Client: BMK, Mobility of the Future, 17th call for tenders, 2021
Duration: June 2022 until May 2024 (24 months)
Project partners: Fachhochschule St. Pölten GmbH; FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft mbH; Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften School of Engineering; HILFSGEMEINSCHAFT DER BLINDEN UND SEHSCHWACHEN ÖSTERREICHS; Molinari Rail GmbH; moodley industrial design GmbH; Siemens Mobility Austria GmbH; Dr. Elisabeth Oberzaucher
LOI partners: ÖBB Personenverkehr AG; DB Fernverkehr AG; Transport for Greater Manchester; Verein FAHRGAST; Fahrgastverband PRO BAHN; Pro Bahn Schweiz; Stadler Rheintal AG; Verband der Bahnindustrie; apt-Design; Andreas Vogler Studio; nose design experience; Deutsches Zentrum für Raum und Luftfahrt e.V.; Aston University Birmingham
Project description: As a result of the stricter climate protection targets in the European Union and the growing awareness of sustainable mobility, night trains are currently experiencing a renaissance. Night trains are also popular with people who are afraid of flying, for comfort reasons or as a result of the Covid pandemic because of the better privacy or the assumed lower risk of infection compared to air travel. Travellers on night trains, as in day travel, are similarly heterogeneous in terms of travel purposes and associated requirements. There are families, private travellers, business travellers, very price-sensitive and conversely very comfort-conscious travellers. This diversity also leads to a required variety of services and equipment.
Compared to air travel, night trains have the potential to provide better access to the area. Whereas flights are usually point-to-point connections between larger cities, for which corresponding pre- or on-carriage services are required from or to the region, with suitable operational planning, night trains can also offer connections without transfers in the pre- and on-carriage stages. In addition, there are concepts for high-speed overnight trains in Europe that allow distances of up to 2000 km in attractive travel times.
However, a major challenge for night trains is economical operation. In conventional night trains, the achievable occupancy density is lower than in day trains. As a rule, seats are only allocated once for the entire run of the train. The personnel costs, and in some cases, the operational costs are often higher than for day trains. In addition, night trains are usually not in operation during the day but stand “unproductively” in stabling facilities. As a result, many night trains do not cover their costs and have to be subsidised.
Internationally, there are examples of night trains that are also used in daytime traffic. However, in most cases these are connections used for tourism that offer routes lasting several days. In some cases, routes are also served in scheduled traffic with correspondingly high demand, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway or also night trains of the Russian Railways in European long-distance runs. Compartment coaches are often used, which offer seats in daytime traffic and couchettes in night-time traffic.
An established vehicle concept that is suitable for both day and night trains, but has never really been used in pure daytime traffic, are classic couchettes in Europe with an occupancy of four or six persons per compartment. Here the couches can be folded up at off-peak times and up to six people can sit in the compartment. As a rule, however, the seating comfort does not correspond to that of today’s long-distance coaches.
The aim of the project is to develop concepts that increase the operating spectrum of night trains by making their vehicle equipment also suitable for daytime operation. This will make long runs with a better distribution function in the pre- and on-carriage just as possible as operations in exclusively daytime traffic, which will avoid inefficient downtimes. In order to be able to develop appropriate concepts, the following work steps will be carried out:
1) Rail benchmark: Global night trains will be examined with regard to their range of use, their equipment features and their economic efficiency. Likewise, equipment elements of day trains that enable multiple and flexible use will be surveyed.
2) Benchmark other means of transport: Other means of transport, which are also used at night and during the day, will be examined. These include passenger transport services such as long-haul aircraft (especially concepts in the higher booking classes), coaches or cruise ships. However, concepts that serve personnel or a purely private purpose will also be examined, such as driver cabins in trucks, personnel cabins in cargo shipping or equipment for mobile homes.
3) Benchmark room furnishings: Systems that enable living in very cramped conditions will be investigated. These include mini-apartments and tiny houses or low-cost hotels with mini-suites.
4) Passenger requirements and demand assessment: Based on an international benchmark and existing studies as well as expert knowledge in the consortium, supplemented by contextual customer interviews, clear requirements from the perspective of passengers will be defined for corresponding trains. These requirements also include the important issue of accessibility. At the same time, the demand for corresponding train concepts will be estimated.
5) Operator requirements: Based on expert interviews with experienced service planners and strategy developers of European railway companies, the requirements of potential operators of innovative day/night trains will be identified. In particular, existing knowledge on relevant market segments and marketable target costs per seat/sleeper will be collected. Another aspect is the priority design of the concept for new vehicles or as a conversion strategy for existing vehicles.
6) Possible areas of operation for day/night trains in Europe will be defined. This involves potential (HSR) long-distance runs and pure daytime services. It will be worked out whether the more comfortably equipped night trains can also be used sensibly for selected routes in pure daytime traffic and whether there is a demand from comfort-conscious and less price-sensitive people. For example, there may be a need for private cabins for business travellers, families or comfort-conscious private travellers for day journeys lasting several hours.
7) Technical, legal and operational requirements: All requirements necessary for implementation and appropriate operation will be defined.
8) Concept development: From the diverse information of the benchmarks, the requirements of potential passengers and operators as well as the technical-legal-operational requirements, possible concepts will be developed in combination with innovative design ideas in the consortium, which correspond to the operational spectrum of night and day trains and also take into account the diverse requirements of passengers in the best possible way. Concepts are being developed that will generally increase the possible capacity utilisation in daytime traffic by making it as flexible as possible. The concepts will be developed in such a way that they are suitable for new vehicles but can also be used in part for existing trains in the context of a refurbishment.
9) The developed concepts for various equipment components in combination with the application scenarios will be subjected to a concrete feasibility study. In the process, the economic efficiency, general feasibility and usability of the systems will be critically examined. For this purpose, 3D visualisations, concrete 3D models or, if required, highly simplified mock-ups will be created for functionality tests. Within the framework of the economic feasibility assessment, the overall system including the possible operational spectrum of use will be taken into account. In the context of general feasibility, the feasibility will be checked in consideration of the relevant standards.
The project will clearly show whether and under what conditions night trains, which are also suitable for use in daytime, can be developed and put into operation into account the narrow eco-nomic framework conditions. In doing so, an overall system will be designed, which in addition to concrete equipment features of the vehicles, will show suitable deployment scenarios, partly broken down to operational routes. The project will assess the economic efficiency and feasibility and propose concrete implementation measures.
Contact: DI Dr. Bernhard Rüger