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Fico blocks cuts in regional train service

PRIME Minister Robert Fico has blocked the efforts of Transport Minister Ľubomír Vážny and railway transport company Železničná Spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK) to make rail transport more economical by canceling some loss-making regional train lines.

ZSSK had planned to cancel 22 little-used regional train lines as of March 4, but Vážny said the prime minister had intervened, saying that given that ZSSK had received what it asked for in this year's budget - Sk5.6 billion - it had no business cutting service.

"Man proposes, the prime minister disposes," Vážny said for the SITA news service.

He admitted that ZSSK has enough funds to compensate for the loss-making train routes this year, although he said that cuts remain on the table.

The transport minister plans to submit "a better project" to government that would combine bus and railway service as well as transfer responsibility for rail transport that is in the public interest to local governments.

Unlike bus transport, rail transport is still financed by the central government. By shifting the burden to the regions, the latter would be free to organize train service according to their needs.

The plan is scheduled to be put into action by the end of the year.

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