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Slovak railway attracts fewer customers

RAIL travel is getting less popular in Slovakia.

Slovak rail company Železničná Spoločnosť Slovensko (ŽSSK) recorded a three-percent fall year-on-year in the number of passengers during the first three quarters of 2007. This drop has also resulted in lower sales than expected, the Pravda daily wrote.

Sales from the first nine months of 2007 added up to Sk1.7 billion (€151 million), which is a bit lower than during the same period last year and Sk150 million, or eight percent, less than planned.

The number of passengers was higher than expected only in April and August.

"There are several reasons. . . People are switching to bus travel, and many have begun using cars," ŽSSK spokesman Miloš Čikovský told the daily. "The government's inconsistent transportation policy has had consequences as well."

Problems caused by parallel train and bus routes are not being dealt with, and trains have to pay fees to the state for every kilometre of track they use, he said.

"Only after tolls are introduced on the roads will the competition between buses and trains be equal," he said.

The rail company took a hit this summer when sales were 10 percent less than expected during July and August. There were more passengers than last year, but people used trains mostly for short distances, and fewer tickets were sold for international travel.

The rail company has introduced some discount programmes to try to reverse the trend.

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