CZ/SK verze

We need to strengthen the VRT topic in Europe and address how to overcome the crisis of high energy prices, says Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka

We need to strengthen the VRT topic in Europe and address how to overcome the crisis of high energy prices, says Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka
photo: Archive/We need to strengthen the VRT topic in Europe and address how to overcome the crisis of high energy prices, says Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka
20 / 10 / 2022

RAILTARGET presents an interview with the Czech Minister of Transport, Martin Kupka. The topic of the interview was to increase the attractiveness of ČD connections by installing repeaters, which should provide a signal to passengers throughout the journey. Another topic was the steps taken by the Transport Department within the framework of the Czech Presidency of the European Commission. The last topic was energy prices and support for rail freight transport.

We are meeting on the occasion of the start of the test operation of repeaters on Czech Railways trains. What are the main benefits you see in this modernization of the national carrier's carriages?

We know that, on some corridor lines, the signal is dropping out for passengers. We want to increase the attractiveness of traveling not only on ČD trains but in general, to increase the attractiveness of traveling by rail. That is why we are working to ensure that even in the most modern trainsets, which are unfortunately even more resistant to mobile phone reception signals, this can be done as soon as possible in the form of repeaters. At the moment, we are starting a validation process that should lead to a massive installation in other vehicles after six months, so that our passengers can not only make a call but also use the data from their mobile device, ideally, on all ČD kilometers.

In the last few days, the IRCF conference took place. Top representatives, including European ones, attended the event. It was an event under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport as part of the Czech Presidency. I would love to ask if any other major events are coming up, or if you can briefly summarise what topics will be addressed under the Czech Presidency.

We are trying to make the most of the opportunity when the Czech Republic is the focus of attention of our partners from all over Europe, which is why there are now so many different meetings, including at the highest level in the field of rail transport. At the same time, the top representatives of the various, not only national operators and railway carriers but also private ones, are meeting in Prague. We would like to take advantage of the Czech Presidency to hold an informal meeting of the transport ministers of the Member States, and we will be discussing, in particular, rail transport, the future shape of the TENT-T network, where we need to strengthen high-speed lines throughout Central Europe, where further investment is to be directed, including from European Union funds, but also how to overcome the current crisis of high energy prices. We want to gather the best experiences and recommendations from the Member States. The whole informal lunch will focus on what individual carriers and operators are doing on the railways to reduce energy intensity. We want to provide a space for inspiration and the transfer of experience. It will be a very concrete thing that will impact how rail will fare in the coming period. We will also discuss things that move public opinion in other countries. These are marketing products, for example, such as across-the-board travel discounts, or significant improvements to rail services and the reliability of the whole network.

A few weeks ago, the InnoTrans international trade fair took place, and the main topic was the increase in energy prices, which is really across Europe and affects the rail sector. You mentioned this in your presidency. Are you planning further steps in this area to support carriers?

The Czech Republic has taken a step significantly ahead of other countries in this respect. Price capping will also apply to the entire railway sector and also to urban transport companies that use traction electricity, and we would really like this particular example to apply to the entire railway sector so that it can remain at the top of the class even compared to road transport so that neither passengers nor freight traffic will leave it. We will also talk about faster modernization. The locomotives, which are already equipped with energy recovery, which can be fed back into the electricity grid when braking, are thus again making a significant contribution to savings. The difference is even closer to ten percent, around eight percent. The difference between a locomotive equipped with energy recovery and a conventional locomotive without such a device. We will also be changing the lighting within the network, and we will also be modernizing other steps that will be aimed precisely at energy savings.

Energy drives the price of coal, for example. It turns out that railway carriers, such as the national carrier ČD Cargo, are quite crucial in transporting coal for Czech heating plants. Unfortunately for the carriers, the costs of operating these trains are also rising. They are unlikely to avoid the issue of price increases, and I imagine that the heating companies will react by trying to negotiate the price at the original level and will resist price increases. Will the national carriers have your support in terms of pricing?

After all, we took that step by capping prices. That is the most direct answer to ensuring affordable prices and transport, both for the thermal power plant, for mining, and, of course, for power stations. It is a vital contribution to ensuring that prices do not rise further. I am convinced that, at the same time, the intensive discussions with both the miners and the thermal power plants that are taking place at the Ministry of Industry and Trade will lead to us being able to overcome this crisis. At the moment, it is perhaps more of a capacity problem because the urgent need to transport coal is growing significantly. ČD Cargo and other carriers are trying to accommodate this. It is a key role at the moment. I will be bringing an important regulation to the Government so that, if the situation deteriorates further, we will be able to prioritize trains that carry thermal coal so that we can step in and provide heat for housing estates, heat for the public, and electricity for both homes and businesses.