Future of Spanish Night Trains
A press report out of Spain is questioning the future of Spanish night trains:
“The Spanish Government has suggested the possibility that the four night journeys that existed before the pandemic, linking Barcelona and Madrid by train with Galicia, Portugal and France and still suspended by Covid-19, should not be reactivated once the health crisis has ended.
This was stated by the Secretary General of Transport and Mobility, María José Rallo, during her participation in a commission of the Congress of Deputies, where she argued that Spain’s high-speed network offers very competitive travel times that call into question that night trains are an appropriate way to travel.
This position of the Executive clashes with the tendency in the rest of Europe to progressively recover the night trains that in the last decade had fallen into disuse, in order to offer an emissions-free alternative to transfers made by plane or car, and can also take advantage of the trip to sleep in a bed on the train.
In this regard, in December last year the Austrian public operator (OBB), in partnership with those of Germany (Deutsche Bahn), France (SNCF) and Switzerland (SBB), set out to push several lines covered by night trains, including one that will link Barcelona with Zurich from 2023.
However, Rallo argues that other European countries do not have the high-speed network that Spain does, which can give meaning to the momentum of these countries to relaunch night journeys. “If between Madrid and Barcelona or Seville the journey is now two and a half hours, it is unreasonable to think that night trains are competitive or attractive to users,” he added.
Added to this is also the economic aspect. Renfe recorded an annual loss of about 25 million euros for the provision of ‘hotel train’ services, even though in recent times it had already been reduced.
BOOSTING INTERNATIONAL LINES
The Secretary-General did refer to another German-driven European pact, the so-called ‘Trans Europ Express 2.0’, of which all the Member States plus Switzerland and Norway are part and which plans to launch new international services in the coming years to continue to provide alternatives to air transport, which is more polluting.
The Member who brought the issue to the Congress, Laura López, of Unidas Podemos, on the other hand, urged Rallo to expand the night journeys and increase the investment to renew the existing fleet.
Lopez argued that on a 1,000-kilometre journey the train’s savings from the plane or private vehicle can be between 70% and 90% or even become emissions-free altogether.
However, Rallo not only noted that it is not now possible to give a specific date for the resumption of night services suspended by Covid-19, but added that the Government will “see how social demand evolves”, ensuring that “night trains may not be the most appropriate way to travel” with regard to the competitiveness offered by the AVE.”
“Night trains offer an attractive travel option for longer journeys plus connections away from the High Speed networks. The four that Spain operates link the remote North West of Spain with the capital and second city and offer 2 international links to Portugal and France.”
“There are no viable alternatives by rail that offer a competitive daytime journey and I would expect alternative modes of transport to be used.”