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Night trains: Much more, much wider

Press release from Back-on-Track, European network to promote cross-border and night trains

The todays press conference on enhanced cooperation between DB (Germany), ÖBB (Austria), SBB (Switzerland) and SNCF (France) introduced an expansion of ÖBB’s NightJet network of night trains, showing the right way forward when it comes to alternatives to flying in Europe. Modern night trains can replace many flights within the range of 500 to 1.500 km, as passengers can sleep while being transported in an environmentally friendly way. Since its founding in 2015, Back on Track has advocated for this transport solution: Night trains are necessary elements in a 24-hour European train network.

Despite our joy at the good intentions and strong ambitions demonstrated at today’s press conference, there is a strong need for the initiative to grow in volume and spread to more regions in Europe.

The cooperation must not be exclusive to those who arranged the press conference. Partners who want to contribute to the future network of night trains must have the option to do so. The EU as a supranational actor can contribute with investments and coordination; but we also call for the participation of railway operators from smaller states, and of private operators who have shown the ability and willingness to introduce their own night train routes.

The regions that also need to be included in concrete plans for new night train services are:

  • The Iberian Peninsula; with Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona
  • Scandinavia; with Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo
  • Eastern Europe; with Belgrade, Budapest and Bucharest

We very much hope that tomorrow’s announcement by the European Commission on “Green Mobility” will show that the EU is a worthy and dedicated partner in the necessary development of Europe’s railways and night trains as a follow-up to what was presented today.


Joachim Holstein (DE),

Nicolas Forien (FR),

Poul Kattler (DK),

Belgium Back-on-Track,

>> Pick the press release as pdf (English)

>> Watch the press conference here (German):
>> See the German ministers press release

This is the last slide from the presentation today (or pick the slide here):

8 thoughts on “Night trains: Much more, much wider”

  1. Joachim Falkenhagen

    The future of rail travel will hardly be affected by such announcements, which probably expect public subsidies before being brought forward. The “plan” will have minimal impact on travel choices. Decisive is the competitive environment, and must adresss issues such as European regulation on
    # track pricing (and introduction of a particular segment for night trains)
    # carbon pricing (for aircraft)
    # green quotas (for aircraft fuel exclusively, or for the combination of rail and air travel above certain distances?)
    # appropriation of consumer rents through airline yield management – which leads to adition income for airlines that allow more flights and enable low cost fares,
    # subsidies for smaller airports and local traffic connecting them,
    # participation of airline passengers in the costs of health risks connected with them and health protection schemes to reduce these.
    I believe that only private enterprise combined with an attractive regulatory regime will lead to a competitive and thriving night train system.

  2. Joachim Falkenhagen

    The current plans are just showcases for the railways and states to pretend action. They may calm down some train enthusiasts which find at least some options to travel across Europa without too much delays. They come late and the effect to reduce air traffic is negligible. Take Zurich-Barcelone: Zurich is a comparatively small town in the comparatively sparesely populated agglomeration between Bern, Basel and St. Gallen. It will be difficult to fill a daily train from there, and for travelers from most of Germany, the connection is not convenient. Larger destinations for trains from Barcelone would be London, Paris, Randstadt (NL), Ruhr-Cologne area, Straßbourg-Mannhein-Frankfurt area (with five distinct trains to avoid detours and accomodate different convenient arrival times) and Brussels-Antwerp en route. In other words, with the northern part of the centres of economic activity called “blue banana”. In a more comprehensive setup, these five areas would be linked with further destinations, just like Madrid, Milan, Rome, Berlin or Warsaw/Krakow/Prague, Vienna (some in existance) and Kopenhavn. Some connections between second-tier cities should be added, sometime on a less than daily basis, and also a sunbelt connection. This will not happen with a state-ordered plan, though.

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  4. Don’t forget that the Swedish government intends to start a night train Malmö-Copenhagen-Köln-Brussels with start in 2022 or 2023 and the open-access operator Snälltåget will recommence their night train Stockholm-Malmö-Hamburg-Berlin (although probably couchettes only) already in 2021

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  8. There was a night train connecting Madrid and Paris through the Vask country. A tunnel collapsed while repairing works 100km north of Madrid in 2011. There is civil platform trying to reopen this railroad. The spanish government is thinking about it right now.

    Maybe you could help them to take the right decision…

    Please send them a request to do it

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