Ditch the plane, take the night train

People who travel by train leave a carbon footprint 50 times smaller than those who travel by plane. Recognizing how dramatic the difference is, many Europeans now prefer to take the train rather than fly the friendly skies. Nightjet, a service of ÖBB (Austrian Railways), is increasing the appeal of train travel by adding 33 new custom-designed trains, each with 7 cars, to transport travelers to multiple destinations in Europe in complete privacy and with improved comfort levels.

Each Nightjet is capable of carrying 254 passengers at speeds of up to 230 km/h (143 mph) to destinations including Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, Milan, Rome and Zurich. The service will begin with trains to Italy next summer and the full rollout is expected to be completed by 2025.

“A trip with a NightJet is 50 times more climate-friendly than taking the same trip by plane,” Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler told reporters last week. ÖBB has invested $700 million in the company.

Nightjet trains will have two cars with open seats, two sleeping cars with compartments for two people and three sleeping cars with a mix of suites for four people, as well as mini cabins for individual travellers. All sleeping compartments are equipped with their own toilets and showers.

Image courtesy of Nightjet

Storage for bicycles, skis and snowboards will also be available. Each new Nightjet will also feature a modern private compartment with special access features for people with disabilities. For a virtual tour of the new Nightjet trains, follow this link.

Nightjet says passengers can expect a variety of technical innovations. Free Wi-Fi on board will allow travelers to access the ÖBB Railnet onboard portal to stream movies, play video games or read a range of digital newspapers and magazines such as Clean Technica.

A modern passenger information system keeps passengers up to date with the latest travel information. In addition to conventional electrical outlets, the new Nightjet also offers USB charging options and an inductive charging station for a wide range of electronic devices. New windows that allow better reception improve network operation and provide a more stable connection for mobile phones.

Each compartment has a control panel with various comfort functions, such as interior lighting control and a call button for personnel service. In addition, the compartments are equipped with an electronic access system using NFC cards and all cars on the train have video surveillance to further improve security.

According The Guardian, the Nightjet concept finds the support of the German Green Party, in power since the end of last year. The Greens proposed an extensive night train network that would serve 40 European destinations, including Warsaw, Amsterdam, Vienna, Bordeaux, Munich, Barcelona and London.

Thorns among the roses

Nightjet promises fares of between €50 and £100 which would be competitive with European airfares, but some observers say The Guardian the poor infrastructure of many European railways may stem some of the rose bloom. The remnants of the Covid pandemic and problems finding workers have led to massive delays this summer, which could turn Nightjet into the Next Day Jet. Obviously, this would make customers unhappy.

Even the war in Ukraine is impacting train travel in Europe, as coal-fired trains bringing fuel to thermal power stations take priority over train routes, forcing passenger trains to wait in sidings.

“Compared to day trains, night trains remain a niche product,” Philipp Kosok, a public transport expert at German think tank Agora, told the Austrian daily. Standard. “If the will is there, there is a whole potential to develop them.” But he said night trains were at a disadvantage, “facing higher taxes than air travel and often hampered by aging infrastructure and insufficient capacity”.

Takeaway meals

The prospect of traveling in luxurious comfort, free to move at will instead of being crushed into a narrow aluminum tube, and doing so in a way that reduces carbon emissions is certainly appealing. But is it realistic? “We will see,” said the Zen master.


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