Many train travelers associate special acquaintances, memories and nostalgic stories with this type of travel. The railway continues to use night trains, but without sleeping cars, e.g. normal ICEs. Since the German EU Council Presidency has made climate-friendly travel a priority, a unique European cooperation is planned for the time after the corona pandemic. “Europe should grow closer together – also on the rails” is the motto of the project, on which the four railway managers Richard Lutz (DB), Andreas Matthä (Austrian Federal Railways), Jean-Pierre Farandou (French SNCF) and Vincent Ducrot ( Swiss Federal Railways) on the sidelines of the European Conference of Transport Ministers. But it’s still just a declaration of intent.
Connecting metropolises with millions of people overnight
“Get on the train in Munich or Berlin in the evening and arrive relaxed in Paris or Brussels in the morning – with our Trans-Europ-Express TEE 2.0 and attractive night train offers, we will be even more climate-friendly and environmentally friendly in Europe in the future,” said Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU).
In the first step, several new Nightjet lines are planned, which will connect far more European metropolises with millions of euros overnight than before. From December 2021 the connections Vienna – Munich – Paris and Zurich – Cologne – Amsterdam, from December 2022 Zurich – Rome.
Connections from Berlin to Brussels and Paris will follow in December 2023 and Zurich – Barcelona from December 2024. Hamburg-Basel-Milan and four routes from Amsterdam could follow later: via Hamburg to Copenhagen, via Munich to Vienna, via Berlin to Warsaw and via Cologne and Basel to Rome.
Berlin-Innsbruck-Rome, Copenhagen-Berlin-Prague, Hamburg-Bordeaux-Madrid and Stockholm-Copenhagen-Hamburg-Paris could follow by the end of the decade. “The night train is a business between partners. If every train did ‘a bit of a night train’, nobody would be of any help, ”says Lutz. When it comes to expansion, Deutsche Bahn intends to rely primarily on partnerships such as with ÖBB.
In September, Scheuer presented the project at the EU Rail Summit. The concept is intended to create more continuous express and night train connections between Europe’s major cities. In 13 hours without changing from Berlin to Barcelona – such offers should become an alternative for people who want to avoid environmentally harmful flights and endless motorway journeys when travel becomes easier again after the corona pandemic.
More Europe by rail
In a letter to the Transport Committee of the Bundestag, Scheuer explained that a TEE 2.0 should connect at least two states over at least 600 kilometers. The trains should achieve an average of at least 100 kilometers per hour and mostly run at least 160 km / h. Above all, however, an “increased level of comfort” should be offered compared to other passenger trains such as the Eurocity, for example free WiFi, air conditioning and catering.
Across political groups, members of the European Parliament had campaigned for more Europe by rail. One requirement is also that the train path prices for night trains, which are incurred for using the rails, are completely abolished. Otherwise, 5000 euros were quickly incurred, which had to be paid for the passage through Germany.
The European spokeswoman for the Greens, Franziska Brantner, has supported the project for a long time and is cautiously optimistic. “Finally Scheuer and Deutsche Bahn jump on the night train,” she says. The TEE should not remain a symbol number. “We need a dense, reliable European express train network for people and goods with a simple booking system so that people can take the train instead of the car and plane in the long term.” should have to be used. “This is how the Green Deal gets on the track,” says Brantner.
It is a special day for European traffic and the new cross-border night train agreements are a good start for the golden post-Corona period, said Scheuer on Tuesday. There was no longer any trace of the fact that he should not have been enthusiastic about the project from the start. With the timetable change on December 13th go hand in hand with a record shortening of the Munich-Zurich route, “that’s how a minister wants to see it,” he said.
Scheuer was proud to be able to provide specific dates for the coming year this year. “Results within a few months, the idea came up in September and we are here with a concept in December, this is how politics can work.” The Green Deal is a good example of how politics can present a project and how companies can implement it .
Families and young people in particular use the night train
Rail boss Richard Lutz said that over 6000 trains with sleeping cars had rolled over German rails in 2020 and that 500 tickets for the night train offer were being sold every day. So far, families and young people in particular have used this. In the future, the night train will increasingly show its potential as a stress-free and environmentally friendly way of traveling. “There can only be a green future if we strengthen the railways and make our offers more attractive.”
It is also clear that Germany, due to its size and location, will play a central role in the future of Europe’s railways. “We are ready for the European Year of Rails 2021.”