THE TRANSPORT Ministry will be forced to cut service on eight percent of current train lines in Slovakia as of December 10 due to budget restrictions.
Some 200 train routes are to be abolished all together, while service will be reduced on another 250 lines (either the routes will be shorter or the trains will only run on certain days).
Despite lobbying by the Slovak National Party (SNS) of the ruling coalition, which controls the Železničná Spoločnosť train company, the Transport Ministry, under the Smer party, has fixed the firm’s budget at Sk5 billion for 2007, Sk500 million less than it needs to maintain current train service.
The government is under heavy pressure to keep the public finance deficit under three percent of GDP in order to reach its target of adopting the euro currency by January 2009.
Originally, the cabinet approved a budget of Sk4.5 billion for Železničná Spoločnosť for next year, but with the proviso that the company would be allowed to budget for a loss of Sk400 million, effectively raising its income by that amount.
On November 22, Smer leader and PM Robert Fico and SNS boss Ján Slota agreed at a meeting of the coalition council, a senior government body, that the firm’s budget income would be raised to Sk5 billion for 2007. However, the SNS later discovered that this meant Železničná Spoločnosť would no longer be allowed to budget for a loss.
The cuts in train service may also mean about 300 layoffs for Železničná Spoločnosť. Railway union leaders have said they will wait for the final version of the firm’s budget to be published before deciding whether to take action.