German Rail to Quit Overnight Sleepers.
Deutsche Bahn has announced that it’s going to phase out its overnight trains and there are plenty of us who are distressed at the news.
It does seem as though Deutsche Bahn didn’t really make much of an effort to keep the overnight trains running. The European railroads pay a “track access” fee to run their trains on the government-owned railways. Since those fees are significantly lower at night, it was less expensive—at least in that one area—to operate the overnight trains.
The railroad also removed the dining cars from those trains, some of which had trips lasting more than twelve hours—an obvious disincentive for potential passengers.
Industry observers in Europe have said that for some time Deutsche Bahn has failed to adequately promote their overnight service, the obvious result being fewer passengers and a negative balance sheet for that particular service.
Another reason cited was the lack of government support specific to the overnight sleeper trains.
To all the above, add the observation of at least one journalist who felt that “the service level onboard was deliberately run down.”
Does all this sound familiar? It should. There is no doubt that we’re seeing and hearing bits and pieces of the Deutsche Bahn scenario beginning to unfold with Amtrak’s long-distance trains: the gradual erosion of the the overall experience and even the loss of the dining car itself, as with the Silver Star “experiment”.
To give them their due, various Amtrak executives, including CEO Joe Boardman himself, continue to say that they are committed to the long-distance network. The trouble is, a lot of informed and knowledgable people don’t believe them.
You know what would help? If one of Amtrak’s top people stood up to the John Micas in Congress and said, “If you really want Amtrak to succeed, find us a dedicated source of revenue and then get the hell off our back.”