A MotoRail vehicle at the front of the New South Wales Public Transport Commission's Gold Coast Motorail Express

A Motorail train is a passenger train on which, except in France,[1] 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.

As such, Motorail services are to be contrasted with car shuttle train or car-carrying train services. Unlike a Motorail train, a car shuttle train or car-carrying train is used to transport accompanied cars, or automobiles, and usually also other types of road vehicles, for only a relatively short distance.

Car shuttle trains usually operate 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 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


Great Southern Railway provides a Motorail service on their long distance Indian Pacific, The Ghan and The Overland services.[2][3][4]

Traveltrain in Queensland offer a Motorail service on their Sunlander and Spirit of the Outback trains.[5]

The Victorian Railways once offered Motorail on their Mildura line Vinelander and Sunraysia and still does offer Motorail on the GSR Overland service.[6] The railways of New South Wales also once offered a motorail service on their long distance lines.


In Austria, several of the regular day and night trains of the Österreichische Bundesbahnen include automobile transport cars. In English, the service is advertised as "Motorail Trains".[7]


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" [8] between Santiago and Temuco.

Czech Republic

There used to be a seasonal service between Prague and Split which took 24 hours, last time it run in 2009 season. Currently, there are two services per day all-year-round to Košice, Slovakia (daytime and overnight) and an additional daily overnight service between Prague and Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia.


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. 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.[9]


In France, the SNCF's Auto/train service [10] 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 18 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), Auray, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Briançon, Brive, Fréjus-St-Raphaël (separate station), Lille-Seclin, Lyon-Perrache, Marseille-Saint-Charles, Mulhouse, Metz, Nice, Narbonne (separate station), Nantes, Strasbourg, Tarbes, Toulon and Toulouse.[11] The automobiles are carried in open railcars, and for that reason the SNCF offers passengers a free car wash[citation needed] in the arrival city.


In Germany, DB AutoZug GmbH [12] 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.


In Italy, Trenitalia operates national Motorail services, advertised as “Auto e moto al seguito”.[13] As of 2010, there are 19 terminals:

A single international Motorail service connects Rome and Firenze with the Austrian capital Vienna.


The AutoSlaapTrein service runs in the summer months from 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) in the Netherlands to Alessandria and Livorno in Italy and Frejus and Avignon in the South of France.

United Kingdom

British Rail in the United Kingdom operated Motorail services from 1955. These lasted into the post-privatisation era, with the final one, First Great Western's Night Riviera service between London Paddington station and Penzance, operating until September 2005.

United States

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

Portal icon Trains portal


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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