All posts by Poul

Successful Back-on-Track meeting in Hamburg 12.3.16

17 activists were gathered to a meeting in Hamburg, where we coordinated future strategies and activities. We were activists from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, England, France, Austria and Switzerland.

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After the meeting we joined with Hamburg train activists at Hamburg Hbh. with the City Night Line departure to Zürich and Munich.

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Notice the poster from the inside of the window. Half of the train was equipped with messages before arrival to the Hauptbahnhof.

A little bit later we did also show up to the departure of ÖBB night train to Vienna.

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The day before Spanish activists (who could not attend the meeting in Hamburg) send their greetings from a small action:

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Better in the night train than on the platform

Trying to sleep on the platform of Hamburg main station: On Saturday, traffic and environment experts from eight European countries met in Hamburg to discuss measures against DB’s plans to cut the night trains. DB board member Ronald Pofalla had announced in November 2015 during his trip on a special train to the Paris climate summit that DB wants to replace their night trains by end of 2016 with ICE trains and buses – a slap in the face to the more than two million night train travelers and quite the opposite to the climate protection measure Germany had pledged to on the UN climate summit.

The experts organized in the network »Back on Track« are in agreement on that night trains are needed for a modern and environment-friendly traffic system: tourists, long-distance commuters, but also business travellers and politicians appreciate being able to make the trip overnight thus saving the day for their family, for leisure or for their job, instead of spending eight or ten hours of daytime on a train. Switching to airplanes would damage the environment, is not desired by the customers and in many cases it would not be compatible with late or early appointments. For these reasons, about 8,000 travellers have signed the petition for saving the night and motorail trains (http://gleft.de/19T) aiming at German minister of transport Alexander Dobrindt and Martin Burkert, chair of German parliament’s committee on transport.

It is true that DB has talks with Austrian ÖBB about taking over some night lines, but it is still unclear which connections would be concerned and if DB wouldn’t possibly cannibalize ÖBB night trains with DB’s ICE trains and buses.

Trevor Garrod, president of European Passenger Federation EPF, pointed out that new night trains must be developed to satisfy the existing demand.

After the conference, the participants and their Hamburg supporters tried out how travelling by rail would be without night trains: on platform 14 of Hamburg main station they unfolded a campbed and provided pillows and blankets. Niels Wellendorf of the Danish Council of Sustainable Traffic balanced the experience: »I don’t want to sleep on the platform. I will prefer to sleep on the train.«

Save the German overnight sleeper and motorail trains!

>> Sign here!

We have fixed a date for handing over the petition to the politicians. It will be in Berlin on Tuesday, May 31st, 12:30 hrs at Paul-Löbe-Haus, entrance west (towards Kanzleramt building). This site is five minutes from Berlin Central station.

It will take place inside the building. Thus, all persons interested in being present there, have to pass the security check. No Swiss knives, no large sticks (for banners) or other critical items. And you have to notify Joachim including date of birth (no address needed) so that he can forward the list of participants to the office by May 25th. Only these persons will be allowed to enter the building.
Of course, we will need other persons too, who remain outside and guard the items which are not allowed inside. If by chance some slogans like »Save the night trains« will be visible until the return of the delegation.
Due to the duration of the security checks, I recommend to all who can arrive early: please show up before 12! From 11:30 on, some friends of the night trains will be in front of the entrance.

Looking forward to see you!

This is the message, that more than 13.800 people has supported:

To:
Alexander Dobrindt, German minister of transport, and
Martin Burkert, chairperson of the transport committee of the German federal parliament

Dear Sirs,
I ask you as representatives of the owner of Deutsche Bahn – the German citizens – to act now to prevent withdrawal of DB’s night and motorail trains.

Why is this important?

Deutsche Bahn AG wants to discontinue all overnight and motorail trains with sleeping, couchette and seated cars by the end of 2016, at the latest. They will be replaced by seats-only ICE or IC trains and buses travelling overnight without any suitable sleeping accommodation.

This would mean an unacceptable cutback of service and a gap in the European transport offer:

By taking overnight sleeper trains for journeys such as Hamburg-Zurich or Amsterdam-Munich, people gain the day for work or leisure, making low-carbon train travel a practical and time-effective alternative to flying. On longer routes like Copenhagen-Lyon or Berlin-Rome, sleeper trains save passengers from having to stop and spend the night in a hotel.

If sleeper and motorail trains are discontinued, more traffic will hit the roads and there would be more short-haul flights, in direct opposition to the obligations of the Paris Climate Summit of 2015 and the self-declared climate protection goals of Deutsche Bahn AG.

>> Sign here!

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Serious setback for climate-friendly passenger transport in Europe

European travelers who are users of the City Night Line trains are exposed to a great shock this year.

Deutsche Bahn will close all of its night trains and auto trains during 2016

There are in fact travelers who prefer the European night trains – also to avoid the environmentally disastrous “cheap” airlines.

But with the encouragement of many politicians and bureaucrats, the “cheap” airlines undermined the economy of the night trains. Because the environmental costs of air travel is not taken into account.

Yet a little of 2016 offers night trains still a pleasant way to travel at night with sleeping cars, couchettes and coaches with reclining seats. And with room for bikes, wheel chairs and large luggage. And without frequent changes of train.

DB wants to give up all these “real” night trains because they consider them unprofitable and will replace some of them with normal ICE- and IC-trains with only normal seats, lighting- and public address announcements all night. Forget trying to get a night’s sleep. DB will even let buses replace some night trains.

The European network Back on Track think that the night trains are tailored to the 21st century, because they make it possible to travel 24/7.

An angry rail fan said: “Abolition sleeping cars and couchettes is a throwback to the 18th century to the stagecoach era, where you had to stop your journey at night, find an inn and continue your journey the next morning.”

Night trains have previously linked cities across Europe together. Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Brussels, Ostend, Paris, Naples, Athens and many ski resort towns in the Alps has been on the list of destinations for years.

The cuts in the German network started at November 2014, when the night train to Copenhagen as the first was closed, later on followed by cancelled trains to Berlin, Paris, Prague and Amsterdam, but even in early 2016, the network of night trains is fairly intact and passengers can spend their days sightseeing and attending meetings, while traveling by night on a variety of routes connecting Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

A great advantage of traveling by night train is the convenience to board the train in the middle of a city and arrive the next morning in the heart of another.

The rhetoric that politicians at COP21 in Paris used to combat climate changes looks very empty now, when a large state railway company in this manner readily can throw 100,000’s of travelers from green transport to climate damaging air transport.

The Back on Track network invites all climate-conscious Europeans to protest by sending e-mails to the German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt on alexander.dobrindt@bundestag.de and Martin Burkert, President of the German Parliament’s Transport Committee on martin.burkert@bundestag.de . Send also a copy of the letter for your own MEP.

A letter might contain something like this (and very well on your own mother tongue):

<subject> Maintain night trains – and don’t shut them down

Dear XX

I am sincerely surprised to know, that DB is about to cancel all night train services during 2016. Maybe travelers outside Germany are not in your focus, but I can tell you, that this reduction of the international railway network is a serious attack of remaining possibilities to travel by rail to and from other European countries. We are soon entirely left with climate hostile airlines, making goals from COP21 even further away.

Instead of short sighted solutions I urge you to find ways, where climate solutions go hand in hand with sustainable railway solutions. Take this window of opportunity: To travel by night in a bed is not old fashion, but in line with modern 24/7 thinking.

Yours sincerely

DB-nattogs-netværk-primo-2016

City Night Line network at beginning of 2016

European rail travel isn’t what it used to be… or is it? A new start is needed

By Katia Hueso and Poul Kattler from the European network “Back on track”

The European rail network has ceased to exist, or so it seems. “Back in the eighties and nineties, I travelled extensively through Europe by train and had the feeling I could move seamlessly from one country to the other, from capital cities to offhand hamlets”, says Katia Hueso, a regular train dweller, as she defines herself. Even before the advent of Schengen, crossing borders was simple: check-ups took place mostly on board. “Even at the borders between Spain and France, whose rail systems feature two different gauge widths, timetables were coordinated and stopovers were minimal”, she recalls.

The fare system was also easy to understand, and she illustrates this with a personal anecdote: “I remember buying one single ticket from Narvik to Madrid. The person at the counter only needed to know if I wanted to travel via Valladolid or Aranda de Duero. A journey of 4,500 km, back in the nineties it involved four stopovers. Nowadays, between 7 and 10, including a bus ride in between”.

Today, the European rail network has crumbled like a dry pie. In recent times, rail travellers in Europe encounter isolated rail systems, with hardly any international connections and poor regional services. The individual fare systems are cryptic, tend to favour frequent travellers within the national network and punish international guests with higher prices and little chance of getting their money refunded in case of trouble. They offer no possibility to buy tickets to destinations beyond neighbouring countries.

This is sadly exemplified with another anecdote, Katia explains, “I still see this NS officer recommending me to use KLM instead for a journey between Amsterdam and Milano. A bit of a contradiction, it seems, when the internet could offer a comprehensive ticketing system for all…”. In a race against themselves, companies (DB, SNCF, Trenitalia, Renfe…) advertise efficiency, always associated to speed and not quality. Others, on the other hand, seem to be just an extended commuter network with no further ideals (DSB, NS…).

The European railway network is suffering

Privatisation of railway carriers, high levies for the use of rail infrastructure and unfair concurrence with heavily subsidised (low cost) airlines and bus networks seem to be the causes of this disaster. Carriers –those in closest contact with the traveller– are working on survival mode and national authorities tend to forget that this business is public transportation and cut on their tax-funded support. The real needs of the (international) rail user are ignored, companies should focus on sustainability and quality, rather than only profitability. In fact, as will be seen, sustainability and quality will positively contribute to profitability, if companies and authorities keep a strategic, long-term view of the public transportation service they are supposed to offer.

The term sustainability is commonly understood as the combination of economic, environmental and social aspects of an activity, which together allow its permanence in time without the need of external resources. Here is where the idea of long term comes to mind. In the rail business sector, however, sustainability is viewed as the capacity to make just about enough profit to survive and companies are even ready to phagocyte themselves in order to raise profit. In a downward spiral, services become even more unprofitable because of thinned-out frequencies and closures of branch lines. In the end, previously tightly woven networks become loose threads of high-speed services between major hubs that only serve high-end customers.

However, rail companies have important assets in the other two pillars of sustainability and hardly use them to their (long-term) profit. For instance, it is a well-known fact that railways are the most energy-efficient transportation system, even taking into consideration high speed lines, which have a higher energy expenditure. Although the latter may present other environmental concerns (habitat fragmentation by fencing the lines, visual impact of infrastructures or noise), they still are far less severe than the impacts of air and road travel. In addition, emissions of trains are also far lower than other means of transportation, even taking into account the use of diesel locks.

Less known are the social aspects of train travel, which in this context does not mean the more relaxed atmosphere within their carriages (although it could, for that matter). As explained above, trains used to connect people. With tight networks, the public could easily move from capital cities to rural areas and viceversa, could make journeys abroad or day trips to neighbouring towns and do this for a fair price and in good comfort. Trains were democratic, in a way. The offered a range of classes and speeds, which made train travel available to all sorts of public: from business people to students, elderly, passengers with disabilities or carrying odd-sized luggage. Many of them hardly fit in other modes of transportation, for different reasons (price, comfort, lack of facilities, lack of room…) and, as said, are poorly serviced by high-speed trains. Here is where quality comes in mind.

The concept of quality is elusive, as it may have different meanings for each individual. Surely some would like speed, but what’s the use of competing with airlines in this field? Travellers definitely value quality in other terms and correspondingly take the decision of mode of travel. Lack of queues, no security check-ups and waiting times, more legroom and the possibility to move around freely, a table to work that is bigger than a coffee tray, less luggage restrictions and the possibility to enjoy the scenery through something bigger than a peephole are important assets. But also the possibility to arrive in the centre of town, a short walk or metro ride from the final destination. Train travel gives the time to mind one’s business, without needing to pay attention to the act of travel itself, as one would need to do in other vehicles.

Passengers also value not needing to drive or not having to hit the road on the bus, where they cannot move nor work for hours, or may have safety concerns related to weather or road conditions. All this is highly appreciated by both the frequent and occasional rail traveller and many understand it should have a fair purchase price. Therefore, train travel strikes the right balance between cheap but slow travel (road) and fast but uncomfortable (air), with all the add-ins mentioned.

And, if one needs to travel relatively far, night trains offer additional advantages. Among others, to enjoy quality time with family (e.g. being able to put children to bed before leaving or have breakfast with them upon return); to get well rested to the final destination; and to use the ride as a transition from one situation (home/office routine) to the other (leisure or work away from headquarters). For those passengers not living within walking distance of main hub stations, the first –i.e. indecently early– or last –i.e. indecently late– services offered by companies as a surrogate of night trains, are completely useless. Let alone the recent invention of the so-called “ICE night trains”, which feature only regular seats, full lighting and full blast P.A. announcements, a nightmare for those passengers needing to spend the whole night…

The widespread elimination of conventional night trains in most of Europe –with the exceptions of OBB or SNCF, with very good quality night services– have soared the economic and social costs of travel for customers. They now need extra hotel nights and have less time to spend at home or at the office, because they need those daytime hours to travel. This is in fact highly inefficient and no wonder people are shifting to buses, cars or airplanes, despite all the discomfort they bring along. Alas, this is not a future scenario; it is happening here and now. Is this the kind of profitability railway carriers seek? Even in the short run?

United Public Railways of Europe is to come

It is abundantly clear that the national railway companies do not feel any responsibility for the existence of a European network of railways. Companies like DSB, DB and SNCF runs regional, state-supported network. They run profitable IC stretches. And they run a few (!) lines across borders, preferably with high-speed trains secondary with conventional trains – and only if they are profitable. The international trains have generally fallen between the chairs. Night trains suffered at first and at most, because night trains are more economically challenged than day trains.

Perhaps we need to learn from History. Over a century ago, the European rail companies were highly fragmented, with poor services and worse connections among each other. Timetables were not coordinated and stopovers at border crossings were long. George Nagelmackers, a Belgian engineer, founded in 1876 what is today known as the Compagnie International des Wagon-Lits, a company that should offer high quality international rail travel to its customers. With all the necessary technical improvements, rail travel in Europe became comfortable and speedy.

Is it time for a similar European-wide company, with good quality services, a tight network with truly international vision and sustainable public transportation in mind? A company that understands present-day traveller’s needs, beyond the temptation of speed-only or without falling into the trap of nostalgia. Today’s travellers do not need mahogany panels or brass doorknobs, neither do they expect to share their journey with Poirot. Leave the Orient Express feeling to the luxury trains that are already in the market. They just want comfort (roomy seats and tables, soft beds, clean toilets, room to move, silent carriages, few luggage limitations), service (decent bar or restaurant, press on board, wifi, forward luggage transport, combination with private cars or bicycles…), transparency (comprehensive online timetables and ticketing system) and efficiency (good regional and international connections, minimal queuing and security check-ups). In one sentence: A high quality, public transportation system. Day and night.

There is only one way: At European level there must be launched a “United Public Railways of Europe” company that can offer a network of international railway traffic, starting with a network of night trains at the main lines.

The principle should be simple: Picking up passengers from 6pm to 12pm. Night rest 12pm to 6am. Drop off 6am to 10am.

Comfort classes: Sleeper deluxe, Sleeper, Sleeper economy, seat/reclined seat.

Dining car / buffet if runs are also between 6 and 10pm. Always bar and breakfast services.

Full integrated fares with national networks. Full digital presence and booking.

network-2018

A scenario from 2018 could be like this with night trains between:

1 Oslo – Copenhagen
2 Stockholm – Copenhagen
3AB Copenhagen – München/Basel
4AB Hamburg/Amsterdam – Zürich/München
5A Paris – Berlin – Warszawa
5B Paris – Hamburg – Copenhagen
6AB Paris – Madrid/Lissabon
7 Paris – Barcelona
8AB Paris/London – Milano – Roma
9 London – München – Wien
10 Basel – Zürich – Wien – Budapest
11AB Basel/München – Firenze – Roma
12AB Berlin/Warszawa – Wien – Budapest
13AB Amsterdam/Hamburg – Ljubjana – Zagreb
14 Bruxelles – Wien – Budapest

 

Some German majority politicians not happy with DB closures

Mr. Erwin Huber, former president of right-wing CSU (the Bavarian edition of the ruling Christian Democrats) and member of the Bavarian government from 1994 to 2008 has written an official letter to DB. He say among others:

»From the perspective of the Free State of Bavaria, the reduction resp. closing of the night and motorail train service can not be accepted. The night train service is important both for the business traffic in order to attend early appointments and for the tourism traffic to Bavaria. Furthermore, the conditions for using the environment friendly rail transport on long distances are improved when part of the distance can be covered overnight.«

And further:

»So, State minister Herrmann has contacted then DB board member Ulrich Homburg aiming at continuing the night train services, and he will continue striving for keeping the night train connections.«

Mr. Markus Ferber, MEP from CSU, has a similar approach to tourism travel in his letter to DB managers:

»Without night trains, travellers are forced to spend and additional day and a hotel night. Furthermore, the economic and touristic location of Bavaria could get less attractive.«

Keep in mind that the CSU is the party of Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt.

Update on the DB cut of night trains from latest Dec. 2016

The DB AG, Deutsche Bahn is about to abolish ALL DB Nighttrains with Couchette and Seeping-Couches (WL) on from Dezember 2016 (or before) and carry on alone with Inter-City-Nighttrains only with Seats or only with Busses!

Ironicly DB Manager Pofalla (CDU) told it to Journalists at the “Climate-Train to Paris” from Berlin at 28th of November (yoú may read an article on: “www.klimaretter.de”)

It is a great scandal, that one of the biggest public train companies in Europe is torpedoing the efforts and consultations of the World to reduce CO2 this days in Paris, and in the result pushes ca.1 Million passengers per anno into the airplaines in Europe with the result of Millions of tons more CO2 emissions.

One day after Pofalla`s Interview, the DB AG informed the Management of the DB European Railservice (DB ERS, the Service-Company of the Night-and Autotrains). They informed the workers councils about their intentions to discontinue all DB Night trains next year.

The decision is final, and it was made before Christmas.

Speaker of the Left-Party, the LINKE, seated in the Bundestag-Traffic commission, Sabine Leidig, made  this scandal  public with a very good speech at the Parliament during a debate to the COP Paris and Climate-Change (you may read and hear it on: www. nachhaltig-links.de).

What can we recommend the concerned public?

At the moment write to German politicians and to the press. And of course not leave DB alone. DB wants to pretend to be a green company – and they are not.

In neighbor countries focus should also come to this urgent and imported scandal, and we shall discuss, how we can mobilize on the European level and get into actions.

The Back on Track network is busy to organize protest, make alliances and to establish a new political agenda to put Night Trains back.

Protest in Berlin, Wednesday 16th.

A protest action against the decision to close down DB/CNL night- and autotrains in/from Germany is taking place when the Supervisory Board is seated to discuss this controversial issue.

Venue: Wednesday, 16th. of December 2015 from 10: 00 in front of the DB Tower, Potsdamer Platz.
Everyone are mostly welcome, both those representing organizations, NGOs, initiatives
and all individuals!

With this action we are going to put maximal pressure on all representatives on the Supervisory Board.

Thursday 10.12.2015 there was a meeting of BACK-ON-TRACK in Paris, with representatives from Sweden, France, Italy and Germany. We decided to continue our campaign against the horrible decision of the DB, as well as other threads toward international and national long distance trains with other European railways. We are dedicated to fight for a modern night and long distance railway network in Europe.

Friday 11.12. 2015 there was a small stand in an NGO-Hall in Paris with information, flyers and online protest to the head of Deutsche Bahn and to DB Supervisory Board members.

DB on wrong course: Danish ngo demand political pressure on German politicians

To the Danish Transport Minister and Committee of Transportation with the Danish parliament

Will the Minister raise a protest against the German Railways announced closures of the last night trains, as Danish travelers use for instance from Hamburg?

From the next timetable change in December 2016 the German Railways (DB) announce a dismantling of all remaining DB / CNL-night trains and Auto trains to and from Germany.

Thus, DB shows clearly that long-distance trains and night trains is a business segment, they do not want to operate. It is not a lack of passengers which causes this action, but a one-sided emphasis on high-speed trains on the main routes in the daytime.

Decommissioning of the night train from Copenhagen last year thus comes in a new and sad perspective. Neither this train was abandoned by passengers.

Danish (and southern Sweden) travellers can then only with a certain element of self-flagellation make longer train journeys to Europe. The whole day will be used and travellers must expect many changes of train along the way. The only realistic alternative is to travel by plane. Air traffic is indirectly subsidized by no taxes and no fuel taxes. But air traffic has an extreme negative impact on the climate.

Will the Minister initiate a protest from the Danish side directed at the Minister’s German counterpart, so that the night trains – to the benefit of the passengers and for the climate – remains part of the European transport system?

Kjeld A. Larsen, Chairman, Council of Sustainable Traffic, Denmark
Poul Kattler, Board member

DB will cut it away: Disaster for European Night Trains

DB wants to close all night trains and car transport train from December 2016!
This horrifying news was released a bit too early (already d. 4.12. in stead of 14.12.). And now it is clear that there is an overall master plan behind DB’s behavior concerning trains with sleeping and couchette cars. The will certainly get rid of them!
cnl-baselDB said already in October 2014 to Die Welt that they would remove night train, Motorail trains and dining cars. But it was not taken seriously at the time.
It looks like a simple plan: There shall not be invested in these services, and trains shall be removed according to the pace carriages runs out of audit (required for overhaul). First was dining cars removed from all night trains. Then a large number of night trains were cancelled at the timetable change in December 2014 at the moment the double-stock sleeper cars had to be repaired. Slightly more wagons fall for revision here in December 2015 (another night train is killed) and finally the last night trains are cancelled at the next timetable change in December 2016 when the vast majority of sleeping and couchette cars is to be inspected.
DB will let some ICE trains run at night and insert several long distance buses. What a terrible alternative!
This has not surprisingly led to an outcry in Germany. Neighboring countries must also protest. Perhaps ÖBB will take over some night trains through Germany, but nobody can expect to ÖBB will assume the DB’s position.

>> See the first article about the case in the Stuttgarter Zeitung (German) from 02.12.

>> See another article on the case (German) later that night 02.12.

>> See protest announcement with Swizz umvehrkerH

BACK ON TRACK at COP21 on December 10th

Thursday 10 December

1) Internal Back on Track meeting 15h00-16h30 (with Skype participation)

2) Open meeting 16h30-18H10
3) Noami Klein’s Conference for those who are interested
https://www.facebook.com/events/880465685407352/

Locations :
1 and 2 will happen at Mundo M, 47 avenue pasteur – 93100 Montreuil
3 happens at Le Centquatre-Paris (Le 104), 5 rue Curial, 75019 Paris, 19th arrondissement.
It takes at least 45 minutes from a place to the other, if you’re not slow)
Organizer: Lorelei Limousin