Debate: A good ticket policy a part of a good integrated train system

Variable prices and non-refundable train tickets. It has become daily business in European railways. Even if Intercity trains run every hour, the ticket at 2 pm can be much cheaper than on the 1pm train. The system is copying what is known from airlines. An online system is auctioning tickets, cheap tickets are possible three months ahead, but if you at a given day book four tickets the price is already going considerable up in relation to one – you yourself increase demand – a very sensible system! You stop the computer and try again later with one ticket. And now is the price is again reduced. Prices go up and down, and finally they reach full fare. Suddenly a good bargain on first class will appear?

And don’t forget: Tickets are only valid to the specific train. Do you lose the train, and pick up the next, the ticket is lost, and you have to pay a new ticket to full fare. That is a very unpleasant surprise to many travelers. Do you experience this too many times, you are not going to be a happy railway costumer.

A stiff timetable with trains in a ½ hour, 1 hour and 2 hours schedule fortunately exists in many countries; even Germany is looking into this option. Passengers love it. One of the best known examples is in Switzerland, where the system is perfect. But as in Switzerland it makes no sense to introduce stiff timetables together with variable and non-refundable tickets. Passengers will soon learn to hate such a ticket system.

In Denmark we have a system close to the “good old one” – tickets to flat rates related to distance, and refundable. But prices are very high, and only as regular commuter you get a cheap fare (minimum for 30 days on a specific line). Those who travels rather often, but not on daily basis, does not get any rebates. Our new, and sophisticated “Travelcard” makes rebates to frequent travelers but in zones and very un-transparent. We have considerable rebates to students and retired persons. DSB does sell some online cheap tickets on not so popular departures (Orange tickets), and they are non-refundable. But the market share of Orange tickets is rather small.

In Switzerland you can rather cheap get a half fare card (or SwizzPass) for 185 Francs valid for one year. That is a good bargain, and makes it easier to quit the car, and just rely on the very efficient railway network. This is exactly the whole idea. And tickets from the ticket machines are valid all day, forget about which train, and forget about seat reservations, there is normally seats to all in the big trains. This is combined with commuter cards optimal! It gives us a feeling that public transportation is a real network, and that the system cares for you! A train running late? No, problem, the next will come shortly, your ticket is fine and your connection will be re-established.20150706_134845

Full fare tickets in Switzerland are not cheap. But half fare is ok.

Off course there are additional systems to the main system in Switzerland. In the Cantons tourists can obtain 5-6 days travel passes, there are also local “free fare” systems. But none of this is breaking the major principles.

Leave the variable prices and discount offers to busses and plains

Railways across Europe should learn from Switzerland. Both regarding rail investments, rail quality and ticketing system.

Auctioning tickets is very unpleasant. You wouldn’t expect such systems in urban traffic, would you? Why in Intercity traffic? Leave such systems to other kind of traffic, where they do not belong to a network. It may look cheap at the first place, but is stressful, inflexible and may show up as the most expensive solution.

Poul Kattler

Copenhagen, Danmark

Climate Trains will run to Paris in December

This alliance will support charter trains to the COP21 in Paris.

climate-express-cphIt is our intention to influence the political demands brought to Paris both on the official conference and on the NGO-summit. We need to bring demands about CO2 friendly transportation and railways into the meeting rooms and to the posters on the streets of Paris.

These initiatives are known to us right now:

>> UIC Train to Paris (main event 28.11. – no precise info yet)

>> Swizz Klima allianz (11-13. of Dec.)

>> Climate Train from Norway

>> Climate-Express (Belgium)

Unfortunately there will not run any such services from Sweden or Denmark…

Status for cross border passenger traffic efter five years of open market

On 17 June 2015 national rail operators, industry experts, representatives from border regions and members of the European Commission came together to discuss with the RoCK partners “Where do we stand after five years of open-market international rail passenger transport?”

The Dutch organizer Gösta Weber said among others: “The problem is that transport organisations don’t have the right objectives to work with one another and that little consideration is given to neighbouring countries or travellers themselves and where they want to go.”

MEP Michael Cramer, Chair of the TRAN Committee on Transport and Tourism, underlined Irwin’s statement: “The gaps are where the borders are, and it is up to governments to foster activities that help these gaps to disappear.”

The conference i Brussels on 17.6. 2015 was organized by RoCK (Regions of Connected Knowledge), and members of the Back on Track network participated.

>> Read the summary from the conference

Climate-friendly by trains from Denmark to Germany soon as a thing of the past

18.8. 2015

To the Transport Committee with the Danish Parliament and to the Minister of Transport and Public Works

>> Annex with quotes from DSB about these issues

With the time table for 2015 it became more difficult to choose to travel climate friendly and comfortably by train from Denmark to Germany and the rest of Europe, as the popular night train disappeared.

The outlook for rail travel to Europe is only worsened since then: All while commissioning of a Fehmarn tunnel is delayed and remain uncertain, the existing connections with day trains will not be maintained, and DSB rejects to reintroduce a night train; which DB else would like to run again in a new, though reduced version.

To our inquiry DSB calls a political statement about the southbound international train traffic.

If politicians find that is should be possible to drive by train to Europe in the future, then it is high time that DSB will know!


BR 605 in Nykøbing Falster en route to Berlin. Picture Tjalfe Bjørnson.

As shown in the attached Annex, the German railways, DB, wanted to reinstate an international night trains with sleeping and couchette cars to Denmark in a new and reduced version from May 2016 and only in the high season from May to September. It’s not ideal, but still an improvement upon the status quo. DSB, however, has not responded to the request.

At the same time DSB has announced the that the combination of track works on the line to Rødby from 2017 and the retirement of the German-Danish DMUs BR 605 will mean reductions in train services Copenhagen – Hamburg and cancellation of Copenhagen – Berlin from the timetable change in December 2016 and later reductions Aarhus – Hamburg (albeit in a year will have improved conditions due to double track in southern Jutland). From Copenhagen we will fear that there might only be three daily connections, and perhaps with longer travel time via regional train to Nykøbing F and here change trains to IC3 train further on to Hamburg.

During this time span, travelers from Zealand and Sweden completely forget that they can drive the train to Germany. For immediate harm to the climate (air traffic is completely unchallenged from Denmark) and to the detriment of the introduction of an upcoming Fehmarn connection.

We call for the minister and Parliament to clarify to the DSB that train connections to Germany should be upgraded and not downgraded in the coming years. We ask the Minister to supervise that this political wish already should be reflected in the DSB timetables from December 2015.

With kind regards

Council for Sustainable Traffic

Kjeld A. Larsen (chairperson)

Poul Kattler (board member)

Niels Wellendorf (board member)

Action weekend June 2015

No more cuts – develop Europe’s long-distance rail!

Weekend of Action took place 19–21 June 2015

The European rail system could be the most connected, convenient, accessible and environment-friendly way of travelling across the continent. But many international rail services have been cut back or stopped completely in the last few years, including the popular night train routes Berlin – Brussels – Paris, Copenhagen – Basel, Paris – Madrid and Barcelona – Milan, and direct daytime trains such as Krakow – Berlin/Prague. And more trains are threatened.

Despite the focus on climate change with this year’s UN summit in Paris, greenhouse gas emissions from transport continue to rise as people travel more and more by car and plane, in part because it has become so difficult to take the train for medium- to long-distance trips.

Actions took place at:

  • DK – København (Copenhagen)
  • DK – Odense
  • D – Berlin
  • D – Hamburg
  • D – Dortmund
  • D – Bochum
  • D – Koblenz
  • F – Paris
  • CH – Basel
  • CH – Bern
  • CH – Solothurn
  • CH – Moudon
  • CH – Genf (Geneva)
  • CH – Lugano
  • A – Wien (Vienna)
  • E – Madrid
  • E – Cuenca
  • E – Alcoy

>> Pictures from actions are uploaded to Flickr hére!

Take a look at our online toolkit for similar actions.

Weekend of Action to put European rail #backontrack

International press release

In response to continued cuts to the cross/border rail services in Europe – including night train routes such as Berlin–Brussels–Paris, Copenhagen – Prague and Barcelona – Milan – continent/wide actions over the weekend aimed to kick/start a turnaround in transport policy.

At Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, activists set out folding beds with cards stamped with the names of places no longer accessible by rail. The action was timed to coincide with the arrival of the first relaunched Russian Railways service from Moscow to Paris, reconnecting Berlin and Paris overnight albeit on a greatly reduced schedule compared with the daily City Night Line service scrapped in December 2014.

Parallel actions took place in Basel, Bern, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Geneva, Hamburg, Madrid, Odense (DK), Paris and Vienna over the weekend ending Sunday. 21 June. Events took place in a total of 11 cities in 6 different countries.

>> BackOnTrack_International-press-release (pdf)

A week of bad news for cross-border rail

From Switzerland the news that the Zürich – Strasbourg – Luxembourg – Brussels EuroCity train will be cancelled from December 2015 onwards. This train has been progressively reduced over the years – it once ran as far as Milano Centrale, and has suffered from poor quality rolling stock and no restaurant car for the last few years. Ticket prices have also been high, with no reductions for booking ahead. Source: NZZ in German, final paragraph

The situation between Stockholm and Oslo was due to improve – SJ wanted to run 3 return trains each day, and to cut journey times to just over four and a half hours. Norwegian network operator has forced SJ to shelve these plans as they want to do daytime engineering works between Lillstrøm and Konsvinger for the next two and a half years! Once more international traffic is not a priority for transport planners. Source: DN in Swedish, IRJ summary in English

Latest news from Norway: The fast train Stockholm-Oslo will be in traffic as planned afterall. A new agreement has been reached. Renewal of the power supply will be postponed and carried out in a way that disturbs the traffic less.

The Night Train to Copenhagen was cancelled for good in December 2014. Now the exact future of the daytime EuroCity connection between Hamburg and the Danish capital, as DB is not continuing the lease of its ICE-TD trains to DSB beyond this year. With ongoing problems in Denmark with electification of main lines, and IC4 trains still not running, the future of direct connections are also in danger here. And all of this before the building works on the Fehmarn fixed belt starts… Source: IRJ in English

Picture: Couchette cars are pushed on board the ferry at Trelleborg
Malmö to Berlin private night train is fighting for survival
Only seasonal and struggeling the ferry timetable Trelleborg to Sassnitz/Mukran Swedish/French company Transdev in cooperation with the German partner Georg-Verkehrsorganisation is also figting DB. A platform in Pasewalk has been rebuild no longer to service cars from Sweden. Only six old Danish couchette cars can pass. And the old GVG type 109 no. 3 lok is temporary banned at Berlin Hbh. Leaving passengers in the fully booked train (360 people) with an mediocre experience. The train cannot be found on international plans.

Petition: No more cuts – Develop Europe’s long-distance rail!

A European petition is initiated and is aimed to run all the way to the Paris Climate Summit COP21, which takes place early December 2015.

Find the very same petition here in English, in Germanin Danish, in Norwegian, in French, in Swedish, in Spanishin Esperanto and this is the promise Back on Track has made to the (hopefully) many, who will sign:

The Back on Track coalition will take your opinion to the rail companies and to EU together with some more practical proposals.

1) No more cuts – maintain all cross-border long-distance services at least at current levels (regional and long distance services)
2) Direct trains shall be established between major cities in all European countries, both by day and by night
3) National rail companies shall cooperate with each other, rather than competing with each other
4) Establishment of a true European rail timetable information and ticket booking system, open for anyone to use for free, and containing data of all trains at least 3 months ahead of departure.

1) Establishment of a true European rail timetable information and ticket booking system, open for anyone to use for free, and containing data of all trains at least 3 months ahead of departure
2) Guaranteed compensation for delays and obligation to re-establish the travel chain, even if tickets are booked from different operators
3) Complete transparency of track access charges for all trains, of all types and speeds, on all tracks in the EU and accession countries
4) Grant powers to the European Railway Agency to coordinate cross-border timetables, to ensure changing at the border station is possible if no through service is possible
5) Remove rules preventing rolling stock subsidized by EU funds from being used on cross border routes
6) International train tickets should not be more expensive than the sum of the prices for the similar local tickets
7) Introduce an EU-wide core network for both daytime and nighttime cross-border services, and where these services cannot be run on a profit making basis introduce cross-border public service obligations to support the service, between all EU capital cities

All proposals should be achieved in the EU and accession countries by end of 2018

Swiss railway customers want the night train back to Rome, Barcelona and Copenhagen

The Swiss environmental organization “Umverkehr” came on national radio today 22.4. It was here announced, that “Umverkehr” will team up with partners abroad in the fight for night trains. In June Umverkehr will join the demonstrations in Europe.


Airplanes as the replacement to overnight trains
Umverkehr has made a survey: Where the night train is missing, most survey participants (64 percent) consider the aircraft as a replacement.

Politically, the climate is questionable, says “Umverkehr” -chairperson Philippe Koch to the consumer magazine “Espresso” on Radio SRF 1: “It is obvious. The removal of the night train lines leads one to one for the promotion of aviation”

Sleeper wake-up call to the SBB
The mentioned survey is related to a petition for obtaining the night trains – and also the SBB to animate “itself out exactly what they could do in terms of night trains.” At the moment it does little: 2009, SBB sold their sleeper and couchette cars for economic reasons.

The remaining night trains are operated by foreign railways. These operators decide about which connections they offer, says SBB spokesman Christian Ginsig. “SBB has only limited influence here, unfortunately.”

>> Listen to the Swiss radio program with “Umverkehr” from 22.4. 2015

Toolkit: Let’s put European trains back on track !


Painting a banner for the action in Copenhagen.





Easy, comfortable and safe. Trains are also the greenest way to travel in Europe. But several night trains have been cut back or stopped completely in the last months and years. It’s becoming impossible to travel in Europe by train and many jobs are threatened in the rail sector.


* Look if there already is an action being planned in your region. If yes, get in touch with the organizer. The action will be better if you join the preparations.

* If you want to make an action in your city, read on to know how to start.

  1. Get together

Get together with some friends and start planning. It’s better to start with a few people now rather than waiting until other groups join. You need only 3-5 people to act, and if your plan is good more people will join in the end.

  1. Brainstorm an idea


DON’T FORGET to be CREATIVE and CLEAR about the message you want to give and how you send it. Banners and songs are very useful to make it visible.

THINK ABOUT the picture you will take of the action. Can it speak by itself? Do you think people will be willing to share it? If yes, you’re ready!

>> See the first four ideas to actions! Other ideas can be added as you wish.

  1. Fix the date and the time (and make it public)

Depending on: your group availability, the likeliness to get media to come to your action, the business of the train station, the light or darkness you want to see on your pictures…

Give an earlier time to the volunteers than to the media so you’re ready when the latter arrive.

  1. Declare your action (or don’t)

But be aware of your rights and responsibilities. It is usually not illegal to sing or give out leaflets outside a train station or at a platform, but you should stop if the police asks you to. You can also ask for permission, but there is a risk that train companies will say no.

  1. Recruit more people

Contact the labour organisation from the rail sector, transport users and environmental groups – they all care about the future of trains!

Your friends, colleagues and family could also join. After all, who has never taken the train?

Make posters and flyers to spread the word around your city before the day of the action!

Don’t forget to make a Facebook event to make the buzz!

  1. Invite the media

Tell them about your action, the European campaign and petition and why you’re taking action.

  1. More important, make your own media:

As soon as you have fixed the date and place, share it with the relevant people.

Bring a photo camera (and a photographer) and upload the pictures or videos with the hashtag #NightTrainDreams

Be creative and please tell us your action ideas so we can spread them to others.

Good luck!