With the rising awareness of global warming and oil and gas prices, people are trying to reduce their CO2 emissions. So more and more people are deciding to take trains. Either for going around the city or also to go on vacation and visit other cities. You can use the time while being on a train perfectly fine to play online casino games.
Fall asleep in the evening, cover thousands of kilometers virtually in your sleep, and wake up in the morning in a foreign city: The idea of overnight trains sounds appealing – at least in theory – to more and more people.
That was not always the case. Just a few years ago, night train services in Germany and Austria were as good as dead. The reason, it was repeatedly said, was a lack of economic efficiency. But in light of the climate crisis, night trains are back on track in Austria and Europe. Since 2016, ÖBB, the Austrian train company, has gradually built up its night connections. Anyone who wants to can take the train from Vienna to Berlin, Venice or Amsterdam. There are now 20-night train connections again, and 13 new trains are to be added from next year. The number of passengers traveling by night train is increasing.
Night trains are to become a real alternative to flights and thus reduce emissions – at least that is the promise. After all, depending on the route, rail travel causes around ten times fewer CO2 emissions per passenger than flying. In a survey, more than fifty percent of people in Austria said they would use night trains instead of flights as a climate protection measure. But can the trains deliver what they promise?
The trend is being driven by players such as ÖBB, which has become a leading night train provider in Europe, and by public awareness that low-cost airlines, which once supplanted night trains, should not continue to grow for climate reasons.
THE NETWORK OF NIGHT TRAINS IN EUROPE
The advantage of night trains: While people normally do not want to sit on a train for more than four to five hours during the day, the willingness to travel on night trains is ten to eleven hours. Because if you go abroad a night on a night train means you save a night in a hotel. This means that up to a thousand kilometers can be covered, thus partially replacing medium-haul flights. Also, it is an experience to take such a train. Also, their route is unique and gives one the opportunity to enjoy a lot of different landscapes. And since one travels within the Schengen room no one will wake you up to check your passport.
Politically, the issue is currently high on the agenda. Last year, the Green Party in Germany presented a plan for a European night train network: Forty-night train connections could theoretically link hundreds of destinations across Europe, according to the idea. From 2030, direct night trains could travel from Warsaw to Amsterdam, from Vienna to Bordeaux, from Innsbruck to Naples, or from Munich to Barcelona.
However, the idea of simply boarding a train in the evening to wake up at the destination in the morning often looks different in reality so far. On some routes, sleeping and couchette cars are booked out weeks in advance, and in many places, there are no convenient connections or delays, passengers complain.
ÖBB recently admitted that night trains are sometimes several hours late. Night trains are generally less punctual than day trains. The reasons for this are nighttime rail construction sites, competition with freight trains that run mainly at night, technical defects, and a lack of locomotives and drivers.
In addition, important parts of the European rail network are suffering from obsolescence and congestion. The biggest brake on the further expansion of the European night train network is still the small-scale nature of the European network.
For example, the EU has already set uniform standards for safety technology on lines, which regulate the distance between trains. However, countries like Germany are lagging behind in implementing the technology. This slows down European train traffic. Added to this are different power grids and waiting times at border crossings.
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITION?
At the same time, night trains still compete unfairly with air travel. While the former is subject to a variety of fees for network companies and taxes, air travel is still exempt from many taxes, he says. Offering attractive tickets on night trains is therefore quite a challenge. So night trains are still for adventurous people since not a lot have experience there.
However, the broad majority does not believe that there will be a need for a European night train company in the future that plans for the long term and operates a comprehensive European night train network from a single source, as demanded by the German passenger association Pro Bahn, for example. Competition would ultimately lead not only to lower prices but also to more diverse connections that cater to many passengers and their different needs.
It is much more important to remove the many hurdles, such as high network charges, subsidies for air travel, and weak points in the rail network. It is then conceivable that night trains could partially replace air travel in the future, with distances of up to 1,500 kilometers.
In any case, it is clear that mobility cannot continue to grow as it has in the past. Travel will probably become more expensive, especially by air. This could help to make the night train a means of mass transportation again one day.
It is a different travel world you might dive into when giving a night train a chance. And there are a lot of special offers which make it even easier to go on this journey. These trains will comfort you and offer everything you will need. To charge your phone, maybe some drinks as well as a comfortable bed with blankets and pillows. It is a unique feeling to wake up in the middle of the night and look out of the window and see, for example, the alps. So close you want to touch them.