VIEWPOINT: The vision for an expansion of night train services presented by state railways DB, SBB, ÖBB and SNCF should be expanded to include other operators, says Aleš Ondrůj, Director of Communications & Sales at open access operator RegioJet.
As a leading private sector train operator, RegioJet fully supports initiatives to expand night train services. However we believe that such initiatives should be based on open access to the infrastructure, independent ticket sales channels and fair and transparent rolling stock financing options which are available to all operators which want to join.
Night trains have already been successfully operated profitably on a fully commercial open access basis in Central & Eastern Europe, and it is clear to us that a pan-European night train strategy should include more market players, not just state incumbents. This would help to make services attractive to all kinds of customers.
More than 250 000 passengers/year travel by night trains operated by RegioJet in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia, and we are planning further expansion of night train connections to countries including Poland and Ukraine.
After just six weeks of preparation, in summer 2020 we were able to launch a daily night train service from Praha to Rijeka in Croatia. This carried 65 000 passengers in three months, with an average occupancy higher than 90%. On the route from Praha to Košice in Slovakia, we operate daily night trains with an average occupancy of 85%.
RegioJet takes the full commercial risk, and our night trains have been operated profitably. We offer a full range of services, including couchette and sleeping cars, access to wi-fi, and inclusive refreshments including a small breakfast and coffee.
We have also been successfully developing our network of daytime open access inter-city services connecting the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Over 10 million passengers/year use RegioJet’s trains, and we have plans for expansion in 2021.
Over the last five years RegioJet has shown that it is possible to develop a successful and profitable night train business on key routes, with the potential for further expansion and becoming the first choice for customers.