There is another night train between Berlin and Paris. However, the joy among rail fans was short-lived given the prices. And a lot else still needs to happen for night trains to make a breakthrough.
Fall asleep in Berlin, wake up in Paris and save CO2 at the same time – transport experts have long been calling for more night trains through Europe as an alternative to flying on long journeys. The Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) in particular are pushing the issue forward and are putting more and more connections on the tracks.
This Monday, for the first time in almost ten years, a night train will run between the two European capitals. He is to be seen off at Berlin Central Station in the evening by, among others, the head of Deutsche Bahn, Richard Lutz, and Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP). One half of the train goes to Brussels, the other half to Paris.
Cooperation between several railway companies
The connection is operated by ÖBB in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, the French state railway SNCF and the Belgian NMBS/SNCB. The vehicles of the so-called Nightjet come from the Austrian company. They are staffed and distributed by all railway companies involved. The night train will now run between Berlin, Paris and Brussels three times a week. From October 2024, the connection is planned daily. Passengers will arrive at Paris Est train station.
After Deutsche Bahn discontinued its night train service in Germany in 2014, it has rediscovered the topic in recent years – driven by the discussion about the role of night trains in the transport transition and by pressure from competitors. More and more other companies have recently been filling Deutsche Bahn’s night train gap: the Dutch European Sleeper started a connection between Berlin and Amsterdam this year. The Swedish railway company SJ has been offering a night train between Hamburg and Stockholm since spring.
No night train renaissance on the railway
When it comes to its own offerings, the railway now only cooperates with foreign railway companies such as ÖBB. She doesn’t use her own moves yet. Critics therefore don’t want to hear about a renaissance of night trains on the railways. “In the short term, this is hardly possible,” says Dirk Flege, managing director of the pro-rail Alliance Alliance. “Even if DB were to decide today to re-enter the market with new vehicles – which the Pro-Rail Alliance would very much welcome – it would take at least four to five years before the offer would ultimately be on the rails.”
But Flege sees a need to catch up not only on the railways, but also across Europe. “The new night train connection from Berlin to Paris and Brussels is the answer to the constantly growing demand from travelers,” he says. “We would also like to see attractive direct night train connections from Germany to Great Britain, Spain and southern France to make the journey even more comfortable.”
Comparatively high prices
The relatively high prices are probably a setback for fans of the new night train between Berlin and Paris. The cheapest offer for a trip at the beginning of January currently costs just under 45 euros per person, but for a seat including reservation in second class. In the couchette cars, prices range from just under 100 euros (berth in a compartment with six couchettes) to more than 600 euros (private couchette compartment). In a sleeping car with beds, a journey costs between 165 euros for a journey in a compartment with three beds up to 475 euros for a compartment with one bed (all prices as of December 11th).
This might be too expensive, and not just for many families. “It’s certainly not a bargain, it’s not for people who want to travel very cheaply,” says Detlef Neuß from the Pro Bahn passenger association. The offer is aimed primarily at business travelers. “The price is not the main focus, but rather convenience and relaxed travel.” Nevertheless, the new connection is a step in the right direction, emphasizes Neuß. More alternatives to air travel by rail are needed.