SNCF sells 50% of Orient Express

Credit: Jérôme Galland / SNCF.
Credit: Jérôme Galland / SNCF.

A new partnership has been struck to manage the famous Orient Express brand.

French operator SNCF has teamed up with hotel group and fellow French firm AccorHotels, which takes a 50 per cent stake. Since it acquired the brand in 1977, SNCF has been the sole owner.

Announcing the deal 134 years after the first Orient Express trip was made between Paris and Istanbul, SNCF communications deputy CEO Mathias Vicherat said the company is proud to have contributed to the renaissance of an historic brand.

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With AccorHotels on board, plans for developing the Orient Express’ brand within the luxury hospitality sector include: the development of a new collection of prestigious hotels under the Orient Express banner; operating seven vintage carriages for private journeys and events; and the creation of the Orient Express Endowment Fund, to preserve, promote and share the historic train’s heritage.

The first ever Orient Express train left Paris for Istanbul on October 4, 1883. The route was later shortened to Bucharest, Budapest and then Vienna from the French capital and eventually from Strasbourg instead of Paris, before it ceased to operate in December 2009.

A private Belmond-run Venice Simplon Orient Express operates under a licence from SNCF from London to Venice.

In 2014, SNCF announced it was to relaunch the Orient Express train from Paris to Istanbul. No further details were included in a statement to the media.