For the return of international night trains in Belgium
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More than 15 years ago, the last night train from Belgium left Brussels station and never returned. This mode of transport, used by many generations in the 20th century and synonym with long journeys and holidays, is gaining a renewed interest among the population in Europe. Countries such as Austria have already relaunched this activity and others such as Scandinavia and France are currently discussing the subject. SNCB has no intention, either in the near or distant future, of reproposing this service. This lack of ambition and vision is distressing, especially in a society in transition seeking new alternatives to displacement. Consequently, we ask the government to play its role as SNCB's main shareholder and ask it to study seriously the possibility of reopening night trains lines, as it used to be in the past.
Here is a non-exhaustive line of the advantages of night trains:
- It is the most ecological means of transport, it is the most interesting in terms of carbon footprint per passenger than any other means of transport as well as in terms of its impact on the environment (noise pollution, artificial ground for airports, etc...).
- It does not require major infrastructure investments, unlike high-speed lines, since the network already exists: all you have to do is invest in rolling stock when necessary. Consequently, ticket prices can be much more economical than those of a high-speed train, which must make infrastructure costs profitable.
- It allows different types of travel (leisure, family, professional) and meets everyone's needs. From young people travelling as cheaply as possible to businessmen demanding comfort with private cabins connected, to families who can book a whole berth compartment for them.
- It simplifies travel: airports are often located far from cities and a bus is needed to reach city centres, which adds time and costs. Thanks to the night train, you arrive in the morning directly in the very centre of your destination city, avoiding traffic jams to get into the city (whether by shuttle bus or car). In addition, it saves one night in a hotel for tight budgets, or simply avoid sleeping in an airport when, and this is often the case, low-cost flights leave very early in the morning
- Comfort is by far the best, compared to any other means of transport: when you lie on your seat, you can read, watch a movie, relax in a position that makes you feel at home. You can also walk down the hallways, look out the window, have a drink in the bar car (if there are any) and stretch your legs easily.
- Travel time is much more profitable: by sleeping at night, you arrive available in the morning in the destination city, without the stress of missing your flight early in the morning. By taking the train the day before, there is no risk of traffic jams or "hurry" in anguish and haste.
- It has a large capacity, up to 800 people, and a good filling rate (even if some railway companies try to find there a pretext to remove them). It is economically profitable, as shown by the Austrian railway company, which decided in 2016 to take over this market when the German company abandoned it: by investing in rolling stock, the company ensured that its night lines were profitable from the first year, and it plans to buy additional trains to increase its offer. Other countries are also considering reproposing this service, something that does not seem to be at all relevant in Belgium
- It allows to travel longer distances than the TGV (up to twice as long), i.e. a radius of about 1500 km.
- It is a unique and convivial way of travelling: encounters happen easely and talking with your sleeper berth neighbour becomes very natural. This makes it possible to meet new people, something that no longer happens so often on planes, buses or even day trains. The night train is an art of travelling, it brings distances back to a human level and slows down the pace in this ever faster society. We "feel" the journey, which is a good thing because it becomes an integral part of the holidays, without deciding to go on an adventure on horseback to Milan for example! It is also a good way to reconcile busy schedules with work, school, and longer trips that should be made by day train.
For more information on night trains in Europe, do not hesitate to visit www.back-on-track.eu where you will find all the information regarding the current situation in Europe. And for Belgium: www.facebook.com/backontrackbelgium
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