Europe is growing together with Transdev on the railway, but the hurdles for attractive rail traffic across borders are still high, says Dr. Tobias Heinemann, Management Spokesperson of Transdev Germany.
Tobias, how complicated was it to set up the new European connection?
The bureaucratic hurdles for reviving cross-border travel by rail in Europe are still very high. Although we, as a rail service provider in the European Union, provide rail transportation in many European member states, we still cannot simply drive from Germany to Sweden or France. For example, we need a separate license as a railway operator for each individual Member State.
Does Transdev Germany support the operation of Snälltåget?
Our colleagues in Sweden take care of the operation of the train, we take care of train path orders, operate the control center and take care of all operational and safety-related processes during the train journey in Germany.
Does the cooperation with the bodies involved work?
Unfortunately, individual market participants do not always behave cooperatively. So, we had incredible difficulties in getting a spot for the train in Berlin during the day. Actually, the provision of parking spaces in the area of the railway infrastructure should be non-discriminatory in the sense of fair competition. After all, we pay for that too. When we suggested having our own ticket vending machine on the platform so that passengers could buy their tickets there, Deutsche Bahn said that we would first have to commission a “structural analysis”. Is the structure of German train stations really at risk if you want to install an additional 300-kilogram ticket vending machine on a platform?
Can’t you just buy tickets for Snälltåget at the ticket office?
So far, Deutsche Bahn has refused to include our train in their sales platforms such as the « DB Navigator » app. Although it shows the train in its information system, it does not provide any information on booking tickets. So far, this has only been possible via our own website. However, travel in Europe should also be possible on the basis of barrier-free and limitless sales. This is the only way to reduce barriers to entry and win new customers for the rail travel.
Does the operation of such a night train even pay off?
Our train is designed as a non-subsidized commercial product, which means that we deliberately forego subsidies or customer fees from the public sector. In terms of fair competition, however, it would be helpful if infrastructure charges such as train paths and station prices were harmonized across Europe on a marginal cost basis. This would massively relieve the railway companies on the cost side and at the same time lead to a significant increase in rail traffic!
Are the train path prices still too high in Germany?
The federal government has made a corresponding reduction in train paths and station prices for the non-subsidized commercial long-distance passenger rail services and rail freight transportation for the years 2020 and 2021. This happened in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such a reduction should, however, continue to be made available as an incentive for the transportation companies in the coming years, in order to enable a further shift to climate-friendly rail transport.
Infrastructure fees such as train paths and station prices should be harmonized across Europe on the basis of reference costs.
Dr. Tobias Heinemann, Management Spokesman for Transdev Germany