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Meeting in Brussels May 2017

The future role of international night trains across Europe

The Back-on-track network met members of European Parliament, their assistants and representatives from the European NGO’s in the transport- and environment business on the of May.


18 people took part in a discussion in the European Parliament, Brussels, on May 9th . They included representatives of the Back of Track Network, European Passengers’ Federation, Transport & Environment,  transport consultants  and Members of the European Parliament with their assistants and researchers.

  1. INTRODUCTION – Lucy Anderson MEP referred to a study just published by the consultants Steer Davies Gleave, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport & Tourism and ways in which the future of night services could be safeguarded.
  2. Poul Kattler (from Back on Track) explained how this network, formed in late 2014, brought together rail users, recent/former rail employees and climate activists. It was important that different modes of transport competed on equal terms and that some organisation took responsibility for international rail services. The decarbonisation of the transport sector by 2030 could not be fulfilled without a well-functioning European rail network.
  3. The Steer Davies Gleave study did not deal with environmental issues or unfair intermodal competition. Back on Track colleagues would write a response to it. It is done here!
  4. Fair competition with other modes should include consistent passenger rights and more reasonable track access charges for night services. Subsidies for night trains was not an option for the European Commission. Regulation of open access coach services, as in Austria, could be a model for elsewhere.
  5. Some member associations of the European Passengers’ Federation had recently held talks with the night train operators Thello and OeBB; during which the importance of a good quality passenger experience giving value for money was stressed. It was also important to identify the need for particular night services and customers’ requirements – such as optimum departure and arrival times and onward journeys.
  6. Passenger could be expected to pay more for a better quality of service on a night trains than on a coach or plane, but train operators must also improve their marketing and seek to reduce their running costs.
  7. The European Commission could contribute by establishing an information portal for customers and possibly a rolling stock pool for potential new operators.
  8. Examples were given where public funds had been used, or franchises or concessions launched, for night trains in Sweden, Great Britain and France.
  9. It was important to bring together a broad alliance of interested stakeholders – including all major political groupings, trade unions, commerce and industry and European institutions – to contribute further to studies and debate on the future role of night trains
  10. It is hoped that an autumn conference or workshop on this theme can be organised in Brussels.
  11. Summary of the minutes of the meeting by Trevor Garrod (

17th May 2017