‘Belgium’s approach to encouraging night trains should be emulated across Europe’

Belgian Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet on board of European Sleeper's train with founders Elmer van Buuren and Chris Engelsman ALLRAIL

The Belgian measure in which night train operators will pay nothing for track access fees and energy over the next two years should be adopted across Europe, says ALLRAIL, which represents new entrants in passenger rail. The organisation celebrates the launch of European Sleeper last week, the “first ever – independently owned – scheduled long-distance rail operator to depart from Belgium”.

European Sleeper demonstrates that demand for long-distance cross-border passenger rail, including night trains, says ALLRAIL in a statement. The new night train operator launched its first service linking Brussels to Berlin last Thursday. It is understandable if EU Member States want to help new cross-border long-distance trains financially, says ALLRAIL, but this should be done in a non-discriminatory manner for all operators, not just for one operator. Therefore, it applauds the law that Belgium passed recently, which reduces energy costs and track access charges for all night train operators to zero.

“Belgium’s approach to encouraging night trains is very welcome – and it should be emulated across Europe”, says Salim Benkirane, Policy Officer at ALLRAIL. Earlier, European Sleeper co-founder Elmer van Buuren told RailTech he welcomes the idea of the support measure, but he would rather see permanent changes to track access charges and improved capacity allocation rules. “In short, the various obstacles for startups need to be removed.”

Partnership with incumbents no longer necessary

European Sleeper also shows that – in the Single European Rail Area (SERA) – operators no longer need to partner up with national incumbents when crossing an internal EU border, says AllRail. Europe’s current main night train provider, the Austrian ÖBB’s Nightjet, runs services by cooperating with other national railways, such as with NS for the service Amsterdam – Vienna, and with Deutsche Bahn in Germany.

A real night train renaissance? Join the discussion on RailTech Belgium, in one of the free knowledge sessions at RailTech Belgium on June 7, joined by European sleeper co-founder Elmer van Buuren and Jesse Schermer of Back on Track Belgium. 

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Author: Esther Geerts

Former Editor RailTech.com

1 comment op “‘Belgium’s approach to encouraging night trains should be emulated across Europe’”

Joachim Falkenhagen|31.05.23|00:45

TGV from Brussels to Marseilles or Montpellier would also count as – though not independently owned – “scheduled long-distance rail to depart from Belgium”, maybe also ICE from Brussels to Frankfurt.
The “first ever – independently owned – scheduled long-distance rail operator to depart from Belgium” was “Mann’s Railway Sleeping Car Company Ltd. – Compagnie Internationale de Wagons-Lits” from 1873 on the route Ostende to Cologne and Ostende to Berlin.

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