Swedish report about night trains: Positive but far from a turnkey solution from a Danish perspective

Observations related to the Swedish Transport Administration’s report “Night train traffic to Europe” made to Danish politicians and railway authorities

Then came the interim report, which we, also from Denmark, have been waiting for. The report provides a good basis for both Danish and Danish-Swedish dialogue on how we can best get started with introducing night trains to the continent.

Our inquiry is arranged as follows:

  1. What does the report say?
  2. What do we recommend to Danish politicians?
  3. What recommendations will we give to the Swedish Transport Administration for improvements to the final report?

1. What does the report say?

The Swedish state will as soon as possible (about 2022) launch a public supported night train from Malmö to Cologne or Achen. In the long term, the night train is expected to be extended to Brussels, where there are several opportunities for further connections to Europe, including Paris and London. Over a four-year period, there is a willingness to support deficit of up to SEK 60 million per year, after which it should preferably be possible to run cheaper or without support. As the train also includes passengers from Copenhagen H., Odense and Kolding, the Swedes hope for a larger passenger base and even financial support from Denmark.

Assuming that the train runs with 2/3 occupancy, the estimated need for support will be a maximum of DKK 290 per sold ticket out of a fare of perhaps DKK 850. For good reasons, one does not know what the final need for financing after tenders and negotiations are made. It must be compared with a permanent subsidy for duty-free aircraft fuel of at least DKK 275 at the same trip *.

The train must carry cars sleeping, couchette and some kind of comfortable seating, and it is the idea that the operator who gets the job will have to provide both wagons and locomotives. It is estimated that there will be interested operators.

The train will leave Malmö at. 19:40, pick up passengers at Copenhagen Central Station and depart from there at 20:40 and be in Cologne at. 6:00, from where there are good connections to Brussels, Paris, and south to Basel. These times are of course only illustrative. Departure from Malmö (and not from Copenhagen) is imagined for the simple reason that Swedish support can only be addressed if the train starts in Sweden. According to the report, a lot more passengers are expected to take the train from Denmark than from Sweden.

Later it is also envisaged to establish a night train from Stockholm to Hamburg. Such a train will pass Denmark in the middle of the night. Here, the Swedes are thinking of stopping at Kastrup Airport at 2:15.

2. What do we recommend to Danish politicians?

As the intended “Swedish” train largely services Danish passengers to an important destination (Cologne), we can only support the initiative from Back-on-Track, Denmark.

However, the Government and the Parliament should be aware that there may be more night train solutions from Copenhagen than the proposed “Swedish” alone. A train combination Copenhagen – Basel / Zurich and Munich two hours earlier in the evening can be very profitable for two reasons: Switzerland and Munich have been the best-selling routes in the old night train models, and such a train can even pick up passengers in Hamburg 23:40 and relieve the Austrian night trains, which run earlier in the evening from Hamburg precisely to Zurich and Munich, but which are already congested and already difficult to book.

The Austrian company ÖBB can with DSB’s new EB locomotives and DSB personnel also run such a train combination from 2022, probably only with a deficit guarantee through DSB’s ordinary operating contract.

The funds for support for night trains, which a fiscal law majority recently suggested for this purpose, may very well prove to be able to “hit two flies with a bang”, so that the Danes can access quality night train service to both Cologne, Basel / Zurich and Munich from 2022. Hereby we are ‘back’ to the situation after the opening of the Great Belt Bridge in 1997, when such trains were running.

The Ministry of Transport and DSB should therefore play the cards in such a way that more solutions can be conceived and with more effect for Denmark than only that proposed by the Swedish Transport Administration.

3. What recommendations will we give to the Swedish Transport Administration for improvements to the final report?

It is mentioned in the Swedish Transport Administration’s report that carriages for night trains are a limited resource in Europe. For train sets for daytime use, it is a recognized method of procurement that an operator can rent, lease or otherwise access rolling stock owned by the state or a special corporation under state (or intergovernmental) control. This promotes the possibility of getting operators to sign up for the contracts, also with short contracts (eg four years like the Swedish suggested) without a risk investing in wagons that have a lifespan of more than 25 years. Otherwise, the field is limited by willing and possible operators.

Both Norwegian and Swedish wagons for night trains are very old and in need of replacement. A Norwegian report has recently pointed this out. In any case, these wagons cannot drive to Denmark and the continent for technical reasons. In its final report, the Swedish Transport Administration should include the opportunity – as soon as possible – to establish a Scandinavian pool of uniform new carriages for night trains, which can be used both in Sweden and Norway, between the Scandinavian countries and to continental Europe.

In the report, the Swedish Transport Administration is unclear about how seating cars should be included in the future night trains or may not be included at all. It is the experience of other night trains in Europe that seated cars are important in the range of service and price categories in such trains. It must be clarified in the final report that several types of seated cars can be included in the forthcoming offer. Bicycle inclusion and a form of catering in the night trains should also be included.

The Swedish Transport Administration should include in the final report the possibility that night trains from Copenhagen to the continent also may be established. Since there are good direct trains from both Stockholm and Gothenburg to departures from Copenhagen, many Swedish travelers will find more connections than just to Cologne interesting, even if there is a train change in Copenhagen, for example for direct night trains to Basel / Zurich and Munich.


With best regards

Poul Kattler and Gunnar Olesen

On behalf of Back-on-Track, Denmark


Back-on-Track, Denmark is us with the 65.000 signatures for night trains. We are anchored in NOAH (Friends of the Earth, Denmark), the Council for Sustainable Traffic and Renewable Energy. We work with colleagues in the other EU countries to improve night trains in Europe as a way to reduce climate-harmful flights.


Find the Swedish Transport Administration’s report and attachments here:

* Boing 737 with 3.5 l jetfuel / 100 km / passenger * 700 km * 7.5 DKK * occupancy rate 0.67