As rail users, and promoters of rail travel, we are very concerned at the proposed cutting of the Metropol night train between Berlin and Prague and between Breclav and Vienna.
This news comes at a time when, in some parts of Europe, investment is taking place in night trains (in Great Britain, upgrading the Caledonian Sleeper, and in Germany OeBB’s development of the “Nightjet”.) Meanwhile in France the region of Occitanie is now giving financial support to the sleeper service to Perpignan, Cerbere and Port-Bou.
At present, the Metropol connects five European capitals (including its portion to Vienna) and gives passengers greater choice and flexibility between these cities. This is especially relevant as Air Berlin has gone out of business. There is currently opposition to the expansion of Vienna Airport – all the more reason to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to air travel.
If the Metropol is cut back, some of the passengers may be lost to rail and turn to less environmentally friendly modes of transport. Those other modes, particularly airlines and long-distance buses, can also change their services more frequently than rail, and thus offer a less stable alternative.
It is important that customers have a choice, which includes international night trains which are easy to book and reasonably priced in comparison with the other modes. We support competition, provided that it is on a level playing field. We regularly make this point in dialogue with political decision-makers.
We are not seeking to preserve all night trains in exactly the form which they have been for decades. Sometimes night trains have been withdrawn, for example, because the construction of high speed lines has meant that day services become more attractive. However, no such construction is likely to happen in the near future on the Berlin – Budapest / Vienna routes.
1. We therefore strongly urge MAV to reconsider its proposal, and continue to give Hungary good access overnight from neighbouring countries, and indeed from further afield.
2. If MAV does not wish to continue this service, we would welcome an initiative from another operator, perhaps in Austria or the Czech Republic, to run it, or a comparable train, instead.
Could such an arrangement be made in time for the December 10th timetable change, however?