The company, a subsidiary of TransDev, has operated the overnight cross-border trains since 2012 on a thrice-weekly basis, and remains optimistic about plans to increase the frequency of the service, which includes extending the service to Stockholm. Snälltåget believe that traffic in 2021 will quadruple when compared with 2019 as more Swedes seek environmentally friendly alternatives to flying for leisure trips.

The new service will depart from Stockholm at 16.20, travelling via Malmö, Höje Taastrup, Eslöv and Hamburg, reaching Berlin at 08.25. Returning from Germany, the train will depart Berlin at 21.00 to arrive at Stockholm at 14.25. The service will operate daily during the summer months of June, July and August 2021, and will operate as a weekend service in April, May and September.

“Uncertainty about the future of the Trelleborg - Sassnitz train ferry route, quarantine rules in Germany and restrictions on international travel from Sweden has caused many cancellations,” says Mr Marco Andersson, head of sales and marketing at Snälltåget. “But we have a plan to increase departures in 2021. We believe that the travel market will look completely different after the pandemic, and that the demand for environmentally friendly travel by trains between Sweden and Germany will increase.”

However, the operator says plans by the Swedish state-owned operator SJ to establish its own international Malmö - Cologne night service could threaten Snälltåget’s competitiveness on possible future service expansion to other continental destinations. The coronavirus pandemic reduced the Snälltåget’s passenger numbers to only 15% of their usual levels, and the potential impact of a public-sector competitor that is less reliant on ticket revenue remains a concern.

“The Swedish government should make it easier for all railway companies to operate international trains and not subsidise an unprofitable night train service between Malmö and Cologne as proposed by the Swedish Transport Administration,” says Mr Carl Adam Holmberg, business manager for Snälltåget. “We believe that the government should instead focus on making it easier for everyone who wants to operate international trains.”

For more on how Snälltåget has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, see the June issue of IRJ, p.38, or click here.