Trans-European train journeys have long offered people the unique opportunity to share time and space with strangers, for a few hours or a whole night. Travellers from all over Europe met each other in an everyday setting: the semi-public space of the railway carriage. Differences in language, culture, age, social status, and religion were temporarily put aside during an hours-long stay on the tracks. Train travel was not only a pleasant way to get to know fellow Europeans, but also to see the landscape in which they lived with one’s own eyes. That meeting space between Europeans has shrunk considerably in recent decades due to anonymous air travel over Europe. Nevertheless, the gradual extension of the present trans-European rail network can revive that space. What cultural and political possibilities do these renewed trans-European public time spaces offer today’s Europeans?
Marli Huijer, emeritus professor of Public Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Chair of the Dutch Month of Philosophy (in Flanders and the Netherlands), is an avid train traveller.