European parliament demands better trains

The volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe may be starting to dissipate, but some members of the European parliament say the situation has exposed glaring insufficiencies in the continent’s train system:  "Member states should finally learn a lesson from what has happened," center-right deputy Marian-Jean Marinescu, a member of the assembly’s transport committee, told the ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe may be starting to dissipate, but some members of the European parliament say the situation has exposed glaring insufficiencies in the continent's train system: 

"Member states should finally learn a lesson from what has happened," center-right deputy Marian-Jean Marinescu, a member of the assembly's transport committee, told the assembly in the French city of Strasbourg. "The modernization of our railway transportation is a priority. We talk a lot about it but don't do much. In Europe today you can't buy a train ticket to travel in a civilized way from the north of Europe to the south of Europe."

Rail travellers often complain they have to buy tickets for each stage of their journey if traveling between European countries, that it is hard to find clear information about international links and that the cost is often prohibitive.

The volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe may be starting to dissipate, but some members of the European parliament say the situation has exposed glaring insufficiencies in the continent’s train system: 

"Member states should finally learn a lesson from what has happened," center-right deputy Marian-Jean Marinescu, a member of the assembly’s transport committee, told the assembly in the French city of Strasbourg. "The modernization of our railway transportation is a priority. We talk a lot about it but don’t do much. In Europe today you can’t buy a train ticket to travel in a civilized way from the north of Europe to the south of Europe."

Rail travellers often complain they have to buy tickets for each stage of their journey if traveling between European countries, that it is hard to find clear information about international links and that the cost is often prohibitive.

Onboard conditions are sometimes deplorable. Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian Socialist, said he had in the past few days used trains and roads to travel from Belgrade to Vienna and from Vienna to Strasbourg, and found the trains "pretty grim."

"The toilets on the train were completely blocked because so many people were on the train and using them. The corridors were full of people sitting in them because there weren’t enough seats," he said. "It was a pretty big disaster, I can assure you."

Of course, given that the private bullet train that shuttles MEPs between Strasbourg and Brussels every month is costing the European taxpayer about $300,000 per journey — money that I would assume could be used to fund transportation for the commonfolk — I’m not sure how much of a right they have to complain. 

Having traveled by train in Europe, I’ve always found it a pretty easy way to get around, especially compared to Amtrak, and not particularly "grim" or "deplorable." But I guess there’s certainly always room for improvement. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Europe

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