- New Nightjets for Vienna.
The Austrian Railways (ÖBB) are today at the forefront of efforts to revive Europe’s night train network. But it took a dollop of courage to get there. From 2013 to 2015, night services in Europe were shut down: Sleeper services between Zurich and Madrid, Amsterdam and Germany, Denmark and Paris, and Rome and Paris were all terminated. As recently as 2016, Deutsche Bahn ended its own sleeper service.
Europe’s night train rolling stock approached an average age of well over 30 years – clearly, it seemed, the sleepers were on their way out.
That’s when the ÖBB stepped in. With ample experience of running sleepers at home – the long east-west stretch of Austria made night trains profitable even in a small country – the ÖBB took over the sleeper service of Deutsche Bahn in 2017. Since then, the number of connections expanded rapidly.
The ÖBB NightJet is now serving 26 destinations in Europe, with Brussels and Amsterdam to be added in 2020. In 2018, ÖBB night trains ferried a total of 1.6 million passengers, with numbers rising fast. Other rail companies have started to pay attention, too, as Friday for Future demonstration and “flight shame” takes hold on the continent.
For the moment, however, the ÖBB are firmly in the driving seat. The state-owned company just placed a €200 million order for 13 completely new and redesigned sleeper trains built by Siemens – the first such design overhaul in Europe in six decades.
Each new NightJet train unit will consist of three couchette coaches, two sleeping coaches and two sitting (day) coaches. Privacy is a priority, which is why the new couchette coaches will feature “mini suites” that can be closed individually – all complete with a little mirror, a window, an overhead locker and a foldable table. There will also be modernized family compartments on the couchette.
The compartments for two in the sleeping coaches will in the future also include a bathroom and toilet. Furthermore, the new night trains will have free WiFi for all passengers.
Fittingly, the new night trains will be manufactured in in Vienna’s 11th district, Simmering. The traditionally working-class district also powered the Habsburg Empire’s railway boom in the 19th century. On December 16, work on the new carriages will begin. The new sleepers are scheduled to enter service in 2022.