SBB and ÖBB plan further expansion of night train services in Europe

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) announced their Nightjet strategy for 2024. Planning is underway for new night trains from Switzerland to Amsterdam, Rome and Barcelona. SBB and ÖBB signed a corresponding Letter of Intent this September. 

First up in the expansion process, the two railway companies plan to launch a new daily Nightjet service running Zurich–Basel–Frankfurt–Cologne–Amsterdam in December 2021. However, the very limited availability of rolling stock suitable for night train services restricts short-term service expansion. SBB, therefore, intends to lease suitable rolling stock from German leasing company RDC Asset GmbH.

SBB CEO Vincent Ducrot has no doubt that demand for fast daytime services and night trains will continue to grow. “This is a sustainable trend and the demand for environmentally friendly and resource-efficient mobility will continue to increase.”

Further expansion

The capacity on services to Berlin, Hamburg and Prague and a new connection to Leipzig and Dresden will be increased. The services currently provided from Zurich via Basel to Berlin and Hamburg are increasingly popular. SBB and ÖBB want to serve both destinations with two separate trains covering the whole route, if possible from the 2023 timetable change. This will enable a significant capacity increase. They also plan to run the service to Prague via Germany as a portion of the Berlin Nightjet with sleeping cars and couchettes. The new route would also provide a direct connection to Leipzig and Dresden.

There are also plans for a new line connecting Zurich via Bern, Brig, and Domodossola to Rome. However, it is not yet clear whether it will be possible to run this line, as agreements with other partner railways are yet to be reached. This is also the case for a plan of daily connection from Zurich via Bern, Lausanne, Geneva to Barcelona. This would also integrate French-speaking Switzerland directly into the night train network.

A map of the Nightjet Network Switzerland 2024
A map of the Nightjet Network Switzerland 2024 plans

Night train network

With its 19 Nightjet lines and eight further services in cooperation with partner railways, ÖBB currently runs Europe’s largest night train network. This includes the network from Switzerland run in cooperation with SBB, consisting of six lines and one additional service.

Demand for international night train services significantly increased in 2019 and at the start of 2020 until the coronavirus crisis struck. The number of passengers using night train services from Switzerland grew by over 25 per cent compared to the previous year. SBB and ÖBB want to build on this network and expand night train services in Europe together.

Shifting to rail

Andreas Matthä, ÖBB CEO: “We have no doubts about the Nightjet’s success. With SBB as a committed and effective partner, we can continue to expand the Nightjet network even further. We are investing in new trains: 13 latest generation Nightjet sets will be in operation from the end of 2022. With additional services and modern rolling stock, taking the night train will become an even more attractive option.”

ÖBB and SBB share the goal of shifting more travel to rail and thus contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions from the travel sector. To ensure that night train services can be expanded in the medium to long term, ÖBB is therefore investing in new rolling stock. The new night train sets are to come into service gradually, within what time frame not yet announced.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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