AERA is in regular contact with Back-on-Track – a network of independent campaigns in many European countries for improved international services, especially night trains.
Our Secretary (in an individual capacity) has taken part in their activities, including –by zoom link – their gatherings in Brussels at the start of December. Their December 2nd webinar attracted 100 participants, from Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland. Speakers were from The European Sleeper, Railcoop, OVUE, the European Passengers’ Federation and Bahn fuer alle.
Questions and discussion involved many of the participants and there was a wide measure of agreement with one panel member saying, “We need solutions. We know what they are. We don’t need more studies. We need action, action, action.”
Specific points made by panelists or other participants included:
- Two thirds of Europeans would support a ban on short-haul flights if they could get to their destination in under 12 hours, according to a recent survey.
- It was necessary to develop new rail services in line with needs.
- An important advantage of rail, compared to aviation, is that a train can serve places en route, such as a service from Bordeaux to Lyon.
- The market conditions were unfair and must be improved – for example, tax exemptions for aviation must be addressed.
- There must be regulation for open data on prices – which the European Parliament has advocated, but not the national governments.
- The EU should offer a common pool of night train stock and the European Investment should play a role in this respect.
- It is important to prevent the largest and richest operators from edging out smaller operators.
- EU institutions have a role in developing international rail services, but “we cannot wait.”
- Track access charges for night trains are only a small part of infrastructure companies’ income and so it would not harm them to reduce these.
HOW TO FIND OUT MORE
The website www.back-on-track.eu is packed full of information about further night train developments (such as an open access service from Brussels and Amsterdam to Berlin and Prague due to start in summer 2022) and how these can play a part in the EU Green Deal.
The website includes information on the EU Action Plan to boost long-distance cross-border passenger rail (published on December 14th) and Back-on-Track’s 10-point response to this in January, covering issues such as charges and taxes, information and passenger rights, modal shift, journey length, benefits to tourism and regions and monitoring progress.
AERA’s associate membership of the European Passengers’ Federation (www.epf.eu) also enables us to keep up to date with matters concerning rail travel in the UK and on the Continent.
Also an associate member of EPF is the European Rail Campaign (UK) which has recently greatly enhanced its website www.eurorailcampaignuk.org to include travelogues and country-by-country maps and descriptions.