While Europe resurrects the night train, Spain has decided to let it die little by little

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Reducing polluting emissions in European countries is not an exclusive task for combustion vehicles. Aviation has long been in the spotlight and the great beneficiary may be the train. At least in Europe, where they are betting on returning to the Old Continent a network of night trains. In Spain, however, he is already in a coma and the forecasts are not good.

10 lines in 2030. The last to speak of a clear commitment to the night train was Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, the French transport minister. The goal is for the neighboring country to have operations in 2030 until 10 night train lines to structure the south of France and give way to five of them from Paris, some even rescuing old international routes. San Sebastián, Barcelona, ​​Geneva, Nice or Strasbourg are some of the enclaves necessary to promote the use of the night train between France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland or Germany.

Austria, real promoters. The French project is not the only one that has been invested in in recent years. Austria has been promoting the night train for five years, which, although niche, continues to grow year after year. In fact, in 2016 the ÖBB company bought all sleeper trains that Deustche Bahn had put aside and revived 26 night lines that now link cities like Zurich and Hamburg, Vienna and Rome or Venice and Munich. Almost by contagion, different countries have jumped on the bandwagon and Amsterdam or Copenhagen are also applying to unite their cities with Paris. Quite the opposite of what happened just a few years ago, when dismantling night train lines it was the norm.

The European push. In addition to the initiatives of each country, the European Commission is also involved in the night train recovery as a tool to curb polluting emissions from the continent. From France they point out that the plane is up to 43 times more polluting than the train. In addition, this medium hardly needs between 70 and 90% of the energy necessary to make the same journey by plane.

The eyes of the European Union have been focused in recent times on aviation due to its high polluting rates. And yet it needs to keep ghost flights to be able to continue operating in the Old Continent by the own community norms. Quite a paradox that, obviously, collides head-on with the environmental objectives of the institutions.

Meanwhile, in Spain… In Spain the situation is very different. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they only kept four lines with night train In our country. It was what was known as Trenhotel and linked Madrid with Ferrol (passing through A Coruña) and Lisbon or Barcelona with Vigo (also passing through A Coruña).

Little by little, the activity on the Spanish railways has been growing but these four night lines (which were gradually losing passengers) have not been reopened and the Spanish bet is focusing on low-cost trips and an increase in high speed.

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question of priorities. The night train cannot take off in Spain without significant support from the administration which, as we have seen, prefers to bet on other types of routes. France, unlike Spain, is abandoning its TVG high-speed network in favor of long distance regional and overnight toursmodernizing these lines.

But there is an added problem, in Spain the train ceased to be a priority a long time ago, as the above map demonstrates. And low-cost flights do not give this means of transport an option to be revitalized. Or at least their night trains. Competitively, it is impossible for the Barcelona-A Coruña line, which lasts more than 13 hours, to attract a public that can find flights for 33 euros. The same happens between Madrid and A Coruña. The prices of the shortest trip are around 70 euros. On the same day, it is easy to find flights at 80 euros and that take three times less. With these data, it is difficult to ask citizens to bet on the train and join the movement “fligskam”.

Map Night Trains

Penalize the polluter. It is a problem similar to what happens with the electric car. Where these types of vehicles are most successful is where they have greater purchasing power, the tax benefits are attractive, there is a sufficient recharging network and, above all, the purchase of a combustion car and spending on gasoline are penalized. Transferred to the plane-train binomial, as long as the former is not punished with taxes that raise its cost significantly above the train, the latter will continue to be the least attractive option as journey times increase.

Reducing polluting emissions in European countries is not an exclusive task for combustion vehicles. Aviation has long been in the…

Reducing polluting emissions in European countries is not an exclusive task for combustion vehicles. Aviation has long been in the…

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