Night trains are making a strong comeback in the face of urgent action to curb climate change. According to Euronews, aviation generates nearly 14% of the emissions, making it the second biggest source of transport GHG emissions after road transport. Countries such as the Netherlands and Spain to propose banning flights that can be made by train in three hours or less. The idea is to replace them with train journeys.
In addition to the climate crisis, the increase in fuel prices is of particular concern, many media have picked up on an innovative project presented by the Green party in Germany last September.
The Euro Night Sprinter is a trans-European network of night trains that would consist of 40 international long-distance lines. By 2030, it would connect more than 200 cities and locations across Europe, from Lisbon in the west to Moscow in the east and from Helsinki in the north to Malaga in the south.
The German Green party has created a map based on current railway lines, the aesthetics of which are inspired by the London Underground. The project shows a system that should be supported by comfortable, quiet and fast trains (200 to 250 kilometers per hour, creating journeys lasting nine to 14 hours on average) approved by all European countries.
An intuitive reservation platform common to all airlines would also have to be created, with competitive prices to create fair conditions of competition with flights. All this would require a unified control and coordination system for the various national rail networks in Europe.
Europe accounts for 60% of the world’s high-speed rail lines. The remaining 40% is shared between Asia (30%), America and Africa (10%). The EU is aiming to double high-speed rail use by 2030 and triple current levels by 2050. The vision was announced in Lyon, France, on June 29th, during the Connecting Europe Days 2022, organized by the European Commission. Several projects will boost the EU’s railway network, including cross-border links and connections to ports and airports.
The Dutch-Belgian railroad company European Sleeper wants to run a night train to Barcelona several times a week by the end of next year. The train, which should depart from Amsterdam and make several stops in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, should start running three times a week to the Spanish city from December 10, 2023, but possibly earlier, following the application to the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Market (ACM).
Currently, the night train service NightJet of the Austrian railway company ÖBB connects Brussels with Vienna three times a week. According to the Brussels Times, authorities in Belgium would like to see the country become a hub for night trains. A specific budget has been allocated for this purpose.
The rail network continues to grow in other parts of Europe. As of September 1st, travelers will be able to take the train from Hamburg to Stockholm overnight on board the EuroNight. There are other highlights to discover along the way, such as the Danish capital of Copenhagen, Sweden’s southern coastal city of Malmö and the history-rich university city of Lund.
Connecting to other train services such as Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and Eurostar, travelers will be able to make the whole journey between Stockholm and London to roughly one day. In practice this would mean taking a train from Hamburg to Brussels, with a change in Cologne, and boarding the Eurostar thereafter.
According to Euronews, the EuroNight train is powered by renewable energy. Swedish operator SJ only uses electricity from hydropower and wind turbines, while train conductors will use ‘freewheeling’ techniques to minimize energy use. This involves switching off the engine and allowing the carriages to move forward using its own momentum. Data from the European Environment Agency show that where air travel generates 252.8 grams of carbon emissions per kilometer traveled, rail travel emits just 22.4 grams.
Night trains are increasingly accepted by travelers, who not only want to try to curb CO2 emissions, but are also looking for a more relaxed way to reach their destination.