Friday, February 10, 2017

The Death of the European Night Trains: The Death of a Legacy

Night Train
When Hercule Poirot derived that twelve people – a self proclaimed jury had brought a murderer to justice by murdering him, overnight the love and intrigue surrounding the Orient Express grew by leaps and bounds, so when the train finally stopped being functional, the culture that it represented suffered a serious setback!

So when suddenly by 2014, the night trains in Europe were disappearing, the world sat up and took notice. A piece of history, a substantial piece of European legacy was quickly fading away and there was nothing that could be done! You could no longer board a borealis sleeper and sleep your way through the night and wake up to misty windows and a sunshine filled compartment the next morning.

But while that might be sought after still, it can hardly be denied that the night trains ferried only approximately 1.3 million voyagers. Compared to the statistics of the daytime travellers, it eventually propels it into being a particularly niche business.

And while people do in fact still adore the night trains, and the thinly veiled chances it turning to a Doylesque or Christie like intrigue, it is no secret that the service was rapidly losing money, more money than it was actually making which translated into understandable terms talks of losing millions of Euros. Even though liberalisation happened in the railways some thirty years ago, the night trains were perceived to be helpful in cross subsidising operations bringing in more profits.

However, that did not quite work out as planned. And since these night trains were also quite vulnerable to engineering possessions, it made even more difficult to continue co-operations between the various managers of infrastructure. Couple all this and with ridiculously cheap flight tickets and you have in front of you the very palpable demise of a piece of historical legacy!

Trains have played a very important role in cinematic aesthetics and still are the bearers of a romantic charm that is sweet as well as intricately somewhat primitive. There are still hopeless romantics who positively feel they will meet their soulmate on board a train as Jessie and Celine did in Before Sunrise, but that might just be a thing of the past now.

Or is it completely? 

The OBB-Austrian Railways has already provided some consolations to all the Sheldon Cooper like train enthusiasts by announcing that they would refurbish the city night line fleet and re-launch the six hitherto defunct routes. These routes would include Munich and Venice and Hamburg and Zurich. Now these new night trains have been designed to cater to the overtly enthusiastic traveller with the newly designed beds, redesigned and more hygienic bathrooms and state of the art technology.

So the next time you are in Europe, hoping to hop from one place to another, instead of sitting with no leg space in an inexpensive flight, why not spend it looking out of a glass window at the fleeting dark silhouettes outside while sipping a glass of red wine?

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