Night trains discussed with DGMOVE
Representatives of Back-on-Track and the European Parliament had a very informative 2-hour discussion on night trains with officials of DG-MOVE (the European Commission’s department for transport) on April 27th. Back-on-Track considers there is a case for night trains as part of a 24-hour service on many international routes.
Harmonisation is important in this respect and the enhanced role of the European Union Railway Agency (ERA) from June 2019 was explained. Interoperability coupled with the elimination of many of the thousands of national rules will make things easier.
We urged that night trains be included in the Rail Market Monitoring System which measures customer satisfaction. At present there is no specific measurement of this for night services, but it could be introduced in future years.
Back-on-Track urged that access charges for night trains should be realistic and not deter operators. DGMOVE officials advised that Infrastructure Managers in Member States did have scope to vary these and that beneficial effects of the recent Recast Directive would be felt in the coming years.
We were also advised that the 4th Railway Package would oblige national authorities to analyse the market and ensure that sufficient rolling stock was available for potential new operators. Member States were also free to designate night train services under the Public Service Obligation as they do at present for some daytime services.
Reference was made to the Preparatory Action Project of the European Parliament, which is pressing for better provision for night train services and is willing to allocate funds to a study into this topic.
Capacity problems caused by overnight engineering work were discussed and we were advised that formal complaints should be lodged with the national Regulatory Body but, as a last resort, DGMOVE could intervene.
Ticketing difficulties were often reported to Back-on-Track members by customers, as were missed connections and issues with passenger rights. DGMOVE would report on progress by the train operators in improving ticket distribution by December 2022 and if necessary the European Commission would then take its own action.
Back-on-Track considered that passengers could benefit from competition, provided that this was on a level playing field, especially between rail and air over short and medium distances. DGMOVE would await the results of a study into external costs of all transport modes, due in early 2019, and this issue could then be addressed.
Back-on-Track representatives thanked DGMOVE for a very helpful discussion and expressed a willingness to work with them over the coming year.