Night train comeback will bring climate-friendly European travel

Image: SBB

“This is a good day for the climate, our customers and the coming together of Europe on rails.” Those were the words of Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz this Tuesday in an online press conference with the European transport ministers and three other railway directors Andreas Matthä (ÖBB), Jean-Pierre Farandou (SNCF) and Vincent Ducrot (SBB). They made clear that night trains will be an important part of future Trans-European travel.

The four major European railways have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set the framework for a future collaboration for night train services. “This is the first joint statement of these undertakings for the launch of the Trans-Europ Express 2.0”, said German Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer in his opening statements. “Our goal is to better connect our cities and metropoles, and for this the European Commission will also support the European Year of rail 2021”.

Scheuer also announced that next Sunday on December 13th the newly electrified route between Munich and Zurich will open to service, which are also being prepared to connect to the TEE 2.0 network. The first concrete results of the expansion of the cooperation between the four railways are four new Nightjet lines that will connect a total of 13 European metropolises over the next few years:

December 2021: Vienna – Munich – Paris and Zurich – Cologne – Amsterdam
December 2022: Zurich – Rome
December 2023: Vienna / Berlin – Brussels / Paris
December 2024: Zurich – Barcelona

Climate-friendly mobility

“Get on the train in Munich or Berlin in the evening and arrive relaxed in Paris or Brussels in the morning”, said Andreas Scheuer. “With our Trans-Europ-Express 2.0 and attractive night train offers, we will be even more climate-friendly and environmentally friendly in Europe. That is a very specific result of our rail summit and our EU Council Presidency.”

“This cooperation enables us to implement our expansion plans quickly”, says Vincent Ducrot, CEO of SBB. “In night traffic, we will expand the offer from Switzerland from six to ten lines to 25 destinations by 2024. That is a very important contribution to promoting climate-friendly mobility.”

“For the SNCF, this cooperation is a good opportunity to complement the national night train service with an international offer, said Board Chairman Jean-Pierre Farandou. “The interest and enthusiasm of the passengers and the authorities are great, because these trains are essential for connecting our regions.”

The planned new Nightjet connections from 2021 to 2024

Trans-Europ Express 2.0

The Trans Europ Express (TEE) 2.0 is an updated international rail network presented in September 2020 by the German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer. The TEE 2.0 should connect European cities across the continent with a combination of high-speed trains and night trains without requiring additional investment in infrastructure.

The aim of the TEE 2.0 is to connect existing networks of high-frequency long-distance trains to form an optimised system. In this way, international travel times by train should be shortened. Furthermore, the plan drawn up by the German Ministry of Transport states that destinations with inadequate train connections must be mapped.

In the short term, the plan provides for connections between:
Paris – Brussels – Cologne –Berlin – Warsaw
Amsterdam – Cologne – Basel – Milan – Rome
Berlin – Frankfurt – Lyon – Montpellier – Barcelona
Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris – Lyon – Barcelona

Private operators

Back-on-Track, the European network to support improved European cross-border passenger train traffic and night trains, is happy with the good intentions and strong ambitions that are presented, but says private operators should also have a chance to launch night train operations. “Partners who want to contribute to the future network of night trains must have the option to do so.”

They also advocate that night trains should spread to more regions in Europe, such as Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) and Eastern Europe. “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”, says Back-on-Track.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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