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I'm looking at booking a sleeper train from Szczecin to Warsaw on 9 June 2018, and have found a strange inconsistency in train numbering. On the rail operator's own booking site, https://www.intercity.pl/, the search returns two trains, TLK82172 and TLK82173, whose numbers differ by one. They have exactly the same timings (21:15 - 05:50) so I assume they're the same train, but the TLK82172 is shown as having sleeper cars and the TLK82173 as only having seating.

If I search on any third-party website (https://www.polrail.com/ , http://rozklad.sitkol.pl/bin/query.exe/en , etc.) the TLK82172 doesn't seem to exist at all but the TLK82173 comes up with sleeper cars.

Looking at the Warsaw - Szceczin trip for the same day, the "doubling" doesn't happen: there's just a single TLK28172 which all the booking and timetable websites seem to agree on.

In practice, I assume I'd be safe booking either the sleeper variant of this train at intercity.pl, or the differently-numbered sleeper offered by polrail.com. But for future reference (and slightly more peace of mind) I'd like to know what's going on here: why does this train have two numbers, why don't different websites agree on the numbering or sleeper car provision, and is this kind of thing a frequent occurrence with Polish rail travel?

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    You might have found a case where the sleepers are through carriages on a longer journey while the seated cars make the Szczecin to Warsaw run only. This is not meant to be an Answer, just to point OP in the right direction. – Johns-305 May 16 '18 at 19:56
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According to the ticket availability informations on the PKP intercity page, intercity.pl seems to use two different train numbers for different sections of the train.

  • When departing from Świnoujście, the train has already two sections: seven passenger cars going to Kraków and six passenger cars going to Lublin (via Warsaw).

  • When stopping in Krzyż Wielkopolski, two additional passenger cars, originally coming with a different train from Gorzów Wielkopolski, are attached to the train.

  • In Poznań, the train is split and the cars going to Kraków are attached to another train. The cars coming from Gorzów Wielkopolski are kept with the section going to Lublin.

  • Lublin is then the terminus for most of the train, but the two cars coming from Gorzów Wielkopolski are detached from the train and continue separately from Lublin to Chełb.

If you look at the notifications I linked to in the beginning of my answer, intercity.pl seem to use TLK82172 for the entire train from Świnoujście to Lublin and TLK82173 for the 'extension' from Lublin to Chełb. The train only has sleeper cars from Świnoujście to Lublin. The two cars going from Gorzów Wielkopolski to Chełb are 2nd class seating only. That also matches with the information you are referring to. Most other online route planners are using only train number TLK82173, but seem to consider Świnoujście to Lublin and Lublin to Chełb as two different trains. If you e.g. search for an itinerary from Warsaw to Chełb, you might get the suggestion to take TLK82173 from Warsaw to Lublin and change there to TLK82173 from Lublin to Chełb, although it actually is the same train and you can stay in one car for the entire trip.

Using multiple train numbers for the same 'physical' train is quite common in other European countries as well, especially for night trains, which are often as in your example, split and joined underway to allow passengers to sleep through the night and not have to change trains.

Austrian Railways operates for example the following night trains from Austria to Germany:

  • NJ40420 Innsbruck-Hamburg
  • NJ420 Innsbruck-Cologne
  • NJ490 Vienna-Hamburg
  • NJ40490 Vienna-Cologne

In this case, NJ420 and NJ40420 first run together from Innsbruck to Nuremberg, while NJ490 and NJ40490 run together from Vienna to Nuremberg. There, both trains are split and joined, so that NJ490 and NJ40420 continue together towards Hamburg, while NJ420 and NJ40490 continue towards Cologne.

  • Oooh the logistics of that train “remix” in Nuremberg must be quite interesting. Splitting or joining trains is definitely common and easy, but splitting two different trains to then form two other trains each with part of the first two seems challenging. – jcaron May 17 '18 at 6:42

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