CZ/SK verze

Slovakian Railway Sector Awaits Government's Commitment to Rail Support

Slovakian Railway Sector Awaits Government's Commitment to Rail Support
photo: ZSSK / Public domain/ZSSK
21 / 12 / 2023

The new Slovakian government's promise to support the railway sector, made before the elections, remains unfulfilled. The unanswered question of the government's stance on railway transport is causing uncertainty in the sector, raising doubts about whether it is a governmental priority.

Currently, Slovakia is witnessing strikes by truckers advocating for the re-inspection of Ukrainian carriers transporting goods within the European Union. While this issue dominates the news, it's crucial to acknowledge that rail freight transport faces its own set of challenges, which have not diminished in urgency despite lesser media attention.

The key question from the election period remains unanswered. On September 30, a new government took office following early parliamentary elections and later issued its Program Statement. The government acknowledged the underfunding of the railway sector and the need for modernization and reconstruction of railway lines. More details can be found here.

In its Program Statement, the coalition specified its intention to prevent a slowdown in railway construction and create conditions for the modernization and reconstruction of railway lines and tracks. Building railway infrastructure was also highlighted among the points. The government's vision includes increasing train speeds between Žilina and Košice, and modernizing connections between Bratislava-Vienna, Bratislava-Brno, Žilina, and Ostrava. Additionally, transferring goods flows from road to rail is a priority.

The government aims to integrate public transport to such an extent that by 2026, passengers can use one ticket for all modes of transport. They also guarantee the preservation of social benefits for vulnerable groups. The government plans to support the reconstruction of the Recovery Plan and secure additional resources for modern trains.

Unlike the previous government led by Igor Matovič, Eduard Heger, and Ľudovít Ódor, the current government plans to focus on intermodal transport to increase railway transport volume and on purchasing and transporting means of transport. More about the priorities can be found here.

However, the Program Statement has shortcomings. It lacks specificity regarding support for JVZ and a detailed strategy for determining railway journey prices. Under the former government, the Ministry of Transport postponed JVZ until 2026. JVZ transportation, especially on 2nd and 3rd class roads, could prevent about 400,000 truck trips per year. ZSSK Cargo, the single freight carrier in Slovakia, transports approximately 7 million tons of goods annually, easing road congestion.

Uncertainty also surrounds the government's strategy for setting railway journey prices. The previous leadership of the Ministry of Transport proposed a significant price increase, which faced strong opposition and was eventually withdrawn. It is crucial for the government to develop a beneficial pricing strategy for the railway market.

Trade unions have criticized the lack of clarity on the ministry's next steps. The association of carriers AROS and railway trade unions have advocated for a clear strategy determination. Interviews with them can be found here and here.

AROS has stated that it will advocate for JVZ support and a stable, predictable framework for charging railway transport companies, even though these points were not included in the Government's Program Statement. Trade unionists believe that targeted discounts from the transport route fee should continue so that by 2030 or 2050, railway workers can fulfill the Slovak Republic's obligations to the European Union regarding the volume of goods transported by rail.

Currently, it remains uncertain whether the government will fulfill its pre-election promises and prioritize the railway sector.