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Night trains in Europe at the lowest level in 100 years

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Presentation in Berlin before the demonstration at the Main Railway station when the last German CityNightLine departed. Presented by Poul Kattler, Denmark:

It is time to make a status from our fight.

We are an interesting mix of individuals and organisations among

  • Users
  • Recent and former railway employees
  • Climate activists
  • Railway fans

And many combinations of this.

German activists were the first to be alert and mobilized – since the early political talks of privatization of DB and the first closure of the City Night Line Berlin/Hamburg – Paris train.


Michael Cramer speaking in support of Night Trains, Berlin March 2015

The Paris line was re-opened, how nice, but just to be closed again a few years later.


Large event in Copenhagen Sunday 2.11. 2014 when last night train departed

A new wave of cuts took place in November and December 2014. It was the cross boarder lines (not Italy), which were withdrawn. France, Holland, Denmark. The event in Copenhagen 2.11. was the first true international cooperation on this field. And it was something very new. Before actions on platforms were inaugurations of new line or new trains. But transport political manifestations were never seen before. Is has now become a more regular case, as we shall witness tonight.

Already in 2014 it was clear that something was rotten with CNL and DB. Cars were old and poor maintained. Dining cars were withdrawn. Breakfast in the sleeper cars was a joke. Was this the beginning to the end? Cars were not maintained, but just left on the siding.

DB conducted a survey a year before the first wave of cut downs. The conclusion was that ¾ of the passengers would leave the train system and take the airplane or just stay at home.


It became soon clear that DB was circulating manipulated numbers

DB (and also DSB) tried constantly to manipulate figures: The pretended low passenger numbers and high deficits. They hoped to get away with it, and to maintain a story about old and nostalgic trains, left by the modern travellers. They did not expect an opposition that could qualify the wrong figures and propaganda.


DB presenting “Greenwash” with a high profiled ICE-train to Paris to COP21

DB pretended all the way to COP 21 in Paris that they were to consolidate their night train network to the most profitable lines. But that story was unmasked in Paris, where DB announced the total close down.

For sure this was the masterplan from the moment in spring 2014, where they agreed with the Danish DSB to cancel the popular night train to Copenhagen.


Who are the really bad guys?

Are the bosses at the DB tower at Potzdamer Square the bad guys? Well, despite their tendencies to incompetence, they are doing as the German politicians ask them to do: Focus on profitable busyness. Give loose to the idea of service providing, welcome to the profit centres. If daytime IC and ICE are profitable together with subsidized regional trains, leave other train products alone and cut them off. Black figures before customer satisfaction. Profit before climate.

In the present political reality long distance cross border trains in Europe are basically left to die or become a small niche somewhere. Sorry to say so. When politicians in our countries and in EU continues to allow airlines to fly with no fuel taxes, with cheap or subsidized infrastructure and without VAT it is calculated that every trip on plane in Europe is subsidized with 61 Euro compared with the train on the same route. If the pollution and climate damages of air planes were reflected in taxes the 61 Euro subsidy should be replaced with no subsidy and a tax of more than 100 Euro at each flight. What a game changer!

Also the liberalization has allowed long distance busses on the crowded European motorways. Almost no infrastructure fees make some of these awful busses a dangerous competitor to parallel railways. What a silly loss of resources and what a sad loss of comfort!

Have we lost or won?

Without us and a growing awareness of climate and support to “slow riding” among passengers, many supported the various petitions and the number of riders on night trains are increasing!


Actions at many railway stations June 2015

The Austrian Railways observed these tendencies and saw their chance to expand their business in Middle Europe. But it is not good enough; less than half of the network of night trains is saved and the network is hereby terrible weak. But it has survived so far against all odds.


Around this table who are from Germany, Sweden and Denmark, and all the other activists in Switzerland, Austria, Holland, France and Great Britain together we have made a true difference. Thanks to us, the European ambitions of a climate friendly transport sector are still alive.

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