market, all services were withdrawn.[7]

Today, the Dutch travel agency Treinreiswinkel[8] offers a seasonal connection between Düsseldorf and Verona and Livorno (operated by Euro-Express) and the state-owned Austrian railway ÖBB connect Verona and Livorno with the Austrian capital of Vienna, also seasonal.[9]


There were motorail services, called AutoSlaapTrein, which ran 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. EETC (Euro-Express trein charter), the owner of the AutoSlaapTrein, suspended their services in April 2015. Another Dutch company, the travel agency Treinreiswinkel, continued the Autoslaaptrein in May 2015 with a connection between Germany (Düsseldorf) and Verona. Another connection (Düsseldorf to Livorno) will be implemented in Summer 2017. All these motorail trains are operated by Müller-Touristik-Group in Germany under the brand name Euro-Express.


The only motorail train of Turkey is running between Villach/Austria and Edirne/Turkey mainly for the Turkish workers abroad, passing through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria. The whole journey completes 1400 km in 30 hours. The train is operated by Optima Tours.[10]

Czech Republic & Slovakia[edit]

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.[11]


In France, the SNCF's Auto/train service[12] 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.[13] 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.


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.

United Kingdom[edit]

Further information: Motorail (British Rail)

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.

Asia and Australia[edit]


Great Southern Rail provides a Motorail service on its long-distance Indian Pacific, The Ghan, and The Overland services.[14][15][16]

Traveltrain in Queensland offers a Motorail service on its Sunlander and Spirit of the Outback trains.[17]

The Victorian Railways formerly offered Motorail on its Vinelander, and Sunraysia services on the Mildura line.[18] The New South Wales Railways (later the Public Transport Commission) once offered Motorail services on its long-distance lines.


A Japanese "car train" in Nagoya in 1988.

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.

North- and South-America[edit]


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.[citation needed]

The Ontario Northland Railway's former Little Bear mixed cargo-freight train had several flatcars that were used to carry vehicles from Cochrane to Moosonee.


In Chile, EFE (Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado) operates a service called "Autotren"[19] between Santiago and Temuco.

United States[edit]

Main article: Auto Train

Amtrak operates their dedicated Auto Train between Lorton, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.) and Sanford, Florida (near Orlando), a distance of 855 miles (1,376 km).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ÖBB nightjet - Your car or motorcycle on the train, retrieved 19. December 2016
  2. ^ "DB zieht die Notbremse: Das Aus für den Autoreisezug" (in German). Retrieved 2014-10-29. 
  3. ^ DB Autozug connections in Winter 2014/2015
  4. ^
  5. ^ (Italian)abolition of national motorail services in Italy
  6. ^ "RENFE rents out train units for train company in Italy" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2014-10-29. 
  7. ^ "Private-owned railway company in Italy is on sale" (in German). Retrieved 2014-10-29. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ (German)ÖBB's website with current operated Motorail services
  10. ^ Uysal, Onur. "The Motorail Trains Connecting Europe to Turkey", Rail Turkey, 20 February 2014
  11. ^
  12. ^ website
  13. ^ (French)Guide auto-train 2008
  14. ^ "Indian Pacific Motorail". Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  15. ^ "The Ghan Motorail". Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  16. ^ "The Overland Motorail". Archived from the original on 2008-07-20. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  17. ^ "Australian Adventures with Rail - Traveltrain Holidays - Motorail - Overview". Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  18. ^ "AX automobile transport". Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  19. ^ website

External links[edit]