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'An important step in the right direction': Vienna-Brussels sleeper completes inaugural journey

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Several high-profile figures climbed aboard for the maiden journey.
Several high-profile figures climbed aboard for the maiden journey.   -   Copyright  Twitter/Greenpeace Austria
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The Vienna-Brussels sleeper train has completed its inaugural journey to mark what is touted as a development toward more climate-friendly travel.

Leaving Vienna Central Station with a host of high-profile figures aboard on Sunday evening, the Nightjet reached the European capital mid-morning on Monday.

It is not only the first overnight rail link to serve between the two cities, but it is also the first overnight train journey in Belgium since 2003.

This apparent throwback to an older and slower form of travel is now being encouraged as a more sustainable way to move across the continent.

According to Greenpeace, the same 1,000 km journey via air would generate 410kg of CO2 per passenger, whereas the Nightjet generates just 40kg.

"The Nightjet is an important step in the right direction," said Martin Selmayr, a representative of the European Commission in Austria, who was aboard the train.

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He added: "A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU come from the transport sector.

"In the course of the Green Deal, which the European Commission presented in December, Europe is to become climate neutral by 2050.

"To do that, we need to cut traffic emissions by 90%. We urgently need initiatives like this."

But rail operator Austrian Federal Railways (OBB) has acknowledged the new route - which will run twice a week - is still in need of some tweaks in order to compete with the faster alternative.

Replying to a Twitter user who noted a 10:55 a.m. arrival time in Brussels rendered it "next to useless for business travel," it said: "The train alone is not enough."

"1) We have to arrive in Brussels earlier 2) The ticketing system must be more consistent 3) Obstacles between the individual countries must be removed.

"We are working on this! We going to make that!"