Lack of engine drivers leads to train cancellations in western Slovakia

The long-term lack of employees was deepened by the pandemic.

(Source: TASR)

The Slovak Railway Company (ZSSK) is currently short of engine drivers, resulting in some train cancellations. The lack of drivers was amplified by the holiday season and deepened by the pandemic.

The expert training of new engine drivers have been suspended for a long time, said spokesperson Tomáš Kováč, adding that the transport company is dealing with the situation.

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Some trains were temporarily cancelled especially for the Senec – Bratislava-Petržalka, Senec – Galanta, Nové Zámky – Bratislava, Malacky – Bratislava and Bratislava – Trnava routes.

Kováč noted that ZSSK keenly feels the lack of engine drivers, conductors and servicemen in the long term.

“In 2020, 90 candidates training to become engine drivers could not finish the course,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “About the same number of the engine drivers have to be replaced every year because of retirement or another reason.”

Training suspended

ZSSK lacks about 100 to 135 engine drivers, especially in Bratislava, Nové Zámky and Žilina. According to Kováč, in western Slovakia, ZSSK's position on the railway labour market is influenced by the concentration of private railway carriers who often offer work to young train drivers as soon as they leave the course. They usually choose to work for the carrier in the Czech Republic.

Interest in the work is increasing, though, Kováč said. “While five years ago, we had about 60 engine driver candidates, today we have 120 of them,” he said, as quoted by TASR.

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It takes about 15 to 18 months to train them. They need a medical check to get permission to lead trains and must learn the obligatory knowledge of the concrete route.

ZSSK believes that the situation with train drivers will be resolved soon. Kováč clarified that the cancelled trains provide reinforced suburban transport, the cancellation of which will bring the least problems in securing transport in the region.

According to him, the cancellation will affect, as before, mostly passenger trains on the routes Bratislava - Malacky, Bratislava - Nové Zámky, and Senec - Galanta. "Only some connections are cancelled, so it is possible to use the trains that remained in the schedule," he emphasised, as quoted by TASR.

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