In the wider scheme of the ills of modern communication, this was a pretty minor one. In Time Out’s “22 best new things to do in the world in 2022” this was at number 17:

17. Ride new Regiojet sleeper train all the way across Europe – Prague, Czech Republic, to Brussels, Belgium

The biggest extension to Europe’s night-train network in years will see a new batch of sleeper trains run by the Regiojet network taking travellers across Europe between Prague and Brussels via Dresden, Berlin and Amsterdam. Doze off in magnificent Prague, then wake up 800 kilometres away in EU capital and waffle-and-beer-paradise Brussels. Spurred on by the climate emergency, it’s part of a huge continent-wide drive to revive the good old-fashioned sleeper.

This is not right. The RegioJet – European Sleeper service will be 1 train that runs every other day, if it indeed does start at all this summer. By contrast ÖBB in December 2021 launched 2 new night train routes – Vienna-Paris that runs every other day, and Zürich-Amsterdam that runs daily. So that clearly is not RegioJet doing the biggest extension of Europe’s night-train network in years.

But Allrail, the association of private rail firms of which RegioJet is a member, was of course happy to trumpet it.

This sort of thing seems to happen pretty regularly with railway communications though – from Mark Smith continuing to trumpet a Lagos-Singapore route that isn’t possible (and it having been debunked on this very blog) to everyone from German Grüne to Austrian economists getting enormous publicity for largely spurious maps of night trains or high speed trains.

Sure, I would love a Marseille to Faro night train, or a high speed rail connection between Berlin and Paris in 4 hours, or a historically massive expansion of night trains run by RegioJet (or whoever else for that matter). But these things are not plans, they are not happening. And we should not repeat them as if they are correct when we know they are not – just because we want them.

I even struggle to find a word to describe what is happening here. To lie is to say something untrue with the intention to deceive, but this is not a deception as such. These are untruths said in the service of what we might want, things to which we perhaps aspire – not with any sort of ill intent.

Yet somehow all of this creates a false expectation, and that nags at me. I am still intermittently asked about why Deutsche Bahn’s “plans” (more of an aspiration than a plan in my view) to run trains to London did not work – these were all announced with a lot more fanfare than news that no such trains will run. The idea that it is viable is lodged more solidly in people’s minds than the very real and practical problems that render it impossible.

At the very least any of us who are responsible communicators should not fall into the trap of repeating untruths, however much we would like those things to actually come to pass.

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