For years I have made pretty much every long distance trip I can by train.
Conference in Iași? Sure, train via Ukraine to get there.
Teaching in Geneva? Night train back to Berlin.
Holiday in the Balkans? I’m the one who will take the Bar-Belgrade train (the pic above is me on board).
But what can I actually do improve railways in Europe? Sure I can diagnose the many problems with the railways, not least cross-border, on my blog and on Twitter. But what can I actually help put right? That problem has nagged at me for some time, and this Trains for Europe campaign site is the answer.
Last year I wondered what was really the problem with night trains in Europe and it’s actually pretty obvious if you think about it – an absence of the night trains themselves. You cannot run more trains unless you have trains to run. Sure, there are other problems too, but I have to start somewhere. And as this is a Europe-wide problem, and so the EU ought to solve it I argued in a blog post. Since then a few others have begun to think about this problem, and people with much more clout than me – some transport ministers and some MEPs for example.
So why not then build a campaign to make this actually happen? To get the EU to sort out a pool of carriages so as to be able to scale up night trains? After all advocacy is what I have been doing one way or another for years, just generally for other people’s causes. This campaign is me trying to do some advocacy for a cause of my own.
A further motivation was to be able to work on something other than Brexit, the topic that has occupied most of my spare time for the past five years. Were Trains for Europe to be a success it would bring Europeans together, essentially the very opposite of Brexit.
At the moment the campaign is essentially me with a new website (and accompanying social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) to explain what needs to be done – in other words how the EU could solve this problem. My main task for the coming weeks and months is to scale up the organisation of the campaign, and then do a lot more research to answer the main questions about exactly how the EU ought to do what I advocate. I have managed to get far enough to be able to launch the site thanks for feedback from dozens of people, and public support from a solid group of others (they’re shown here).