As of: 09/29/2021 2:49 p.m.
Night trains are “in” again, as they are considered a climate-friendly alternative to flying. The Austrians are particularly successful in this niche. Deutsche Bahn could also learn from them.
From Paris via Munich to Vienna in 14 hours at night – this is possible from December 13th. The connection is operated jointly by the French, Austrian and German railways, seats can be booked from now on. The night train connection between Paris and Vienna is celebrating a comeback 14 years after the Orient Express was discontinued.
With the Nightjet through the night
The new night train connection is far from the former luxury of the legendary train. But the Paris-Munich-Vienna night train doesn’t have much in common with the dreary night ICE operated by Deutsche Bahn. Namely, Nightjet wagons of the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) are to be used.
These offer significantly more comfort than the German night-time ICE: All wagons have showers, and culinary well-being is also provided: breakfast is served in the couchette and sleeping car, while the sleeping car also eats hot dishes à la carte.
Austrians are nocturnal pioneers
In any case, when it comes to night trains, the Austrians are already much further ahead than Deutsche Bahn, which still treats the issue rather neglected and adorns itself in the timetable at best with cooperation with other night train operators such as ÖBB.
Just how much the Austrians have spread into the night train niche can already be seen from a glance at the ÖBB’s nightly timetable. The ÖBB Nightjet not only operates in some German cities such as Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne. The Austrians also approach European cities such as Zurich, Basel, Brussels and Amsterdam as well as numerous Italian cities such as Florence, Rome, Verona, Milan and Venice at night.
At night from Berlin to Malmö and Stockholm
A German specialty is of course the Berlin Night Express, a privately operated seasonal night train connection that connects the federal capital with Sweden in the summer months.
After a Corona break last year, the train ran from Stockholm via Malmö and the bridges over the Great Belt and Öresund to Hamburg and on to Berlin in the summer of 2021.
By the way: From December this year, english night train fans can also use connections between Zurich, Cologne and Amsterdam. In addition, according to the French railway company SNCF, a night train between Paris and Berlin is planned again from 2023.
The bridge over the Great Belt connects the eastern part of Denmark with the western part.
PICTURED: TIM K JENSEN / EPA-EFE / REX
Traffic turnaround by night train?
The renaissance of night trains is no coincidence, as they are considered a CO2-friendly alternative to flying. According to environmental associations such as the Berlin initiative Agora Verkehrswende, they could play an important role in accelerating the traffic turnaround. Currently trains are night trains, but they are still a niche product, but also Philipp Kosok, rail expert Agora Verkehrswende, opposite tagesschau.de.
“ÖBB has around two million passengers a year with its night trains, and Deutsche Bahn has 150 million passengers with its long-distance trains.” However, the night train potential is far from being exhausted. Currently there are simply too few night train connections in Europe, i.e. Kosok. There is also no serious plan for a European night and day train network.
Night trains don’t pay off
So trendy night trains are currently, so they cannot be rented from a business perspective: A night train causes significantly fewer people, but at the same time requires more staff than a normal train connection. For this reason, the Deutsche Bahn and the Swiss Federal Railways AG (SBB) have given up night operations.
Now the SBB wants to intensify the cooperation with the ÖBB: with more capacities and new routes. But only if there are subsidies from the Climate Fund.
Nothing drives at night without the state
“To run night train connections economically for rail companies – that will only work on a larger scale if there is more support from the state”, rail expert Kosok is also convinced.
“Wherever new night train connections are currently being built in Europe, this is happening because the governments are hooking up. The ÖBB are only so successful with their night trains because they are so strongly supported by the state.”