Austrian night trains between Amsterdam, Brussels, and Vienna
Austrian public railway company, ÖBB, plans to start operating a night train between Brussels and Vienna as early as January. That’s what CEO Andreas Matthä said in an interview with the daily Wiener Zeitung on Sunday. A year later, a direct night connection to Amsterdam would be on the agenda. The Austrians also want to add the Italian Trieste to the list.
At the moment, the Austrian railways already have several night trains, called Nightjets, to various destinations in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. In Austria, the train is not a joke: the federal government recently decided that ÖBB received an additional 11 billion euros to improve the offer for the traveler.
The ÖBB has already posted a photo of the Atomium on Twitter with a welcome message, without giving more details on the frequency, precise itinerary, and fares of the new line. By car, it takes ten to eleven hours to drive the 1.100 km that separate Belgium from Austria. If you fly to Austria from Brussels, it takes just under two hours – add three to four hours for waiting and connecting to the city center – and about 200 euros on a regular airline.
As an indication, a one-way train ticket from Vienna to Cologne takes 11h30 and costs 119 euros with a bunk. Because the costs are quite high – we’re talking about at least 250 euros back and forth, although you save a hotel night – the Dutch NS railways have already made it clear that subsidies seem inevitable to keep the ticket affordable.
After buying the seven lines of the night network of the Deutsche Bundesbahn, the German railways, the small Austrian company has embarked with determination on this niche market, which attracts more and more customers.
The night train to Trieste, for example, is scheduled for 2021, as is a new link to Amsterdam, developed in collaboration with NS Railways – this would involve three journeys a week. In doing so, ÖBB is extending its night network to Western Europe, whereas it was previously concentrated on the center (Düsseldorf and Cologne), the north (Hamburg) and the south (Rome).
The name Nightjet is appropriate because it is the intention that international night trains will take over a part of the air traffic in Europe (up to a distance of 1.500 km), next to the high-speed train during the day (up to 750 km).
ÖBB’s Nightjet branch is profitable, unlike the Italian company, Thello, which operates between Paris and Venice. In Sweden, Norway, and Finland, there is also an increasing interest in night trains. In these countries, railway companies have reduced ticket prices and improved passenger reception.
There have been no night train connections from Belgium since the early 2000s. At the time, it was still possible to reach the southwest of France, the French Riviera, or Milan. But competition from low-cost airlines that benefit from considerable public subsidies and the lack of interest from public rail operators have contributed to abolishing these connections.
New Silk Road
At present, ÖBB operates 18 lines in its own name, plus seven others with other partner companies. In 2018, it attracted 1,4 million travelers, a figure that continues to increase. The company has also placed an order for new rolling stock to complete its fleet.
The ÖBB has also set itself the objective of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 and is collaborating in the development of the ‘New Silk Road’ railway line to China. Both Vienna and Budapest (Hungary) could become their destination stations, Andreas Matthä said. The company will need to hire 10.000 employees in the coming years.