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.

2 thoughts on “Would a SBB night train from Basel to London be possible?”

  1. Nicolas Clifford says:

    Lot’s of practical problems. Axle weight if the train uses the high speed line to St-Pancras, loading guage if it uses conventional tracks…

    The Chinese have TGV sleeper sets now, but I haven’t heard of any such idea in Europe.

  2. Joachim Falkenhagen says:

    Main issue to cope with are the private, (semi-) British rail operators HS1 and Eurotunnel, in my view. They charge high track access fees. These are acceptable (only) for routes between London and Paris or London and Brussels – though even still too high to prevent all flights between the respective cities. Mistakes were made upon privatisation of HS1 already.

    For a train from London to Zurich or back, operating costs are higher and income per passenger is rather lower than for Paris-London, as a flight does not cost much more but the inconvenience or loss of time must be taken in to account. Therefore, even overall track access charges must be lower than the charges for Eurotunnel alone for London – Paris trains.

    It was, of course, possible to subsidize a night train as much as to level out the difference. That would however, add to the greed of the railtrack and tunnel operators and make them expect just the same subsidies for any other destination through the Eurotunnel (e.g. London to Barcelone or London to Berlin). Regulation or persuasion to lower track access costs for every night train through the Eurotunnel is more meaningful. Acquiring a bundle of train paths might be an idea to accomodate them – considering that their turnover from night trains now is exactly zero.

    Further requirements are track access for French high speed lines and fair conditions for connecting trains in Switzerland. As more than 1/2 of travellers of international trains will not have a half-price-pass for SBB, prices are steep, and even the price for Swiss nationals with access to such card is rather high. As the connecting trains (e.g. from Luzern or Zurich to Basel) to the train outgoing from Basel travels in the late evening, a lower price for these lowly utilized trains must be negotiated. The southbound night train should continue to Zurich in any event.

    Adding a train section that leaves early evening in Milan is ambitious, but should be attempted. One of the quickest daytime trips Milan to Basel seems to take 4 hours 9 minutes, but with 8 stops, which would have to be cancelled anyhow for British regulations. Cutting that to 3 hours 30 should be no problem. Basel – London takes around 5:30 net of the transfer in Paris, but increase that to 6:30 or 7:00 for a less speedy journey and some nighttime track works in France, and a total of 10 to 10:30 hours Milan – London results. Still quite agreeable. In that case, the other part of the train should absolutely start at Zurich, and be security-checked there. After 10:00 pm, traffic at the busy Zurich station has calmed down somewhat, and it should thus be possible to assing one platform exclusively for the security checks required.
    New trains would be required to the Eurotunnel in any case, but also to keep up with high speed trains and for low axle weights.

    SBB would be well placed to participate as night train operator, but railcar acquisition should be made at sufficiently large scale, and the private sector would also enter if regulatory conditions are benevolent. Taxing flight’s carbon emissions in line with damage produced would certainly help a lot.

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