Railway market opens up to private operators
State-owned ZSSK’s monopoly on the operation of subsidised passenger services run in the public interest has been broken, with the Ministry of Transport awarding the RegioJet subsidiary of Czech private bus operator Student Agency a nine-year contract to operate regional passenger services on the 95 km route between Bratislava, Dunajská Streda and Komárno from March 2012.
The government expects up to 35% of services to be open to competition by 2020, and has begun tendering for an initial 10% to be awarded by 2013.
The pilot project aims to enhance comfort and quality to win back commuter and leisure traffic lost to buses. RegioJet will get a 16% lower subsidy than ZSSK, will increase frequencies to hourly, or 30 min in the peaks, and will cut journey times from 69 to 43 min. Services will be integrated into the Bratislava urban transport system and RJ and ZSSK have agreed mutual acceptance of tickets. Park-and-ride facilities and connections with buses are planned.
Nine leased three-car Bombardier Talent DMUs will be painted in RegioJet’s corporate yellow livery. A modern information system, free wi-fi, newspapers and refreshments will be available on board. The operator expects to carry up to 1·9 million passengers/year, with ticket sales extended to tourist centres, online and SMS.