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Important issues and relevant suggestions

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The European network to promote long-distance day- and night trains “Back-on-Track” met Thursday afternoon 2.9. to digest the presentation 1.9. All in all we are pleased with the process, and happy about the interactive approach during the presentation and feel confident that the many good comments during the presentation were also taken into account. In general we think the presentation handles the most important issues and gives relevant suggestions. See the slides from the Steer presentation.

Although, we took the opportunity to produce another couple of comments to the Steer/kcw presentation, and have send them to Steer/kcw like this:

Remarks to specific slides and recommendations

Slide: Potential for new cross-border rail services

We don’t think that 1,000 km is the right threshold for night trains, already now night trains operate to 1.500 km and with the use of HSL, night trains can go further, probably to 3,000 km in the future. Passengers will anyway want to travel longer in many cases, it is more accepted to use a direct train, instead of changing trains. We would also like to widen up the definition of night trains to include very long distance trains also equipped with sleeping facilities for the involved night-over section(s).

Slide: Potential night train routes based on airline seats

The comparison is good, but there is a risk that the number of lines (limited to space) is giving a wrong picture of the ambitions to replace a very large percentage of aviation in Europe by night trains (and day trains). We lost 200 connections. We fear the ambitions may be too low. In our opinion railways could remove 70% of the intra EU flights, of which a large percentage shall be replaced by night trains.

Slide: Operating costs drivers of rail, air and long-distance coaches

The slide is not very convincing and is giving a misleading and caricature picture of the cost structure. Just as an example with night trains the market will include the cost of a hotel room, which is spared during the travel. The slide does not contribute to the credibility of the report.

The mix of short term and long time measures is in our opinion good.

IC1: Passenger trains pay 5 times more track access charges than freight trains in Belgium, and 850 times more than passenger trains in Slovenia!

IC4: The present system of vertical separation with paid Track Access Charges is made to discourage rather than encourage maximum use of infrastructure assets (meaning the railway network), and the biggest victims are the trains with the lowest profit margins and the highest kilometers and those are the night trains. Infrastructure owners don’t care that tracks are left empty at night because they make loads of money with frequent, subsidised local trains and some high end high speed trains.

CA4: A corridor policy to give certain priorities to long-distance day- and night trains inspired from the rail freight sector is a very good idea.

Such a corridor policy for international trains should also include investments in classic railway lines (main lines). Both to serve as lines to some long-distance night trains, but also to provide feeder lines to the long-distance trains in general. That will furthermore provide better access to remote places in Europe.

RS2: Public funded leasing pool might put all risks to the public sector and leave no risk to the private sector. 

RS4: “Consider” is not a strong term, we wish it should be stronger.

PS1: The problems occuring during the establishment of a PSO on the Malmö-Brussels line is highlighting the problems with PSO’s.

We will argue for a sort of network under PSO regulation, so all capitals and the major cities in Europe are linked with both day- and night trains. An “United Railways of Europe” could work as the organisational structure to handle (not necessarily to run) such a network. The EU should carefully consider a geographical balance.

OP1: Regarding the phrase “level playing field” usually only economic/fiscal figures are included. We will argue for a comparison where real climate impact is included, which will favour very-low emission transport as trains much more than flying.

New OP2: The European policies of the last 15 years are not touched. We would recommend that the policies should be evaluated as soon as possible, since at least the figures of passengers and freight tonnage are not positive. Hereby the policy can hardly be expressed as a good success!

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