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Beware the UIC Train to Paris – cross border rail for dignitaries only

4166912838_3c94ded9ea_oIn 2009 the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen. The UIC organised a special night train (pictured) for dignitaries to be able to get from Brussels to Copenhagen by rail – the Climate Express. By 2009 regular night trains to Brussels were already history, and in 2014 Deutsche Bahn axed its Copenhagen – Amsterdam / Basel / Prague service. I wrote about the hypocricy of this on my blog here.

So fast forward to 2015, and we are at it again. The latest round of COP (COP21) negotiations is in Paris 30th November – 11th December 2015, and the UIC is at it again – its public relations department is already going into overdrive, with a dedicated website and Twitter account about the train(s) they will run to get people to the conference.

The trains will run to Paris, the hub of SNCF that has abolished the vast majority of its national night trains, and cancelled all of them to Spain and Germany. The country that has such a lousy collaboration with its neighbour railways that its timetables are a mess at Irun-Hendaye and it doesn’t sell tickets at Genève or Ventimiglia even though it runs trains from both. Set this against the wider background of decreasing numbers of international connections across many borders in Europe as I have documented on this blog.

So here’s an idea, journalists and reporters – rather than swallowing this nice PR from UIC, ask why regular passengers do not have access to similar services as the dignitaries do. Ask the dignitaries and politicians what the last time was that they actually travelled on a long distance rail service, and ask what they are doing to save and improve cross border rail in the EU.

Yes, rail is a green way to travel. But organising cross border trains for publicity purposes is no good – it’s green washing!

[Update 20.4.15, 2230] – turns out there’s a Climate Express that’s activist run. That looks a whole lot better!


Now Dresden-Wrocław trains are cancelled for good – third piece of bad news for PL-DE rail this winter alone

Following the end of the Berlin – Wrocław EC Wawel (early December 2014), Frankfurt(Oder) – Poznań RegionalExpress trains (end December 2014), we now have the news that Dresden – Wrocław RegionalExpress trains will cease at the end of February 2015. News of this cancellation can be found here in Polish (Google translated), and from the rail company here (Google translated). Currently it seems there are no plans to make things connect at Görlitz to allow passengers to change trains there – the Polish news story makes reference to passengers needing to take a bus instead. The reason given for the cancellation is inadequate funding on the Polish side.

This leaves Poland – Germany rail connections in a very sorry state indeed, and Wrocław now has no rail connection at all with Germany. The southern part of the Poland – Germany border is especially badly served.

Here is the map of rail connections between the two countries from the end of February 2015 (click to enlarge):
polandmap

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The tricks of EU cross-border rail – Berlin-Bruxelles-St Gallen-Berlin

I have just completed the booking of the tickets for a rail trip in April, just under 3 months ahead of my departure. Booking the trip required so many tricks and odd tactics that I’m writing this blog about it, in the hope that others can learn from it, and perhaps politicians could act to help solve the chaos? Anyway, I’m not holding my breath on the latter, but if you’re keen on the former, here goes.

My itinerary:
1. Berlin – Brussels, any time on Friday 10th April 2015
2. Brussels – St Gallen, any time on Wednesday 15th April 2015
3. St Gallen – Berlin, departing after 1400 on Thursday 16th April 2015
Cheap tickets in Germany are available 92 days ahead of travel, and in France 3 or 4 months. So this timing is good to be able to get low cost tickets.

My criteria:
Only trains. No buses. Tickets as cheap as possible, and tickets that cannot be exchanged or refunded are OK. Willing to take a slightly longer journey, or change more times, if it saves money. Reservations on all trains except in Switzerland (where I’ve never had to stand, and hence never reserve).

My cards:
A Deutsche Bahn BahnCard 25 (saves 25% on any DB ticket, has RailPlus for 25% savings internationally (although this didn’t help here), and gives free local transport sometimes in Germany (see below) – card costs €62 / year, and allows collection of points with bahn.bonus comfort), and a Thalys TheCard loyalty card (no saving on ticket – earns points).

1. Berlin – Brussels
berlinbruxelles
There are essentially three ways to do this trip.
a. Berlin – Köln DB ICE, and Köln – Bruxelles DB ICE
b. Berlin – Essen DB ICE, and Essen – Bruxelles Thalys (or the same, changing in Köln rather than Essen)
c. Berlin – Düsseldorf DB ICE or IC, and Düsseldorf – Bruxelles in a DB IC Bus
Option a. is the easiest to book – it can be done end to end with DB on DB’s website, but for 10th April the cheapest ticket is €59,20 single (€79 without a BahnCard), departing at 0647. You need to add €4,50 for a seat reservation, and €2.25 (1/4 of a 4-Fahrten-Karte) for a BVG ticket to get to Berlin Hbf to the price of this ticket, giving a total price of €65,95.

Option b., with a change in Essen, does not even show up on DB’s website, and Thalys tickets cannot be booked on DB’s website at all, although Thalys trains are still listed in DB’s timetable. Doing a search for each leg of the trip gives me a 0647 departure from Berlin, arriving Essen at 1034, and leaving at 1124 on a Thalys and arriving at Bruxelles-Midi at 1432 – note this trip is just less than an hour longer than with the DB ICE option a. However the Berlin-Essen ticket is just €21,75 (+€4,50 reservation), and this includes a free connection in the Berlin public transport to get me to the station with the CityTicket option. This is really silly – a Berlin-Essen ticket has CityTicket included, but a Berlin-Brussels ticket does not. The Essen-Bruxelles Thalys ticket was only €19, booked from Thalys TheCard website so I earn points. Total price: €45,25 – this is the one I booked.

If I’d followed DB’s suggestion and changed in Köln onto the Thalys instead, the cost would have been €56,25 + €4,50 for Berlin-Köln (0746 departure from Berlin), and €19 for the Thalys from Köln to Brussels – €79,75 in total.

Option c. I eliminated as I refuse to take buses, but it is the cheapest – just €29,15 for the ticket, €4,50 for a reservation, and €2,25 to get to Berlin station with the BVG – €35,90 total.

Right, so that’s part 1 of the trip complete – booked for a low price, but with two separate tickets off two separate websites, and using a connection that is not even listed in DB’s timetable.

2. Brussels – St Gallen
bruxellesstgallen
Here the routing is easier, because there is essentially only one way to do this trip – Bruxelles-Paris with Thalys, Paris-Zürich with TGV Lyria, and Zürich-St Gallen with SBB/CFF. The problem however is the trip is in three countries, one of them not in the European Union. Oh, and the Swiss Franc has just appreciated 20% this week…

Searching DB’s timetable throws up an immediate problem. Thalys arrives at Paris Gare du Nord, and the TGV departs from Gare de Lyon – 2 stops on the RER. But DB adds 70 minutes for this transfer – too much. So I took matters in my own hands, and found a Thalys that arrives 45 minutes before the TGV leaves. So my route is: Thalys Bruxelles-Midi 1013 – Paris Nord 1138, Paris Lyon 1223 – Zürich HB 1626, Zürich HB 1639 – St Gallen 1753.

The question then is how to book all of this. Neither Thalys nor Capitaine Train (dedicated French rail booking site) could give a combined price even Bruxelles-Paris-Zürich, let alone as far as St Gallen. Loco2 could give a price for the whole trip but this price – £66,50 (roughly €87,00) seemed high. SBB could give a price for Paris-St Gallen, but this too – CHF 59,00 (or approx €59,00) was costly. It turns out that both SBB and Loco2 were suffering because of the price for only the Zürich-St Gallen part, and were using a standard price of CHF 30,00 for this – more than the price for Paris-Zürich!

So undeterred I set out to find prices for each leg separately – €22,00 for Bruxelles-Paris on the Thalys TheCard site, €25,00 for Paris-Zürich with Capitaine Train (sorry Loco2 – here your £25.00 had a very uncompetitive exchange rate!), and – best of all – €14,20 for Zürich HB-St Gallen with Deutsche Bahn. Here I used by DB rail trick (fully documented here) to book Zürich HB-St Gallen-Kempten (Allgäu) (first station to which SparPreis works – doesn’t work at Lindau Hbf), with an interim stop of 80 mins in St Gallen to make sure it booked me on the 1639 departure from Zürich. This gives a total price of €61,20, and I simply will not take the St Gallen-Kempten(Allgäu) part.

Note also that none of these connections contains the Paris Gare du Nord – Paris Gare de Lyon transit ticket. I have some old carnet tickets left over from a previous trip to Paris – so €1,41 for that trip (1/10 of a carnet), giving me a complete cost of €62,61.

So that’s part 2 complete. Part 3 should be easy…?

3. St Gallen – Berlin
stgallenberlin
This part is easier than the other two as it can all be booked, in all cases, off the DB website. But the question then arises: what route to take in order to get the cheapest ticket – remember also leaving after 1400. DB gives two main options – departing at 1419 and changing at Buchloe, Augsburg and Göttingen, with a journey time of 9 hours 7 minutes, and a price of €29,20 (+ €4,50 reservation), or two changes at Memmingen and Ulm and a longer journey time of 10 hours 12 minutes, but for €89,20 (+ €4,50 reservation)! Plus both of these routes have tight connections onto RegionalExpress trains, that aren’t super comfortable services either.

This is where DB’s “Zwischenhaltestelle” (interim stop) option comes in. I’d noticed the destination of the train from St Gallen was München, so I put München Hbf as the interim stop and, hey presto, 2 changes, 10 hours 12 minutes journey time, no regional trains involved, and €29,20 (+ €4,50 reservation) for the whole lot. Add the €2,25 BVG ticket when arriving in Berlin and it makes €35,95.

So there you go – Berlin – Brussels – St Gallen – Berlin, with comfortable trains, for €143,81. With 6 tickets requiring 6 separate bookings on 3 websites (3 DB, 2 Thalys TheCard, 1 Capitaine Train), and 3 local public transport tickets.

The value of a BahnCard 25
For this trip, my BahnCard saved me money as follows:
€2,25 for the trip with the BVG to Berlin Hbf from home
€29 (standard) – €21,25 (reduced) = €7,25 for Berlin-Essen
€19 (standard) – €14,20 (reduced) = €4,80 for Zürich-St Gallen
€39 (standard) – €29,20 (reduced) = €9,80 for St Gallen-München
That’s a saving of €24,10, and 74 bahn.bonus points earned towards further benefits. Make 3 long trips a year somewhere in Germany and the BahnCard 25 pays for itself.

Caveats
These prices do not cover local transport to my final destinations in either Brussels or St Gallen – I do not know these yet, so cannot calculate them. In Brussels the cost of a single on the STIB network is €1,25 (1/10 of a 10 journey pass on a MOBIB card).

If something goes wrong (the Bruxelles-Paris is delayed, meaning I miss my Paris-Zürich train), I am not sure how I am covered – although both of those tickets are separately covered by CIV.

Creative Commons Images from Flickr
ICE2 by kaffeeeinstein, taken July 31 2009
Thalys by Lars Steffens, taken May 30 2013
Thalys PBKA by Darkroom Daze, taken April 2 2013
TGV Lyria 206 by Nik Morris, taken September 2 2013
Re 460 by Gerard – Nicolas Mannes, taken June 2 2011
EuroCity München by netzroot, taken April 26 2014
ICE 2 by TrainPhotography.de, taken on February 8 2014
ICE Göttingen by Michael Day, taken on June 20 2008


Bundestag hearing on long distance rail, night trains, Autozug

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 15.05.33On Wednesday 14th January at 1100, 3 members of the Bundestag from Die Linke – Sabine Leidig, Herbert Behrens and Caren Lay – are organising a public hearing about long distance rail in Europe. The title of this is “Rückzug der Deutschen Bahn AG bei Nacht- und Autoreisezügen stoppen – Nachhaltige Reisekultur in Europa fördern” (“Stop withdrawal of Deutsche Bahn AG night and car transport trains – Promoting sustainable travel culture in Europe”). I’ll be going along to the hearing and will live-tweet if possible using the tag #EUZuege in English and German.

The documents so far available for the hearing are: (all PDFs)

  1. Tagesordnung
  2. Stellungnahme DB Mobility Logistics AG
  3. Stellungnahme Jakob Kunze
  4. Stellungnahme Thomas Sauter-Servaes
  5. Stellungnahme Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband
  6. Stellungnahme IGES
  7. Stellungnahme Joachim Holstein
  8. NEW: Stellungnahme Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft

There are two interesting parts of the DB evidence, translated roughly here into English:

The night train connections Copenhagen Amsterdam / Basel / Prague ran on the night of 2 to 3 November 2014 for the last time. This business decision of the two partners DB and DSB preceded the decision of the Danish state, set the end of 2014, to subsidize the overnight train and to support the night train offer the DSB. In order to maintain the overnight train offer was no longer mapped to and from Denmark*. To compensate DB will offer long-distance together with the partner DSB in the high season from mid-June to early September, two additional connections between Hamburg and Copenhagen.

I cannot work out what the sentence marked * actually means – I presume it means that the paths had already been cancelled, so the train could not be reinstated. How this correlates with what Danish transport minister Heunicke has been saying on Twitter here is hard to determine. This is the key issue to work out in the hearing tomorrow. Can it really be true that Denmark offered to save the train, and DB declined? And does that mean there could be a chance to reinstate it?

The DB commitment for extra trains is OK, but not super. Normally there are 4 ICEs each way each day, with 4 carriages each, and 1 additional EuroCity (composed of 1 or 2 DSB IC3s – so the same sort of capacity as an ICE) each way each day at peak season. Two additional EuroCity services will be added, slightly improving early and late connections, and also helping to ease the chronic overcrowding on this route in summertime (and that was even before the abolishment of the night train).

Then to France:

In addition, at the timetable change in December 2014, the connections Hamburg / Berlin / Munich-Paris, mainly due to the high cost in France, taken from the offer. The total cost per train kilometer for the operation of the overnight train are in France to 70% higher than in Germany.

This is interesting for two reasons. First, it confirms what campaigners had long expected, that track access charges are at the root of the problem in France. Secondly, this vocabulary is harsh – DB talks of its partners DSB in Denmark, but there are no soft words for SNCF or RFF!

 


Frankfurt(Oder) – Poznań regional trains axed from 1st January 2015

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Following my post about the final EC Wawel, and the funding absurdity for PKP’s new high speed trains in Poland, here’s yet more bad news when it comes to Germany-Poland rail connections – the two daily regional trains each way in each direction between Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań will not run from 1st January 2015, stopping only 5 months after they were first re-instated with some fanfare. Die Welt reported about the new train, and the German Foreign Ministry welcomed the establishment of the new connection.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 11.25.46News about the cut can be found (in German) in the DBV’s newsletter here, and this relates to a DB Regio press release about the closure that can be found here. This is the vital section:

Mit Bedauern hat DB Regio Nordost die Entscheidung der PKP PR zur Kenntnis genommen, die erst im August 2014 eingeführte Verbindung zwischen Frankfurt (Oder) und Poznan zum 31. Dezember dieses Jahres einzustellen, da die Leistungen auf der polnischen Seite nicht finanziert sind.

Basically the Poles don’t want to run the service, and hence it will be axed. 4 EuroCity trains each way each day will continue to link Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań, but those have limited stops along the way.

The problem – alluded to in the DBV press release – relates at least in part to the available rolling stock. The new service used DB 646 class DMUs for the connection, despite the fact that the line between Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań is electrified the whole way.

The problem of course is in the detail – German signalling, and 15kV electrification for the short run to the marshalling yard just to the west of the river bridge, and Polish signalling and 3kV electrification for the main part of the route on the Polish side. The only passenger locomotives approved for through working are PKP’s Class 370 designed for express passenger trains, and even those require a change of driver at the border, and there are not enough of them to put them into service on regional trains. Neither PKP nor DB owns regional EMUs capable of running on the other side of the border.

As if this were not enough, funding for the Dresden-Wroclaw regional services are only guaranteed until February 2015, according to World Car Free Network (point 7 in close here).

So much for improving German-Polish relations across the border! When it comes to railway services, things go from bad to worse it seems.


Stuck between public service and a for-profit company, Deutsche Bahn is not benefitting passengers

db-chamaleonI travel a lot on German railways. Barely a week goes by without me making a long distance trip from Berlin to Brussels (via Köln), or somewhere further afield. I paid the company more than €2000 in the calendar year 2013, and the sum will be roughly the same in 2014. I rely on DB.

But Deutsche Bahn, the company, I simply fail to understand. It strikes me that DB manages to bundle up the worst of monolithic state-run-operator thinking about railways, and the worst behaviour of a capitalist company, into the very same entity.

Take last week’s news story as an example – HR reported that DB was thinking about abolishing its BahnCard, an accusation that was rubbished by DB itself, but HR stuck to its guns. The basic problem, from DB’s point of view, is that the flat-rate price reductions that a BahnCard offers mean that DB cannot price-maximise on trains that are close to capacity at peak hours – i.e. it wants to move to a system that is more market driven to determine its prices. DB, so HR and Spiegel reported, needs to reduce its costs in its Fernverkehr (long distance) business by €1.5 billion per year by 2019, but do not report why this is the case. This is on top of the stark reduction in the number of cities even still served by DB’s long distance services since 1999, as reported by Tagesspiegel.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 17.50.27DB, it seems, wants to profit-maximise, and not to maximise the number of people travelling by train, and for the sake of the environment the latter needs to be a vital priority.

Its response to the new competition from long distance bus operators is… for DB to run its own buses (the kleinen Bruder der Bahn apparently – flyer for the DB bus to Copenhagen (PDF)), and to look at profit maximising the long distance rail routes it runs, cutting back international connections and night trains, and also talking of cutting back unprofitable long distance routes within Germany (although it refuses to say which routes those are).

The point that is seldom raised in these sorts of reports about DB is what is its role?

DB, remember, is a private joint-stock company (AG), with the German government being its majority only shareholder. The idea to privatise Deutsche Bahn was quietly dropped by the German government in November. So, essentially, if DB has to make savings in its long distance business it is the state that will win, financially, if they do so. Yet debate about what role there should be for long distance rail services in German politics seems to be more or less non-existent. The grinning Bayern-hipster transport minister Dobrindt was drawn into the debate on whether the BahnCard should be axed, but otherwise seems to stay away from this issue as far as possible (and when he talks it’s unclear anyway).

In theory the long distance rail market in Germany is open to competition, but Veolia has found it cannot make a profit against DB and the long distance buses and is stopping its long distance rail services next week. Hamburg-Köln Express (HKX) continues to exist, but is restricted by the lack of availability of rolling stock for its service… because Deutsche Bahn will not lease any carriages to it. If the German government really wanted competition on its railway it would split the ownership of rolling stock into a separate entity as Spain is doing. When it comes to the night trains that DB is to axe, a private rival to DB taking over these routes would have the same problem as HKX – trying to lease stock. DB has previously scrapped locomotives in Poland to stop them falling into the hands of a competitior.

If DB still runs a publicly-owned railway, it needs to start behaving like one – serving passengers on the basis of need, and ensuring as many towns are connected to long distance railway services as possible. If some services are unprofitable, but judged to be socially necessary, then they should be maintained and subsidised.

Conversely, if DB is to be viewed as a competitive player in a liberalised market, then the rules of the game need to be changed to give competitors a fair chance, and to give rail a fair chance versus other transport modes (as the Greens in the Bundestag have been arguing). Innovative and nimble operators might be able to see opportunities that DB itself does not judge to be important.

As things stand, DB is neither a proper public service operator, nor is it a competitor in a liberalised market. Its half-way position most definitely does not suit the passenger, and does not encourage modal shift to railways.

The summary below comes from @grauhut on Twitter:


The future of channel tunnel long distance passenger railway services

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 13.10.18A small step forward step in the prospect of long distance high-speed train services using the channel tunnel was taken this week, with Deutsche Bahn granted a ‘Certificate B’ to operate trains through the tunnel. This has been a long time coming – in 2010 DB was talking of running trains in time for the Olympics! However this week’s decision is only step towards eventual through services from London to destinations such as Amsterdam or Geneva. Here are a series of the other hurdles to overcome.

Channel Tunnel Safety (train length)
The current Eurostar trains are 387m long, composed of a locomotive at each end, and 18 short carriages in between, and can be split in half if necessary. The idea is that in case of an accident or a fire in the tunnel, at least one door of the Eurostar trains would be close to an escape passage into the safety tunnel – and those escapes are at 250m intervals. DB proposes to run two 8-carriage ICEs coupled together through the tunnel, but passengers cannot pass between the two halves of coupled ICEs (see the coupling in a pic here). So would the ICEs get the safety permit to run? However at no time has a Eurostar ever been evacuated into the safety tunnel through one door. In short: not too complicated to solve.

Channel Tunnel Safety (distributed traction)
Current Eurostar trains have a locomotive at each end, and unpowered passenger carriages in between. Were a fire to break out in the traction or electrical components this would easily be isolated from passengers areas. ICEs, and the new Eurostar e320 sets being procured, both use another system – distributed traction – where all traction and electrical components are under the floor below the carriages where the passengers sit. This could theoretically pose a greater fire risk, and the trains not be granted permission to operate in the tunnel. However Eurostar was itself ready to procure such trains, so must have been confident of approval. In short: not too complicated to solve.

Procurement and approval delays
Both Eurostar’s new e320 trains, and the DB’s new Velaro D ICEs are essentially the same trains, just with Eurostar’s being a 16-carriage version, and DB’s an 8 carriage version. The problem is that procurement of these trains has been beset by delays – Eurostar now admits it will see its first trains only in 2015, rather than 2014 as hoped, while DB’s 16 new ICE were due to be running in 2011 but still are not approved fully, even in Germany. That’s before we come to the issue of approving them for at least Belgium and France, and possibly also Netherlands too. Approval of ICEs has been a nightmare before – current DB ICEs are only allowed to travel at 250km/h in Belgium due to concerns with flying ballast, and approval for the older ICEs on French high speed lines took 7 years to complete. Meanwhile signalling problems continue to beset the Belgium – Germany ICE connection. In short: a nightmare all round. Whatever the companies and manufacturers say, expect timetables to slip.

Security control
Bags of all passenges boarding Eurostars in London, Lille, Brussels and Paris are scanned as passengers enter a secure terminal. This is why passengers are required to arrive 30 minutes ahead of departure. While one might quibble as to whether this security paranoia is necessary, it is nevertheless here to stay. The question then arises how DB, or Eurostar for its through services, could scan bags in different stations? While it might be possible to get a secure platform arranged in Frankfurt(Main) Hbf or Genève, I cannot see how this could easily be done in Köln Hbf, Rotterdam Centraal or Amsterdam Centraal. In short: could be complicated, and may necessitate services not stopping in some stations, or disembarkation (see below).

Passport Control, and the UK Border
The UK is not in Schengen, and this issue has already posed significant problems with the Lille Loophole. The basic idea with Eurostar is that passport controls should be conducted in Paris, Lille and Brussels (so-called juxtaposed controls) and not in London, because if an illegal immigrant gets to London (before a check there), then there is no obligation for Eurostar to transport them back to France or Belgium. The result of this is that for Eurostar’s through service from Aix-en-Provence to London, all passengers are required to disembark at Lille Europe for passport checks (and presumably a security control too), making the France-London journey take 55 minutes longer than the outward trip. DB has proposed that UK border checks be conducted on board the train, but I would imagine that Eurostar also proposed this for its Aix service and was refused. In short: this is the biggest headache, and could – on its own – kill the prospect of cross border through services. But a system of passport checks on arrival would require political will to deliver.

So if you’re waiting for your ICE to Frankfurt(Main) or your Eurostar to Geneva, you might well be waiting a while.


The demise of CityNightLine

A goods train derailed in southern Jutland on Friday last week and, as can be seen from the picture from the local newspaper, it was on a single track line section between Padborg and Kolding, meaning the whole connection between Hamburg and Jutland is blocked. The wagons were dragged between 5 and 6 kilometres while off the track, meaning there is a lot of mess to clean up. It is currently thought the works will take at least one week.

All of this means that the CityNightLine night train Amsterdam+Köln/Basel/Praha – Copenhagen cannot run the full route at the moment. The solution? Run the train as far as Hamburg Hbf and throw the passengers off onto a bus – at 0356 in the morning – and then onto a ferry at Puttgarden, and then to get a regional train at Rødby, arriving in Copenhagen in who knows what state of mind in the morning.

OK, yes, shit happens on the railways, and I’m ready to be flexible and to travel during the day instead. The daytime ICE takes a different route – via the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry – so there is a train I could take. Am I allowed? NO. Rebooking my CNL ticket onto a ICE is not allowed, although both ICE and CNL trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn. I’m told that because there are replacement buses available there is no need for rebooking onto trains.

This is just the latest in a long line of experiences that seem to demonstrate to me that taking DB CityNightLine trains is just not an adequately reliable option. This autumn I was turfed off in Odense on the way to Copenhagen with the train already 90 minutes delayed, and I have been delayed 60 minutes a couple of other times. I’ve also in the past been thrown out in Dortmund and told my train would simply not go as far as Köln.

Also the CNL couchette / liegewagen carriages are old and noisy, and many CNL routes no longer have a dining car allowing you to escape the bedlam in the compartments if you need to (although the dining car still thankfully exists on the Copenhagen route). All of this however is such a stark contrast with the Hamburg – Wien night train operated by ÖBB I took a few weeks ago, with neat, modern and smart couchette cars, and a morning breakfast provided even for the cheapest ticket holders.

Now while high speed rail may be the future of public transport for journeys of up to 500km, what about for trips longer than that? A 12 hour night train, if it is reliable and comfortable, and you can arrive at your destination fresh enough to work the following day, should be a viable option. If my CityNightLine experience is anything to go by then that is simply not the case just now, and indeed seems to be getting further and further away from being the case any time soon.

(and of course the Brussels night train headache has not been sorted… but that’s another story)


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