Is Spain on track to launch new night trains?

The pandemic may have put a stick in the wheels of international travel, but its negative impact on climate change is back on the agenda in Madrid and Brussels.

Reducing aviation emissions is one of the EU’s main long-term goals, with CO2 emissions from international flights increasing by 129% over the past 20 years.

Finding an alternative to short-haul flights is one of the solutions offered. In fact, during the national debate “Spain in 2050” last May, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez proposed the phasing out of domestic flights over the next 30 years.

One solution is that proposed by the German Greens: introduce night trains throughout Europe.

This EU-wide rail network has been dubbed “Nightjet”, and although it still does not exist, it is being rebuilt thanks to its supporters, France, Germany, the ‘Austria and Switzerland.

The objective is to first unite 13 cities – including Barcelona – through a network of inexpensive, low-emission sleeper trains called Euro Night Sprinters.

As the German Greens map below shows, this overnight network would eventually expand and connect up to 200 European cities via 40 services.

Imagine being able to take an overnight train from Spain and wake up in another part of Europe. Map: Green Party of Germany

Iñigo Errejón, leader of the leftist party Más País, is the main political supporter of night trains in Spain.

His party is currently negotiating with the Spanish Ministry of Finance the opportunity to allocate 210 million euros from the country’s 2022 national budget to the launch of five sleeper trains in, from or to Spain.

These would be Madrid-Galicia, Barcelona-Galicia, Madrid-Barcelona-Paris, Madrid-Lisbon and Algeciras-Cerbère (on the French border with Spain).

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If approved, that would see Spain follow a similar trend to France, where Macron’s government has banned night flights if there are nighttime rail alternatives, and two night train services (Paris- Nice and Paris-Hendaye) have been launched.

It should be noted that before the pandemic Spain only had two national night train services from Madrid to Ferrol and Barcelona to Vigo (Galicia), neither of which is currently operational. The sleeper train that connected Madrid and Barcelona to Paris was canceled in 2013 and the Madrid-Lisbon sleeper service has not restarted since its suspension in 2020.

The realization of Mas País plans could depend on how much pressure the EU wants to put on Spain after allocating 140 billion euros in the country as part of its Covid recovery fund.

Otherwise, Sánchez’s 2050 plans for a green trip to Spain (and a meatless diet, but that’s another story) seem distant.

Importantly, overnight train services will also need to be affordable for passengers if Spain and its national rail supplier Renfe are to be able to compete with the low-cost airlines that offer city breaks in Europe, often at lower prices. much better prices than air travel. train in Spain.