Czech private railway carrier, RegioJet, has approached the Transport Ministry with an offer to operate trains on two routes from Slovakia to the Czech Republic that are currently being subsidised. The offer concerns three pairs of trains that operate between Humenné – Košice – Žilina and Prague, and four pairs of trains that operate between Štúrovo – Bratislava - Kúty and Prague, the SITA newswire reported.
The ministry however says that the private carrier is not ready to provide substitutes.
RegioJet wants to extend lines already in operation. It promises to ensure the full operation of the trains, as of this December, without a subsidy from the state. The state currently allocates about €9.2 million annually for the trains. If the trains are operated by RegioJet, the state would save as much as €36 million by 2020 and passengers will receive better and cheaper services, the carrier said.
If the ministry accepts the plan, it will be fulfilling the Value for Money programme and the state will receive the necessary investments, according to the carrier. Moreover, it claimed that European and Slovak legislation stipulates that the state should not subsidise trains that can be operated by other carriers without state funds, reported SITA.
RegioJet’s owner, Radim Jančura, also asked Transport Minister, Árpád Érsek (Most-Híd) to call a meeting at which they will discuss the proposal and further steps to be taken. The carrier is ready to sign an agreement with the ministry, which will guarantee the range of services provided. As for free travel, it is ready to sign a tariff commitment and offer free travel to social groups under more advantageous conditions for the state.
The Transport Ministry says that the proposal submitted by RegioJet completely changes the departure times of state trains.
“Therefore it is not true that they are ready to fully substitute the service,” said the ministry’s spokesperson, Karolína Ducká, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
If the ministry agreed with the proposal, it would significantly limit evening transport from eastern Slovakia to Prague. Moreover, the afternoon connection between Košice and Prague would be scrapped completely. It would be replaced by a completely different timetable, Ducká said, adding that “we don’t consider this tenable”.
Moreover, RegioJet claims it would not require the state to subsidise its trains, while on the other hand it asks for compensation from students and pensioners who currently travel for free.
“This means that RegioJet wants to move money from state trains to its own service,” Ducká said, as quoted by TASR. "This is also the reason why in the end the state would be paying extra money and there is a threat that state expenses will increase.”
The ministry is also convinced that the contracts with a carrier should be signed after a transparent competition.
It will however read through the proposal and assess it, TASR reported.