“I decided that we’re leaving for sure,” Radim Jančura, CEO of RegioJet, announced on November 23. “Transport [Construction and Regional Development] Minister Ján Počiatek has not done anything about below-cost fares on the loss-making InterCity (IC) trains of state-owned rail carrier Železničná Spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK), via which he is trying to eject us from the market on purpose.”
According to Jančura, there is even a suspicion that Počiatek tolerates the cross-financing of IC trains using money intended for subsidised connections, which is against the law.
It has not yet been decided for sure when RegioJet will withdraw its trains from the route.
“We will have to set a deadline by which we would leave in a way that would be fair to passengers and employees,” said Jančura as cited by the TASR newswire, promising that it will not be before the end of this year.
The company will have to give notices and severance pay to some of its employees. Currently, some 120 people work on the line, but the company wants to employ most of them on the Prague-Košice route, a connection that the firm plans to strengthen.
“I think that three quarters of the employees will get a job,” said Jančura.
At the moment the trains on the Bratislava- Košice line via Žilina are operating as normal. As a regularly scheduled adjustment of schedules is planned for December 13, RegioJet will make some changes then. It will cancel the current overnight train and will not introduce two previously announced daytime trains.
RegioJet has been running trains on the line since last December. The private carrier is convinced that the state-run ZSSK has been given a dominant position on the line when it comes to fast trains and ICs. RegioJet argues that ZSSK lowered its IC fares with the arrival of RegioJet to below the level of RegioJet’s announced fares and under the level of its running costs. According to Jančura, ZSSK has broken the law. Around a year ago he appealed to the Slovak Anti-monopoly Office, which has not decided on the matter yet.
ZSSK has reduced the number of trains on the line, but it is not reportedly planning to make any further cuts.
“This year, we’re going to lose around €4 million on this line,” calculated Jančura.
According to him, it does not make sense to keep going as the state is able to subsidise ZSSK long term.
ZSSK has rejected RegioJet’s claims, accusing its rival of purposefully lying and attacking it while providing the public with fabricated and untrue information about ZSSK's financing, operations and processes. ZSSK said that its ICs are not cross-financed with state subsidies and that the trains contracted by the state are financed separately. ZSSK also argues that it is not attempting to push RegioJet off the market with its policies and that it is not the one waging a price war rather, on the contrary, it is RegioJet.
24. Nov 2015 at 8:02 | Compiled by Spectator staff