European Commission urged to “show leadership” and develop a night train strategy
The Transport Ministers of Belgium, Austria and Luxembourg, as well as MEPs and numerous associations, call European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to act upon the recent renaissance of night trains and present a European strategy to develop a comprehensive night train network. They sent an open letter to the EU’s highest officials this week.
“There is a strong public demand for a European night train network, as seven out of ten Europeans would consider shifting to travelling by night train”, the signatories write. However, the comeback of night trains is severely hampered by high track access charges and the financial risks of investing in night train rolling stock, they note. Not to mention the technical barriers and no proper coordination of timetables between the European countries, no long-term security of track access in the form of framework agreements, and the lack of comprehensive booking platforms.
The open letter is signed by several transport or mobility Ministers of European countries, namely Georges Gilkinet of Belgium, Leonore Gewessler of Austria and Francois Bausch of Luxembourg. Also 9 European Parliament members of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) including chair Karima Delli, and numerous associations signed the letter: the Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe (ALLRAIL), the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), the European Network of Business Travel Associations (BT4Europe), the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the European Rail Supply Industry Association UNIFE.
They believe a European night train strategy would help in this, and urge the executive arm of the European Union to take action, aiming their letter at the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Executive Vice-President of the Green Deal Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean.
What is needed in the strategy?
With several measures, the signatories say that “we can bring back night trains in our Union, boost sustainable tourism, generate employment opportunities, strengthen our European rail industry, and provide a climate-friendly alternative travel option”. These include that Track Access Charges for international trains, and in particular for night trains, should be reduced. Under Georges Gilkinet, Belgium already took this step and encouraged other countries to do the same. In addition, “substantial” European and national financial resources should be allocated to modernise the existing railway infrastructure, bridge missing links and ensure the roll-out of ERTMS. Cross-border sections should be the focus of investments, they stress.
To lower the hurdle of securing financing to procure night train rolling stock, they urge to enable more attractive loans by the European Investment Bank, regardless of the applicants’ size and ownership structure. For the approval of rolling stock, the Commission is urged to ensure fast and cost-effective EU-type approval of rail rolling stock, including night trains, for use on the TEN-T rail network that has been upgraded to a common standard.
To make booking a ticket easier, they urge to liberate the exchange of data in the European railway system in accordance with the sector to facilitate the booking of tickets for night trains and connecting trains for passengers and businesses alike.