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EU-project: Revitalisation of cross-border night trains

The European Commission has launched a tender “Pilot Project on the revitalisation of cross-border night trains”.

The indicative starting date of the study is 1 September 2020. The period of the execution of the contract is 9 months.

What is remarkable is the concise focus on main obstacles to night trains and a positive approach. The report shall:

  • Become a positive contribution to a better future with night trains (and not only a sad story of the existing situation)
  • With a close consultation with DG Move focus on precise improvements to be made
  • A scope of work, that will result in a coherent set of potential measures to be taken at either European, Member State or sector level

The accompanying documents can be found on the Document Library tab here. The most interesting is “Identification of measures to promote cross-border long-distance passenger rail services”. To make it easy to readers, we have downloaded it, and you can pick it here. We quote elements from that document below:

1.1 Background
Against the backdrop of the European Green Deal, which aims inter alia at shifting transport to less polluting modes such as rail, the European Commission has been asked by the European Parliament, by means of a Pilot Project, to assess how cross-border night train services can be promoted. The study will address the relevant elements for cross-border passenger rail services in general, with a special focus on night trains as these two types of services complement and reinforce each other and are confronted with similar obstacles. A detailed study on night trains was prepared at the request of the European Parliament in 2017. Now it is time to go one step further and to propose concrete initiatives, where meaningful and effective.

2.1 Aim and scope of the study
The objective of the study is to assess the main obstacles for the further development of night train and of cross-border (high speed) rail passenger services in Europe. Where relevant, concrete measures at the European level to overcome those obstacles are to be defined, as well as an analysis of their impacts. Areas of intervention might include but not limited to:
– legal framework;
– financial intervention;
– providing a platform for exchange of information;
– the use of the convening power of the Commission, achieving agreements between relevant stakeholders.

3 Description of tasks
3.2 Identification and analysis of obstacles hampering future development of cross-border services including cross-border night train services

3.2.2 Easy ticketing options for passengers
For rail passengers travelling cross-border within the Union, finding (on-line) tickets spanning more than one carrier is very difficult. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the situation is worsening and that this lack puts a real threat to rail being able to compete with other transport modes. Passengers wanting to travel in a sustainable manner, simply cannot find information on the different cross-border train services or the train tickets they would like to buy, even for connections which seem straightforward. In some extreme cases this leads to misleading information to passengers and to a denial of passenger rights from the side of railway undertakings.


3.2.3 Technical / operational barriers / safety-related for the operations of cross-border (night) train services

In spite of progressive harmonisation of technical, safety and operational rules and legislation in Europe, the cross-border operation of train services still entails additional barriers compared to operating domestic services.


3.2.4 Infrastructure capacity allocation for cross-border (night) train services

International passenger trains are in general not prioritised by infrastructure managers during the capacity allocation process. This may lead to suboptimal timetables for cross-border passenger services, leading to a lower level of attractiveness of the service for passengers. In addition, for night trains, priority issues may occur with capacity needed for maintenance works which often take place or intensify during night hours, as well as with freight trains.


3.2.5 Infrastructure track access charges and mark-ups for cross-border (night) train services

According to Directive 2012/34 EU, amended by Directive (EU) 2016/2370, track access charges are to be calculated based on direct costs. Mark-ups should be the exception. However, earlier findings suggest that in many Member States mark-ups are the rule and affect especially long distance passenger services and high speed services. It is needless to say that increased infrastructure charges ultimately have a negative effect on the offer of rail services as well as on the prices of train tickets and thus the attractiveness of cross-border rail travel.


3.2.6 Cross-border PSO services

As described above, cross-border rail services can be operated under a Public Service Contract and a number of existing cross-border passenger services indeed are. The Commission is currently drafting guidelines to provide its interpretation of key provisions of Regulation 1370/2007, including on how cross-border PSO services can be established in line with Regulation (EU) 1370/2007. Also for night train services, some Member States (such as Sweden and the Netherlands) are considering the use of cross-border PSOs.


3.5 Organisation and management of a conference on the results of the study

Towards the end of the study, the consultant is requested to organise and manage in one of the EU27 Member States a conference to present the results of the study. The main characteristics of the conference include: – a one day conference; – no participation costs for participants; – a maximum of 200 attendees, plus live webstreaming.

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