Steps to decarbonize the European passenger transport before 2030

With a special focus on how night trains may play an important part in making it possible.

PROPOSAL by Poul Kattler, Copenhagen

European transport must reduce climate impacts according to the Commission's 2011 Transport White Paper (EC, 2011) and the baseline described by European Environment Agency in TERM 2017 (published early 2018) – EEA Report no. 22/2017.

The demand

Trains in Europe can meet the need for most passenger travels if the railways are developed.

Night trains are needed on long distances in Europe where High Speed Trains (HST) do not exist or where a HST-journey is more than four hours.

Night trains are needed at distances from 600 km and upwards where air traffic does a large part of the transportation today.

Night trains are not just A to B journeys, but a part of a 24-hour international rail network offering good local connections evenings and mornings.

The train has the advantage of offering travel at night in comfort like a moving hotel, offering a choice of levels of comfort.

The challenge

Competition between rail and other modes is very much welcomed, but on equal terms (level playing field), with same taxes and VAT. It will be even better if taxes take into account the actual climate costs. Steps in this direction must take place before 2030 and will make the following initiatives much easier to undertake.

The solution

We need an independent European body which has the responsibility to plan and initiate cross border European direct rail connections day and night.

To make this happen there is a need of:

  • A system of European Public Service Obligations (PSO's) to a number of rail connections, day and night, connecting capital cities and major cities. A minor financial contribution is needed to make an international train run as long as unfair competition with air traffic exists.
  • Establish a pool of cars to night train services, to make it possible to enter contracts of night trains.

For international day and night services we need better harmonization of rolling stock, signaling and other equipment.

It must be at least as easy to look up connections and buy through tickets as it is with airline tickets today. The quality must be supervised by the independent European body.

The timeframe

Within the next two years (at the beginning of 2021) an independent European body must be in place and the first PSO contracts be offered from then.

The first European initiated trains can then run from December 2021.

2024 A minimum network is established and running.

2024-2030 Capacity is increased and investments are made to remove bottlenecks in the technical infrastructure.

2030 Air transport within Europe is no longer needed and can come to an end.