More emphasis on trains in Europe to replace flights

The Green Deal for Europe should, among other elements, reduce aviation (which is harmful to the climate) and promote alternatives. The activist network Back-on-Track has pointed out five areas of priority, where improvements are needed to get cross-border long-distance trains in shape to provide alternatives to flights. International night trains are identified as a “low-hanging fruit” which can turn the tide in favor of climate friendly transportation.

Suggestions regarding all five points are directed toward both national, bilateral and EU bodies and initiatives. The time to act is now, and the Green Deal can incorporate all five points very well.

Consultations in Brussels 28.1. 2020 were organized by Back-on-Track involving the European Parliament (in particular the TRAN Committee) and the Commission (DG Move). The cross-country delegation from Back-on-Track met a growing will from Brussels to promote trains and night trains. However, efforts are as of yet insufficiently coordinated.

From good will to coordinated action

Back-on-Track asked politicians and civil servants to establish leadership to promote cross-border trains. European travelers are more ready to see trains as a real alternative to planes than Brussels is. The political level in the EU must take overall responsibility to secure progress in this area. A “blame game” must be avoided, as must the idea that “someone else will take the ball and run with it”.

It’s imperative that cross-border rail play a more than just marginal role in the market. It has the potential to take on sizable market shares and lead to the necessary reduction in air travel. However, Brussels doesn’t seem to see railways as anything more than a niche compared with a blooming aviation industry. But a level playing field could be a game changer: If external costs of flying were internalized, the rail industry could show its full potential. Ongoing infrastructure investments will pay off, and more investments will be justified.

PSO schemes are justified

A strong case in point: A night train from Berlin to Brussels is very much needed! Very little is required to get started! To start new operations will probably need some public funding, and could be achieved with public service obligations (PSOs) from those regions and countries who stand to benefit from the new service. In general, there is strong demand for reliable and frequent services between large cities. Focus should also turn to east-west connections, also to better connect Eastern Europe with the west of the continent.

Today, flights are subsidised directly and indirectly, a practice that hinders the establishment of new competing international night train lines. Especially when considering the urgent need to solve the climate crisis, public financial support and PSOs for new night train lines are definitely justified.

Institutions are already in place

Both Eurofima and the European Investment Bank can support important investments in rolling stock for new night trains. Without such a boost the market will only grow slowly, and new entrants will have difficulty finding rolling stock. New market entrants and public actors need to be well-coordinated and work together, we need new equipment fast.

Many years of neglect must be reversed

From the Back-on-Track consultations in Brussels it is clear that the rail sector has to be more consumer-oriented. If the incumbent rail operators do not establish easy-to-use long-distance train ticketing (unfortunately, we currently see the opposite trend with worsening international connectivity), the EU must legislate in favor of travelers. We need innovation in this area!

Why is it that VAT applies to long distance trains? Why are infrastructure fees for night trains still higher than the marginal costs of using railway lines? Why are regional trains given priority to night trains to access station platforms in the morning rush hours? Many systemic barriers for night trains still need lifting.

Swedish (draft) night train report will set night trains on the tracks from Scandinavia in 2022

It has been a political and popular demand that Sweden as soon as possible can re-introduce night trains from Sweden to the continental Europe (read: Germany).

The (draft) report from “Trafikverket” dated 15.1. 2020 will now lead to comments from all walks of life, but it is at this moment a little unclear how inputs will be collected and to which deadline. Know is that a final report will be issued 30.4. 2020.

Translations here are “home-made”. And the edition is made under a strict time stress (we wanted to tell about the report on the very same day!). Pages refer to the main report.

The report is bringing this interesting map showing current travel distances within 12 hours from Copenhagen.

Contribution to transport policy goal achievement (page 73)

Night train traffic to the European continent is linked to the overall transport policy target and the functional target to accessibility and can also affect the targets within; equality, safety, environment and health. How much influence can be discussed below.

The overall goal of transport policy is to ensure a socially economically efficient and long-term sustainable transport provision for citizens and businesses throughout the country. But that doesn’t just mean traveling within Sweden. Both citizens and businesses need transport supplies to and from abroad. Sweden is an export-dependent nation, which means a great need for contacts with other countries.

Sweden also has an extensive tourist industry that is dependent on travel opportunities to and from the country. In addition, the Swedes also make many trips to other countries during their free time. A large part of the journeys are made to the European continent. Improving travel opportunities to and from other parts of Europe therefore has a positive impact on the overall transport policy objectives.

Night train traffic to the European continent provides improved accessibility for overnight travel. Today, there is only limited night train traffic during high season. Traveling by train to Europe today is reasonable only from the southern parts of Sweden. A night train means that a longer distance can be spent during the night, as an alternative to a hotel night.

Creating travel opportunities throughout the year by night train improves accessibility for those who do not want to fly for various reasons. Aviation fear is widespread, and trains generally have significantly less impact on the environment than both air and car traffic. In the past year, demand for train journeys has increased, partly for environmental reasons and this also applies to train journeys to the European continent.

A night train service to European cities is considered as a first step to consist of one train from Sweden in each direction every day. A train with all supply options is estimated to provide about 300 seats per train, a total of about 600 seats per day. This means a supply of about 219.000 places per year if all days are served. As shown (in section 2.6), travel by air to places that are within 24 hours of travel time by (night) train is about 12 million trips per year, of which about 4 million to Germany. In view of this, a night train would mean a relatively marginal change in supply. However, the possibility of comfortable traveling by train at night to reach the destination in the morning and being able to have the day to the destination is today, to a small extent, satisfied. For travelers with that desire, it will be a significant addition to the travel opportunities.

In the long term, night train traffic to Europe can become more extensive and of increasing importance, especially if today’s scope of air traffic would be limited for environmental or cost reasons.

Survey among Swedish travelers (page 7)

The Swedish Transport Administration has ordered a survey of the interest in a possible night train service to Europe. The results of the survey show that there is a clear public interest in a night train concept. 21 percent say they find the concept very attractive and 41 percent say they find the concept quite attractive.

What kind of timetable?

In the first place the report recommends a daily run between Malmö and Cologne (Köln) / Aachen. Times are just an illustration.

  • With grey is mentioned connecting train services.
  • Cologne is reached just before congestion time (morning rush hours) and to enable further journeys south.
  • Aachen is a better place to terminate the journey.
  • Denmark is serviced during the evening. The concept is designed to seek for co-sponsorship with Danish government.
  • Notice that the timetable indicates a stop at Copenhagen Main Station (and a change of direction).


The report is not mentioning anything about the practical issues of a locomotive to run Sweden-Denmark, which could be a problem. And not mentioning whether there shall be a change of locomotive in Hamburg (there is no exchange of passengers in Hamburg).

Trafikverket is suggesting that the first contract shall ask the interested providers to supply all the rolling stock (and engines) and that the contract shall last four years, and then revised, with the scope to reduce future public funding.

What kind of public support scheme?

The report concludes that there is a need for subsidy to get started with such a concept. There are two models, and there is a pending question with DG Move (the EU Commission). Germany is actually a difficult place to bring a night train from the perspective of public support. Quoted from pages 66-67:

However, to the extent that the Swedish Transport Administration has experienced, it is not a (German) national equivalent of the Swedish Transport Administration’s opportunity to agree on interregional public rail traffic. According to German authorities, all long-distance traffic is to be operated on commercial traffic, without subsidies. Furthermore, the local authorities hardly have the competence to decide on public service obligations(PSO)  which in practice relate to a long-distance connection between, for example Hamburg and Stockholm.

The possibilities of procured traffic to and through Germany must therefore be further explored. However, there are no restrictions or exclusive rights in Germany that could hinder completely commercial night train traffic.

PSO’s across borders on long distances is rather unknow territory (page 6)

The concept of the Public support to international night train services, motivated mainly for environmental reasons, is completely untested, which presents additional challenges and uncertainties.

The inquiry finds that a description of how a procurement of traffic should go, in line with the public transport regulation, should await the Commission’s views (DG Move).

Although the Commission’s views are not decisive, they should be taken into account and as the Commission’s Legal Service is still investigating the matter, such a presentation may await the final report. The Commission’s opinion is expected in January 2020 at the earliest.

However, our opinion is that the contacts at the Commission are positive for Sweden’s initiative.

Second step to Europe

Trafikverket is suggesting a step two with this timetable:

  • This train will in practical terms not service Danish travelers.
  • The report is very cautious about this line, since it to some extend is parallel to the existing Snälltåget (Stockholm)-Malmö-Berlin (seasonal train with limited comfort classes).

No considerations of a Scandinavian pool of night train rolling stock

It is a little surprise that a (cross-Scandinavian) pool of rolling stock is not discussed in the report. Swedish authorities are today owners of a pool of rolling stock to the Lapland PSO night trains (Stockholm-Luleå/Narvik). These cars are rather old and cannot run to continental Europe.

This is despite the observation in the report of a little available new (and old) night train rolling stock today.

Level of subsidies

Trafikverket is mentioning an estimated subsidy of 60 M SEK a year and a gross capacity of 210.000 travels. If we assume a occupancy rate of 2/3 that gives us 146.730 sold tickets. That will give 38,7 Euro of subsidy to each sold ticket. That seems rather fair.

On the other hand could alternative solutions (from Copenhagen?) maybe run cheaper? But Trafikverket has to bring forward solutions from Swedish soil!

Comments will be considered before Back-on-Track meetings in Brussels late January

The report might be translated in full, so all of you can have a look at the report and the attachments. For sure some of the content is relevant for our meetings in Brussels.

The report seems in general terms to be positive. But it is likely that Scandinavian Back-on-Track activists will contribute with supplementary observations.

Interesting is whether ÖBB and other operators could be interested in this presented solution (Malmö – Cologne).

It seems as if ÖBB can not make this operation very integrated into their existing network. Considerations of some late evening passengers from/to Hamburg are left out in the Swedish proposal. It is a fact that the Nightjet services Hamburg – Zürich and Hamburg – Munich need more capacity. Maybe a train Copenhagen (departure 18:40) – Hamburg (departure 23:40) – Zürich/Munich could be more attractive to ÖBB.

Right now that is all speculation. We shall think of all options in the light of “more capacity is better”, so room should be made to supplementary runs of night trains too.

>> Find the report here (in Swedish) – it is from here the the quoted sections originates

>> Find all the attachments here (also in Swedish)

DB using our slogan BACK ON TRACK – have they got the message?

The European network „Back on Track“ which since 2014 has been promoting night train and other cross-border trains in Europe, welcomes Deutsche Bahn choosing „Back on Track“ as slogan for their support for the Greentech festival 2020.

We have several proposals and demands which should be put „back on track“:

  • return of the night train between Berlin, Brussels and Paris, best by mid-year 2020
  • return of the night trains between Germany and neighbor countries, especially Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Poland
  • expanding the cooperation with ÖBB on night trains to Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Ukraine.
  • improve booking and reservation options for night trains to establish an easy-to-use, one-shop ticketing system for European travels with night and day trains …

Back on Track will have talks in Brussels on 28 of January with members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Commission.

Parliamentary hearing about night trains in Belgium

In Belgium, the political world seems to have sized the stakes of recreating an international rail transport from Belgium, with the reintegration of night train services. 6 members of the Belgian House of Representatives have submitted a proposal for a resolution going in that direction.

In order to have an informative hearing about this resolution, the commission for Mobility has invited 4 organisations working in the rail sector : Back on Track, All Rail, Transport and Environment and ÖBB. This audition will occur the 17th of december 2019. This proposal for a resolution asks to the government 3 points :

a) to defend within the European Union a policy of financial support for the development and accessibility of international rail transport,

b) to take any initiative with neighbouring Member States to reduce the cost of train paths at night and to support initiatives in favour of international passenger transport at night.

c) to support within the European Union the generalisation of the DiscoverEu initiative

Back on track Belgium will be heard to give its opinion on this resolution and complete the possibilites for the government to take action in order to help recreating an international night rail network for the benefit of Belgian and European citizens.

>> Read the resolution from the six politicians (French and Dutch)

Petitions: Climate-friendly Europe – save emissions with night trains

(1) Four German members of European Parliament have started a petition, please help them! Find the petition here!

(2) Also Euer Knuth from Berlin has started a petition with an appeal to German Railways, DB. Support him too!

(3) Another night train petition, this time addressed to Polish Railways and asking to bring back Warsaw-Brussels connection (the old Jan Kiepura, cancelled in 2016). It was created by the activist of Ostra Zielen, a youth organization of Polish Green Party and recently endorsed by Sylwia Spurek, a Polish MEP.  Find it here!

(4) The Belgium petition – mentioned elsewhere here.

Translation from German (concerning the first petition mentioned):

Next year, the Federal Republic of Germany will take over the EU Presidency. Therein lies the great opportunity to protect the climate and strengthen Europe. This begins when traveling to the European capital Brussels.

That is why we ask you, dear Federal Chancellor Merkel, dear Federal Minister Scheuer, dear Dr. Ing. Lutz, dear Mr Huber, to work for the resumption of the night train between Berlin and Brussels from July 2020 – and for you to use the German Presidency as a whole to further expand the European long-distance and night train network.

The Federal Republic of Germany should comply with the internationally agreed climate targets. To achieve this all kind of CO2 emissions should be saved. If you travel by train from Berlin to Brussels, you only use a fraction of CO2 compared to the plane.

On regular business trips, this adds up quickly. Many use the plane because they cannot travel with the current train connections of the Deutsche Bahn AG for travel between Berlin and Brussels which are only during the daytime, so you lose 6-8 hours and usually have to arrive the day before.

Join forces for a night train connection between Berlin and Brussels! Create an alternative to planes. Make it easier for families, business travelers, members of parliament, tourists and young people to travel in a climate-friendly way – also on other routes, with an expansion of the European night train system.

We are confident that this new offer will also be well received beyond the German Council Presidency and will be an important building block and an important signal in the context of the necessary European transport change.

Would a SBB night train from Basel to London be possible?

Night trains are in greater demand than they have been for a long time. If you want to increase the network from Switzerland, you must cooperate with SBB. That’s what Pro Bahn does.

This is coming from a Pro Bahn CH article.

The essentials in brief:

  • The passenger association Pro Bahn has developed a concept for more night trains.
  • It shows the possibility of a night train connection from Basel to London.
  • It shows also direct night trains to Barcelona or Copenhagen.

The Green Wave has overrun the Swiss parliament in recent elections. Many wish that they will soon also thunder over the Swiss railways. In the form of more frequent train connections. Or as an alternative to air travel – as night trains.

SBB maintains cooperation with ÖBB

Will SBB soon be on the wave of sustainability? “SBB operates international passenger transport exclusively on a cooperative basis,” says Martin Meier, media spokesman at SBB.

However, they are currently discussing an expansion of cooperation with the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). That should pay off: The ÖBB have just presented their new sleeping cars. These have been presented recently.

Copenhagen is also on the night train radar of Pro Bahn

The passenger association Pro Bahn Switzerland, however, would like to take bigger steps from the SBB. “In addition to today’s destinations, more are to be included in the offer in the next few years. In particular, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam and Dresden-Prague », said the working group leader Bastian Bommer.

Night train concept for SBB

However, Pro Bahn has submitted a detailed concept to each rail company to work out further overnight train connections. About a connection to London.

“The night train could get you to the center of London before the first flight lands at Heathrow,” says the concept. “Technically, this line brings with it the biggest challenges and, in the absence of any experience, the biggest risks,” explains Pro Bahn.

It would be “very interesting” from a market and customer perspective. For trains that use the Eurotunnel, the check-in at the boarding station must be done. “Basel could be suitable for that,” says Pro Bahn.

In order for us to come to London by night, or to Barcelona and Copenhagen, Pro Bahn not only sees SBB as an obligation. Rather, politics must now «clearly commit to international rail traffic and in particular to night train traffic. Also financially. This would include a fixed part of a Flight ticket tax, “says Bommer.

NightJet to Brussels (Jan. 2020) and Amsterdam (Dec. 2020)

From January 2020, the Nightjet will on Sundays and Wednesdays run from Vienna (08:38 p.m.) and Innsbruck (08:44 p.m.) to Brussels. After Cologne, the train stops in Aachen, Liège and Brussels. The scheduled arrival time in Brussels-Nord is 10:45 a.m. and in Brussels-Midi 10:55 a.m.. The return journey departs on Mondays and Thursdays from Brussels-Midi at 06:04 p.m. and from Brussels-Nord at 06:16 p.m. with arrival in Innsbruck at 09:14 a.m. and in Vienna at 08:27 a.m.

The situation from January 2020

First run 19.-20.1. 2020

On 19 January, ÖBB’s first night jet will travel to Brussels. On its arrival in Brussels on 20 January, it will get a “big welcome”.

However, people there will certainly point out that an arrival time of 10:55 am is quite late and that the train should preferably run daily and not only twice a week. But: things can always change!

The train leaves on Wednesdays and Sundays from Vienna via Passau and from Innsbruck via Munich, reaches Cologne at 07:31, Aachen at 08:36, Liège at 09:43 and Brussels at 10:55. So it takes well over three hours from Cologne to Brussels, because it is forced to use the old line between Aachen and Liège. Between Brussels and Liège it is allowed to use the new line, but it takes 59 minutes from Liège-Guillemins to Bruxelles-Nord, while the ICE can do it in 40 minutes. If you change to the ICE in Cologne, you will need only 1:53 hours to Brussels and arrive there at 09:35.

Compared to the train that goes to Düsseldorf on the other five days of the week, the Brussels train has some special features:

It is accelerated during shunting in Nuremberg and leaves there about half an hour earlier. It stops at Frankfurt Airport at the long-distance station, not at the regional station, and skips the stop in Frankfurt-Süd. It arrives in Koblenz about 50 minutes earlier, but changes there to the right side of the Rhine with a stop at Bonn-Beuel instead of Bonn Hbf, so that it does not have to change direction of driving at Cologne Hbf, where it arrives 45 minutes earlier than the “Düsseldorfer”, but can continue quickly to Aachen.

Compared to an Intercity, this train loses about 40 minutes on the sections Regensburg-Nuremberg and Koblenz-Cologne together, so there is still a lot to be gained here and in the Frankfurt area.

Above all, Belgium should allow this train on its new line to Brussels. And an upgrade of the Cologne-Aachen line by DB would benefit all trains …

Again to Amsterdam

The night train services to/from Amsterdam will be reintroduced from the 2021 timetable. ÖBB, with NS as Dutch partner, will operate a daily night train Amsterdam-Munich/Innsbruck-Vienna.

This service will be subsidised by the Netherlands government with an amount of 6.7 million euros over the period 2021-2023.

The situation from December 2020.

U-turn with Deutche Bahn?

Deutsche Bahn examines a comeback of night trains

BREAKING NEWS: Deutsche Bahn is considering operating night trains again together with ÖBB. The number of passengers has developed positively and there is demand on the market. Read the full article
by Christian Schlesiger in WirtschaftsWoche .

Picture from the article: dpa

“Three years after the end of City Night Line, Deutsche Bahn is considering whether to reintroduce its night trains. There are considerations, says a group manager familiar with the process. However, this time the railway does not want to run the business alone, but with partners abroad. The management board is in “initial talks” with the Austrian (ÖBB) and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) on this issue, corporate circles tell us. Railway boss Richard Lutz himself is driving the idea forward.

Lutz believes that the “zeitgeist” speaks for a renaissance of night trains as a European network and climate-friendly transport. “

Read the rest of the article (in German) here.

REBIRTH OF THE NIGHT TRAIN

The ecological tide favours the revival of the night train in Europe. Condemned to disappear by high speed and ‘low cost’ planes, rail transport at night is once again fashionable in Europe. Its advantage: it pollutes very little.

By ENRIC BONET, translated article from Spanish, published in Público.

Photo: Alex Halada / APF

It’s half past nine at night, the eve of an August holiday. Dozens of people gather in one of the corners of the Gare de Austerlitz. Once the arrival point in Paris of trains coming from Spain, this emblematic station is half deserted. Its travellers kill time waiting to take a means of transport often considered a fossil of modernity: the night train. With their final destination in Latour-de-Carol, a few kilometres from the Catalan Pyrenees, they will travel for eight, nine or ten hours. But they will do so in their sleep. A type of trip increasingly appreciated in France. Condemned to disappear for years, the night train is reborn in Europe.

“When I travel with the night train, I lose less time because I can leave work later. It’s also cheaper and pollutes less,” explains Claire Gsegner, 38, a civil servant who travels at night “at least three times a month” between Paris and Toulouse, where her partner lives. Why doesn’t she do it by plane? Or on a high-speed line? “The TGV (the equivalent of the AVE in France) is too expensive and I would never use the plane because it is very polluting,” she says.

An increasingly popular type of journey in France

“Two years ago I stopped travelling by plane for all those journeys within France and in neighbouring countries,” says Nicolas Bidenne, 24, who works on the rehabilitation of buildings. Also a user of the night train to Latour-de-Carol, this young man says that his concern about climate change “has had a big influence” on his decision to stop flying. In addition, he uses the night train because this line is the only one that directly connects Paris with the city of his parents, Rodez, a southern town of 23,000 inhabitants, which exemplifies the abandonment of medium-sized cities in favor of large metropolises, favored by the railway model of high speed.

Promoted by the association Oui au train de nuit! (Yes to the night train!), an Internet petition has already obtained more than 150,000 signatures in favour of reviving night trains in France. “They make it possible to connect a greater number of stations and sustain a stronger social bond by not abandoning the cities of the provinces,” defends Esteban B., 46, a Spaniard living in Paris who participates in this movement made up of users and environmental activists. According to these night train enthusiasts, “with these lines you can travel 1,000 kilometers in an hour, that is, the 30 minutes you need to fall asleep and the same amount of time to wake up.”

A very ecological means of transport

The main argument in favour of this transport is, however, its low level of carbon dioxide emissions. One kilometre traveled by plane is 45 times more CO2 particles than by train and the bus is 23 times more polluting than the railway line, according to the French Agency for Environment and Energy Control. An ecological advantage that did not prevent governments from abandoning night trains for decades in favour of low-cost planes.

The French government announced in 2016 the abolition of all night railway lines. Only two exceptions would remain: the Paris-Briançon to go to the Alps and the Paris-Latour-de-Carol in the Pyrenees. While in the 1970s night train passengers accounted for 16% of the total in France, this figure had fallen to 3% by 2016. The recurring argument of economic profitability had served to dismantle most lines. The mystique of the Orient Express or the Trans-Siberian seemed like a black-and-white film thing.

In Spain there are only the night lines from Madrid to Galicia and Lisbon, as well as Barcelona-Galicia. “There has been an evident willingness on the part of governments to abandon this type of transport”, laments Esteban B., who is a member of the Oui au train de nuit! collective with the hope that they will re-establish the night connection between Paris and Barcelona, which was abolished in 2013. For example, in France, reservations for night train tickets are available later than for day trains: “You can only buy them a month in advance”.

Germany was following the same path as its neighbours and at the beginning [wrong; at the end] of 2016 closed its night lines, having accumulated a deficit of EUR 31 million. A petition from 29,000 users calling for intervention by the German government would be kept in a drawer. “It was a pure commercial decision. Deutsche Bahn had decided to abandon this service”, recalls Andreas Schröder, European delegate of Pro Bahn, a German association for the defence of train users.

Austrian success

In October of the same year, however, the Austrian company ÖBB bought about fifty coaches and resumed service of the most profitable night lines in Germany. They modernized the interior of these trains and gave them a new name: “Nightjet”. Since then, everything has been going smoothly for this small company. It has 26 national and international night lines connecting Zurich to Hamburg, Vienna to Rome or Venice to Munich. 1.4 million passengers use the “Nightjet” every year.

The Austrian company ÖBB has 26 national and international night lines.

Although night trains represent a small niche market for this Austrian company, this segment is the fastest growing. “This year we expect a 10% growth in the number of passengers on night trips, while the rest will be 2% or 3%,” Bernhard Rieder, spokesman for ÖBB, told Público. This group has already ordered 13 new trains, which will start operating in 2022. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and perhaps also Paris, could be some of its new destinations. “We’re studying it,” he admits.

“Other private companies are also betting on recovering new lines. For example, the German company Flixtrain wants to reintroduce the night train between Paris and Nice”, explains Poul Kattler, European spokesman for the Back on track collective, a supporter of night trains. More in the north, in Scotland, the company Caledonian Sleeper, subsidized by the Scottish government, has invested 170 million euros in these lines. In Eastern Europe, the night train is more than successful in the Czech Republic. There the operator Regiojet experienced a growth of 12% of passengers in 2018 and expect to exceed this year the five million passengers on the line that connects Prague with the Carpathian Mountains. And the Serbian company Srbija Voz recently decided to modernize its coaches.

Stop subsidizing air transport

After decades of neglect, governments are once again interested in these trains. The Swedish administration has unblocked 170 million to boost them. It also intends to promote an international network with other Scandinavian countries. In Switzerland, after the success of its Austrian neighbour, the executive also examines how to relaunch this transport, which had disappeared from this country fifteen years ago. The Swiss authorities are even “discussing the possibility of recovering a nocturnal route that connects this country with Barcelona,” explains Kattler. In France, the National Assembly is debating a new law on mobility that will incorporate an article that advocates “developing the supply of night trains because of the interest in responding to needs and reducing ecological impact. “

The Greta Thunberg generation is betting more and more on the night train”, says Rieder, who presumes that the Swedish teenager travelled in an ÖBB cabin when she travelled to the Davos summit in January. This media activist has contributed to the popularisation of the »flygskam«. That is to say, the shame of travelling by plane, a feeling increasingly present in Sweden where one in five inhabitants say they prefer to use the train instead of the plane because it pollutes less, according to a report published in March by the WWF.

https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg/status/1121152559484370945/photo/1

Despite being one of the most polluting modes of transport, the air transport sector receives a great deal of support from the public authorities, especially with the tax exemption for kerosene. “The mean of transport that pollutes the most is the one that receives the most subsidies. It makes no sense,” says Esteban B.. “But if new taxes were introduced in air transport, this could help the railway sector,” says Kattler.

According to the spokesman for Back on track, this would reduce the price differences between train tickets and low-cost aircraft and would make night trains less expensive, one of their burdens.

The airline industry receives strong support from public authorities

“The plane is an enemy of the climate, which is excessively subsidized,” said in statements to the French magazine Politis Mathilde Panot, a member of “La France Insumise” (left-wing populists). Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party presented in June a bill in the French parliament to propose banning all air travel within France that can be made by train. Although this initiative has little chance of being approved, it opens the way to a new transport model, marked by the decrease in air transport. This would leave the night train free path to move forward.