Everyone loves the night train, says European Commissioner Adina Vaillant (Transport). “This is the new slogan.” But, Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Green Deal, responded that an international train should be as comfortable, fast and cheap as an airplane.
To make this possible, the commission presented in Strasbourg on Tuesday Measures to improve international rail travel in Europe. The train should replace short journeys. Timmermans: “So by train from Amsterdam to Brussels, not by plane.” For example, emissions from European transport should fall sharply.
UNHCR wants train passengers to be able to buy tickets more easily through the new central reservation system. International timetables are being improved, 15 new international lines are being built and the Commission is considering eliminating value-added tax on international train tickets. Rail freight transport is also encouraged.
The Commission allocates billions of dollars to rail actions, from loans and grants to co-financing pilot projects. For new sleeper cars, the European Investment Bank 8.7 billion euros fund.
The plans are part of the European Union’s strategy for sustainable and smart mobility that Timmermans and Vălean presented a year ago. The goal is for the EU transport sector to emit 90 per cent fewer harmful gases by 2050.
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According to the two, Europe’s international rail network is not being used efficiently. Sometimes only 7 percent of European travelers cross the border. Rail transport accounts for just 0.4 percent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Night train is an option to compete with cheap tickets for companies like Ryanair and esayJet. The Committee undertakes to work towards a fairer relationship (“equal opportunity”) between the plane and the train. For example, they want a kerosene tax and airlines should use more carbon dioxide2Buying rights.
Our relationship with the Ruhr region should benefit
coral rentel President and Director NS
Train traffic across the EU high-speed network should double in 2030 and triple in 2050. Travel shorter than 500 km should be climate-neutral by 2030. This is only possible by train; Airbus expects its first hydrogen-powered aircraft to be ready for use by 2035.
Read also the report on NightJet to Vienna: Night train to Vienna: Far from flying in disgrace
Nightgate from Amsterdam to Zurich, which has been in operation since Sunday, outlines EU policy, but also shows how vulnerable rails can sometimes be. Tuesday it was announced Old railway dams in the Netherlands are in danger of collapsing. A train to Zurich is now not allowed to drive faster than 100 kilometers per hour on certain roads. That should be 130 km/h, while the Commission wants a speed of at least 160 km/h on the main European rail network (TEN-T).
Commenting on the European plans, Marjane Rentel, CEO of NS, said: “It is very good that the Commission is working to invest in and improve passenger transport that has been environmentally friendly for years. In particular, our association with the Ruhr area – which has been identified – should benefit from this. As the main link in Europe. We want to connect Amsterdam, Utrecht and Arnhem more often and faster to Cologne and Dusseldorf and from there to Berlin.”
Martin de Zieu of Greenpeace Netherlands: “We are very pleased that the European Union has listened to the call to make international rail travel better and easier. There is a really urgent need and it is a good step towards replacing polluting short journeys. For too long, governments have prioritized more asphalt. And I preferred polluted aviation. It’s time to invest in transportation that benefits people while also tackling the climate crisis.” Improvement of the European rail network must go hand in hand with a ban on short journeys, according to Greenpeace.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of December 15, 2021
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