Rail passengers in Europe-wide protest against night train cuts

时间:2019-11-16  作者:庆坨  来源:电子艺游网址  浏览:54次  评论:143条

Thousands of rail travellers are gathering across for a weekend of protests to highlight the drastic phasing out of night trains across the continent.

From Geneva to Madrid and Copenhagen to Vienna, train enthusiasts will hope to put pressure on European rail providers and politicians to reverse a decision they say will annihilate arguably one of the most efficient, environmentally sustainable and convenient ways of travelling.

Protests kicked off on Friday morning in Geneva, where demonstrators turned up in their pyjamas at 7am, and will continue throughout the weekend at the central stations of Madrid, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Dortmund, Copenhagen, Odense, Basel and Hamburg. The demonstrations are due to culminate in Berne on Sunday in a late-night pyjama party to which protesters will bring camp beds.

Campaign group is calling for more investment in a rail network that it says in the past epitomised the best of the European project – efficient, accessible, cross-border traffic – but has been neglected by rail operators who blame the rise of low-budget airlines for a fall-off in traffic.

Night-time services cancelled last year included those running from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, Basel to Copenhagen, and Paris to Berlin, with more to follow.

Campaigners say the companies have failed to invest in the night services to offer an attractive alternative to flying. Features such as restaurant cars and comfortable sleeping quarters for all budgets have been cut.

The Caledonian (London to Scotland) and the Night Riviera (London to Penzance) sleeper services, often praised for bringing some of the old-time romance back to rail travel in Britain, as well as Chinese and Russian rail operators, who have invested heavily in their night train services in recent years, are cited by campaigners as the role models for how European operators might make sleeper trains attractive alternatives to air travel.

Additional challenges include the fact that sleeper carriages, once standardised and able to switch between multiple track gauges, are now largely incompatible with each other.

Campaigners bemoan the lack of political will to scrap the VAT that applies to international ticket sales, from which airline operators are excluded, which rail services say puts them at an unfair disadvantage.

Bernhard Knierim, from (Train for All), who is due to take part in Friday evening’s protest in Berlin, said the EU did little to encourage joined-up, cross-border rail travel across the continent.

“Their ideology is that all train companies should be in competition with each other, so none of them are incentivised to work together,” he said. “And within the companies themselves, night trains are seen as a niche market, rather than part of the whole integrated rail network.”

Joachim Holstein, 53, who has worked as a night train conductor for the German state railway Deutsche Bahn for 20 years, blamed a lack of joined-up thinking between the various state railway companies for the night-train’s demise.

“It is astonishing that it was easier to travel in eastern and western Europe 40 years ago, despite the cold war, with all the visas and border controls involved, than it is today, with Schengen, and the lack of visas required,” Holstein, who will take part in a protest in Hamburg on Sunday, said.

“You used to be able to undertake train journeys of 2,000 kilometres without changing trains, from Munich to Athens, Warsaw to Brussels, Copenhagen to Paris. Now that is impossible and it’s getting ever more difficult to cross Europe by train, which seems so contrary to what Europe stands for.”

On his regular routes from Hamburg to Zurich and Munich, Holstein said he regularly encountered passengers for whom flying was out of the question. “Some are scared to fly, others have health conditions and many just find it far more relaxing to get on a train in the centre of a city in the evening, and arrive refreshed at their destination the following day.”

Holstein, a campaigner with Back on Track, said the loss of night trains would be most keenly felt in the summer of 2020 when the Uefa European football championship is due to be held in 13 European cities. “Night trains would be the most efficient, environmentally friendly way to transport the fans from Bilbao to Budapest, but that just isn’t possible today,” he said.