New night trains between the Netherlands and other countries must be possible without subsidy. “I think this is possible,” said outgoing State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure) at the first arrival of the new sleeper train from Vienna.
For the so-called Nightjet, which runs daily from Amsterdam to the Austrian capital and Innsbruck from Tuesday, the government made a further 6,7 million euros in subsidy available. But according to Van Veldhoven, this should be seen as a pilot. The minister assumes that there is a demand for more international train connections that do not necessarily have to be operated by NS. She would rather not allocate a subsidy for the next night train.
Nevertheless, it is still questionable whether the costs of night trains can be covered by ticket sales. When the old CityNightLine trains from the Netherlands were discontinued at the end of 2016, they were actually not used that much anymore. However, the State Secretary thinks it is important that Dutch people choose the train more often when traveling abroad in the coming years, especially because it is much more sustainable than short flights by plane.
The Dutch Railways (NS) is working on the new night train together with the Austrian rail operator ÖBB, which has recently been focusing strongly on new cross-border night connections. If it is up to NS top woman Marjan Rintel, the Netherlands will soon also get more destinations. The ambition is to set up a night train between the Netherlands and Zurich later this year, but it is not yet certain whether this will work. Rintel does not want to answer questions about the need for a subsidy for any subsequent night trains.
According to the Dutch Railways, the priority for international train travel should not be on the night network, but on a fast train to Berlin. Behind the scenes, a plan for this is being worked on with rail manager ProRail. But before it is possible to train from Amsterdam to Berlin in about four hours, it will probably be quite a few years. Not only does such a project cost a lot of money, it also requires good coordination with Germany.
Van Veldhoven understands that large investments are required to promote international train travel in Europe. According to her, the subject is also on the agenda in Brussels. But before deciding on major projects, she finds it important that, for example, the ticket systems of countries are better attuned to each other. She says she will send a list to the Lower House with train cases about which, she believes, even better agreements can be made in Europe.
The Dutch government is also in talks with the Dutch Railways and other public transport companies about extra support to help them out of the corona crisis. The Dutch Railways had previously indicated that it needed a lot of extra money. Van Veldhoven hopes that there will be more clarity about a safety net before the summer.