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The New Timetable Aims to Reduce the Unit Rates for the Trains Operation and Increase the Trains Range, States the Ministry of Transport and Construction.

The New Timetable Aims to Reduce the Unit Rates for the Trains Operation and Increase the Trains Range, States the Ministry of Transport and Construction.
photo: ZSSK Press Releases/The New Timetable Aims to Reduce the Unit Rates for the Trains Operation and Increase the Trains Range, States the Ministry of Transport and Construction.
02 / 03 / 2023

RAILTARGET presents a statement from the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic, responding to the interview with railway expert Desana Mertinková.

According to the railway journalist Desana Mertinková, who commented on the current events in Slovakia in our magazine, when creating the new timetable for 2022/2023, the emphasis was placed exclusively on the economic aspect and "the Railway Company Slovakia (ZSSK), the municipality and the entire public was excluded from the decision-making process. However, it can be said that the Ministry of Transport also had a say, as the main say was given to people from the Ministry of Finance, more precisely from the Value for Money Unit (ÚHP)," said Mertinková. Nevertheless, the ministry responds to this claim by saying that ZSSK representatives were present at the negotiations with the ÚHP and the Ministry regularly negotiated and continues to negotiate with representatives of the regions.

"The timetable for train services was derived from the approved Transport Service Plan. Part of it is both a reduction in unit rates for train operation and an increase in the range of trains. It can only be achieved either by a substantial increase in the state budget funds for public passenger transport or by a substantial rationalisation of transport, following the example of dozens of European railways. If the original timetable regime were to be maintained, with the current state budget possibilities, there would be a risk of significant cancellation of the then-existing services, which would negatively affect passengers. The aim was to increase economic efficiency, not by "cutting" trains and reducing performance, but on the contrary, by reducing unit costs, better turnover and capacity realisation, which made it possible to boost traffic by 4%, especially where the train lines are most used," added the Ministry of Transport on this subject.

According to Ms Mertinková, this has resulted in a situation where "train connections have been disrupted at several junctions, and train delays have started to occur on several lines".

However, according to the Ministry of Transport, the most critical problem with the timetable, at the moment, might be the delay of trains.

"This is due to the condition of the infrastructure and also the condition of the coaches and locomotives. A common factor is the lack of resources for maintenance. We are currently taking measures to systematically eliminate the chains of delays. When the timetable is analyzed, it is evident that if the timeliness of train journeys is on time, the connectivity is set up properly and would do its job, significantly improving passenger satisfaction. Therefore, this area has a high priority not only in operational management but the upcoming system solutions," summarized the Slovak Ministry of Transport.
Ms Mertinková also said that some regions openly fought against the introduction of the new timetable (Trenčín and Trnava regions), and even petitions were launched (Žilina, Košice and Prešov regions). However, according to a representative of the Ministry of Transport, this case was about the systemic solution introduction.

"Every comment, not only petitions, were and are being evaluated. However, it must be said openly that the self-governing regions have been calling for a systemic set-up of rail transport for years, and when this happens, they themselves are against it. Every good idea that did not undermine the concept of the whole of Slovakia was incorporated into the timetable. That is why the timetable has featured some trains from the day it was announced. In fact, a number of them were initiated by local governments and were and are dependent on financial coverage and therefore could only be launched after the approval of the state budget," the Ministry of Transport said in response to this part of the interview.

In the interview, railway expert Mertinková also drew attention to the fact that the Ministry of Transport and Construction has, so far, ordered 11.1 million train kilometres in ZSSK, as it has no money for more from the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Transport confirmed this report: "The preliminary status is as follows, with the full contract and the reasons and procedures for other periods of the year published on the Department for Transport's website. We are, of course, discussing funding for further train services with the Treasury."

Another crucial issue is that of free travel, which does not have a specific quantification framework, as it does not directly incur any costs. The only question on this topic is whether a higher level of revenue is possible if such a group of passengers were to pay for their fares. However, the analyses show that even a complete abolition of the scheme would not have a major impact on the need to finance the loss incurred on public transport services, since, for example, students would anyway be entitled to the 50% state-recognised discounts, and it is highly likely that the number of student journeys would be considerably lower if the free travel were abolished.

In 2009, the Act on Transport on Railways was adopted in Slovakia, which included a paragraph on the transfer of competencies in ordering regional rail transport to regional governments. According to Ms Mertínková, it is not being implemented concerning the financial support of ZSSK. According to the Ministry of Transport, ZSSK has no financial support. The State only reimburses the loss arising from the obligation to transport passengers at regulated fares and in the regime of State-imposed discounts.

Regulated fares are set by decree of the regulatory authority following the European legislation, and this procedure, as well as the level of fares, is outside the competence of the Ministry of Transport. The same option is still available to the relevant municipality, and it is entirely up to the municipality to decide whether or not to make use of it.