I am writing concerning the article on Slovak Railways (ŽSR) that appeared in your July 5 issue ["State guarantees $225 million Slovak Rail loan," Vol. 5, No. 26].
I fully agree that there appears to be massive inefficiency at ŽSR. However, it might be worth looking further afield for a solution than that proposed by the European Bank. Moreover, the consequences of any action should be considered before it is taken.
British Rail was pruned under both Dr. Beeching and Dame Barbara Castle. Whole communities lost a vital link with the rest of the nation. It was thought everything would be OK, that the buses would serve them, but then the bus lines were privatised and caught the profit bug. The result was that whole communities were decimated. In addition, the cutbacks hit tourism, putting even more cars and coaches on unsuitable roads like we now see in the Lake District.
The parallels with Slovakia are easy to see. Slovakia's problem is that it is ethnically divided, and does not need further internal isolation.
The railway unions need to understand that times change and money wasted on the railways could be better employed in cutting state taxes and encouraging new industry. How about starting single manning of trains (one person instead of five in some cases)? What about electric and diesel multiple units working with fixed formations - this would save on stock, statioin idling time, run-around time, shunting.
Track layouts could be vastly simplified, releasing land for commercial and residential development. Safety sensors, CCTV and mirrors for stations and level crossings coupled by optic fibre to two modern signalboxes would allow huge savings in manpower.
Some of the people laid off could be employed in providing a regular clock-face integrated system, which if the track were doubled, would eventually allow trains to run at 200 kilometres per hour.
Just think - Banská Bytrica to Bratislava in an hour! Would anyone take the bus?
23. Aug 1999 at 0:00