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"It is Important Not Only to Invest, but Also to Channel Finances to Useful Projects," Says AROS' President Ján Biznár

&quote;It is Important Not Only to Invest, but Also to Channel Finances to Useful Projects,&quote; Says AROS' President Ján Biznár
photo: "It is Important Not Only to Invest, but Also to Channel Finances to Useful Projects," Says AROS' President Ján Biznár
28 / 06 / 2023

The last round table meeting, organized by the Union of Trainmen and Dispatchers (Odborová asociácia výpravcov a dispečerov, or OAVD) and the Federation of Engine Drivers of the Slovak Republic (Federácia strojvodcov SR, or FS SR), was aimed at defining sustainability and determining steps for the development and efficient financing of railway transport. In addition to railway trade unionists, the meeting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Transport of the Slovak Republic, the Office of the President of the Slovak Republic, the General Directorate of the Slovak Railways, the General Directorate of the Railway Company Slovakia, the General Directorate of ZSSK - Cargo and the Association of Railway Carriers of Slovakia (AROS). Ján Biznár, President of the Association of Railway Carriers of Slovakia (AROS), told in an exclusive interview for RAILTARGET whether the meeting fulfilled its purpose.

In March, Czech Railways sent an open letter to the Slovak Railways demanding an urgent solution to the poor condition of Slovak lines after their Pendolino train derailed in Žilina. Subsequently, Slovak railway trade unionists sent an open letter to the President pointing out the critical state of the railways. Do you see progress and a greater interest in the railways on the part of the competent authorities after these events?

I have to admit that the Czech Railways' letter has helped things to move forward. AROS took care of its media coverage, otherwise, the situation would not have been dealt with at all and would have been left in the dust. It took a moment of international shame. At the last roundtable meeting, representatives of both Slovak Railways and the Ministry of Transport came up with proposals on how they would address our demands. I can therefore say that things have moved on. 

Of all the shortcomings that the railways have, what do you think should be addressed as a matter of priority? 

Certainly, the busiest lines need to be addressed as a priority. Today, we have about 150 constraints on the railway infrastructure. The railways have a lot of work ahead of them, and they are not all able to repair them immediately, nor do they have the financial or performance capacity to do so. At the round table mentioned earlier, we were presented with a timetable for work on the railway infrastructure, which includes around 30 projects that should be completed by the end of 2023. We are very pleased that thanks to the AROS initiative, there has been a shift. On the other hand, we are concerned about their implementation because we have been operating as an association for more than three years and we have heard many promises. Therefore, we will be satisfied only when all the work planned for this year is completed. It is essential not only to invest but also to channel the funds to useful projects. 

Do you expect the next government to be more interested in tackling the state of the railways, or will the situation remain as it is now?

It will all depend on the priorities of the government. Railways should undoubtedly be among the priorities. For the economy to function, support for transport and the railways is essential. It makes no sense to continue to support road transport, which is more economically and environmentally demanding than rail transport. We, therefore, have high hopes for the next government and expect that a national transport policy will be drawn up setting out clear steps on where work is to be done and where the funding for investment, operation, or maintenance is to come from. Rail transport has a future, as we can see in neighboring countries. Therefore, we hope that the next government will also support green rail.

Did the last round table meet your expectations? 

Overall, yes. The amounts of the operating subsidy for the Slovak Railways have been increased. There was a promise to prepare a law to finance transport infrastructure. If the timetable for work on the railway infrastructure is met, we will be able to state that our activities have fulfilled their purpose.