However, experts warn of a number of bottlenecks that should be resolved as soon as possible to give the use of night trains more chances of success.
NightJet has reserved an amount of 700 million euros for the purchase of 33 night trains. “Much attention has been paid to the traveler’s needs and comfort in the design,” notes British newspaper The Guardian. “With this, the company hopes to be able to take customers away from European flights.”
Reference is made, among other things, to the consumer’s demand for greater security and privacy. This translates into lockable cabins, while sliding panels between the different beds allow travelers to talk to each other.
In return, connections to the wireless internet and the train’s electricity network are also provided. NightJet also wants to formulate answers to challenges such as the energy crisis and climate change.
First train next summer
The trains were manufactured by Siemens Mobility. The routes the trains are expected to take will connect cities such as Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, Milan, Rome and Zurich.
The first train will be launched next summer and the full service should be ready for use by the middle of this decade. The launch of the trains has been delayed due to supply chain bottlenecks and staffing issues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Each train consists of seven carriages, including two sitting carriages, two sleeper carriages with compartments for two persons and three sleeper carriages with suites for four persons and mini cabins for individual travellers.
Each train can carry 254 passengers. This means that the trains have a greater capacity than the planes used on these distances. NightJet has promised that prices will be competitive with airline prices. Prices are expected to be between 50 and 100 euros. The carriages will also be accessible to wheelchair users.
The trains have a maximum speed of 230 kilometers per hour. “A trip with a NightJet is fifty times more climate-friendly than the same trip by plane,” says Leonore Gewessler, the Austrian environment minister who has recently appeared as a promoter of night train travel.
However, a number of experts have warned about the promise of night trains and the expectation that this form of travel may increasingly replace aviation. “Success will be very difficult unless we can count on strong support from national and European politicians,” it reads.
The specialists draw attention to a number of bottlenecks – such as rising energy costs, chronic personnel costs and persistent delays – in the current rail transport.
‘Night trains remain a niche product’
Furthermore, the potential for nuisance problems will increase as passenger traffic, especially at night, is increasingly forced to make way for freight trains carrying coal and military equipment to support the Ukrainian army in its fight against Russia.
“Compared to day trains, night trains remain a niche product,” emphasizes Philipp Kosok, public transport expert at the German think tank Agora. “If there is sufficient will, the concept offers interesting potential.”
“But the night trains are fraught with a number of disadvantages. They face higher taxes than air travel and are often hampered by aging infrastructure and insufficient capacity.”
German Grünen, who have been part of the government in their country since the end of last year, have tried to devise a plan for a merged European network of night trains, combining about 40 destinations such as Warsaw, Amsterdam, Vienna, Bordeaux, Munich , Barcelona and even London.