The European Commission will support ten pilot project for new cross-border services and the improvement of existing ones, it announced recently. But that support is not financial. Back On Track Belgium says the initiative is weak.
These pilot projects are:
- The European Sleeper from the Netherlands and Belgium to Barcelona.
- The Hungarian Ministry of Transport for better connections to Austria and Romania. WESTbahn will set up a new service between Munich and Budapest via Vienna.
- Midnight Trains for linking Paris to Milan and Venice.
- Flixtrain for services between Munich and Milan and the Leipzig – Berlin – Copenhagen– Stockholm train.
- SJ for linking Stockholm to Berlin, including better connections between Germany, Denmark and Sweden and the Snälltaget night train between Stockholm and Berlin.
- České dráhy (ČD) as well as’s initiative for a new service between Prague, Berlin and Copenhagen in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Danske Statsbaner (DSB).
- Eurostar and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) for improving the Amsterdam-London service.
- Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FS) and DB, for new services between Rome and Munich and between Munich and Milan.
- ILSA wants to link Lisbon to A Coruña and Lisbon to Madrid.
- Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya wants to create new services Catalonia and the South of France.
“While demand for green mobility is growing, we need the rail market to respond much better and much faster, especially for long and cross-border journeys. This is why the European Commission now wants to help rail companies create new international train connections – by day and by night – by breaking down the many barriers to cross-border rail”, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean from Romania said upon the announcement and reported by RailTech.
There is no dedicated funding for the pilot services, but it revolves around addressing obstacles to launch the services. Assistance could be provided, for example, in the form of coordination of stakeholders and assessment of compatibility with the legal framework, it was said in the a Q&A when the application process for the pilot project was launched.
“Europe’s support for ten international projects is weak”, says Back On Track Belgium, on organisation advocating night train connections from and to Brussels. The organisation focuses on the night trains. “There are three night train connections between the ten connections: the existing train Berlin-Stockholm of the Swedish state operator SJ, a new night train Paris-Venice of the new private operator Midnight Trains, but above all important to us is a new Amsterdam – Brussels – Barcelona!”, says BOTB.
“It is a second European Sleeper project that had already been announced but was put on hold due to a lack of carriages”, points out Back On Track Belgium.
DG Move – the Directorate-General of the European Commission that helps shape and implement European rail policy – will not provide direct financial support, but promises to remove ‘obstacles’ such as EU legislation that operators experience when deploying international trains. They will also facilitate contacts and coordination and develop tools. This requires explicit cooperation with Member States.
It will therefore mainly be a communication round about the existing initiatives.
“However, they will not help solve the two main problems: the supply that is determined by the market solely on the basis of profit and the total lack of modern sleeping cars. The vast majority of the surviving carriages have long since been written off and patched up countless times. It is promised to see whether the procurement legislation can be changed, but one year is too short to make up for two decades of a total lack of investment. In addition, we ask that a minimum offer for night trains is set by a European public institution.”
So before getting really exited about all these promising projects, let’s wait until more rolling stock is available.
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