A goods train derailed in southern Jutland on Friday last week and, as can be seen from the picture from the local newspaper, it was on a single track line section between Padborg and Kolding, meaning the whole connection between Hamburg and Jutland is blocked. The wagons were dragged between 5 and 6 kilometres while off the track, meaning there is a lot of mess to clean up. It is currently thought the works will take at least one week.
All of this means that the CityNightLine night train Amsterdam+Köln/Basel/Praha – Copenhagen cannot run the full route at the moment. The solution? Run the train as far as Hamburg Hbf and throw the passengers off onto a bus – at 0356 in the morning – and then onto a ferry at Puttgarden, and then to get a regional train at Rødby, arriving in Copenhagen in who knows what state of mind in the morning.
OK, yes, shit happens on the railways, and I’m ready to be flexible and to travel during the day instead. The daytime ICE takes a different route – via the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry – so there is a train I could take. Am I allowed? NO. Rebooking my CNL ticket onto a ICE is not allowed, although both ICE and CNL trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn. I’m told that because there are replacement buses available there is no need for rebooking onto trains.
This is just the latest in a long line of experiences that seem to demonstrate to me that taking DB CityNightLine trains is just not an adequately reliable option. This autumn I was turfed off in Odense on the way to Copenhagen with the train already 90 minutes delayed, and I have been delayed 60 minutes a couple of other times. I’ve also in the past been thrown out in Dortmund and told my train would simply not go as far as Köln.
Also the CNL couchette / liegewagen carriages are old and noisy, and many CNL routes no longer have a dining car allowing you to escape the bedlam in the compartments if you need to (although the dining car still thankfully exists on the Copenhagen route). All of this however is such a stark contrast with the Hamburg – Wien night train operated by ÖBB I took a few weeks ago, with neat, modern and smart couchette cars, and a morning breakfast provided even for the cheapest ticket holders.
Now while high speed rail may be the future of public transport for journeys of up to 500km, what about for trips longer than that? A 12 hour night train, if it is reliable and comfortable, and you can arrive at your destination fresh enough to work the following day, should be a viable option. If my CityNightLine experience is anything to go by then that is simply not the case just now, and indeed seems to be getting further and further away from being the case any time soon.
(and of course the Brussels night train headache has not been sorted… but that’s another story)