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)