Following the decision to launch a Night Train Working Group within the UIC Intercity and High-Speed Committee at the end of June, UIC hosted the group’s first meeting online on 9 September 2021.
Attended by around 25 participants, members shared their night train activities. The aim of the meeting was to appoint a group chair and vice-chair(s), to discuss the main goals, the key issues and challenges specific to these operations to be addressed and set in the roadmap of the working group.
Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director, and Philippe Lorand, Senior Advisor for Intercity Trains and High-Speed Rail, reminded the meeting about the importance of this new group and why night trains could have an important role to play in the future of passenger travel, particularly taking into account environmental concerns and the shift from air to rail for long-distance journeys.
The participants listened to a number of interesting presentations on night train activities delivered by the following members:
- ÖBB (Austria), represented by Sven Poellauer, highlighted ÖBB’s NightJet services which provide a new category of comfort for customers, the relevance of environmental issues when talking about night trains, and the importance of renewing connections from Europe’s old night train network.
- MÁV-START (Hungary), represented by Dr Péter Sinka, gave details of the company’s current night train network, its plans to develop on-board services and acquire new coaches, and the need to regain “lost” destinations.
- Rail Baltica (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) represented by Jean-Marc Galimont, spoke about developments and extensions to the EU rail corridor network, details of current night train services and its ambition to provide a comfortable night train service, adapted to all types of travellers.
The meeting was reminded of the main goals of this UIC Night Train Working Group, which are to:
- Build a partnership bringing together the night trains players
- Implement standards for coaches and sales systems
- Strengthen the economic situation of night trains
- Specify path fees/track access charges for night trains
Moreover, this group’s work will be closely coordinated with the Night Train Working Group of the Passenger Services Group (PSG) in charge of defining the Special Conditions of International Carriage (SCIC).
The group discussed the various issues and challenges of this new Night Train group, in particular with regard to standardisation, profitability, renewing contacts and connections within the night train network, improving the coordination of paths and timetabling between the different countries, as well as providing support and guidelines on best practice to ensure successful night train services and to make night trains attractive for customers.
UIC as the natural forum for cooperation, dialogue and sharing best practice among its members, is the appropriate body for discussing these topics, taking into account its neutrality and the large number of members involved.
Regarding the appointment of the working group chair and vice-chair(s), the meeting unanimously appointed Sven Poellauer, Head of PR, Marketing and Public Affairs at ÖBB, to be Chair of the Night Train Working Group. Marc Guigon and Philippe Lorand encouraged participants to apply for the vice-chair position or to contact them directly if they wished to be more involved in the group’s activities.
Finally, the meeting discussed the idea of producing a dedicated booklet listing night train services and maps in order to have a good overview of the network. It was proposed that UIC’s Kenta Takashima, currently in charge of the UIC High-Speed Rail Atlas, would be the contact for this project.
The next meeting is planned to take place online on 28 October 2021.