An article in Monday’s Hospodarske Noviny reports how private passenger rail operator RegioJet is now contemplating leaving the Slovak market after the government slammed the brakes on its business plan by giving away free rail travel to a large part of the population, a move that met with outcries not just from the private operator, but also the public and bus companies, who are already feeling the impact of the bold and generous move by the government.
RegioJet penetrated the Slovak market by covering some more needy routes with its brightly coloured private trains, offering competitive prices to the almost monopoly position of state-owned passenger rail company ZSSK. In reaction to the arrival of the newcomer, ZSSK also cut its prices, but that wasn’t enough. The government then came with the unusual and surprising move to give free rail travel to children, students and pensioners, the population segments that use trains the most.
Owner of RegionJet, Radim Jancura, who launched an anti-corruption campaign against local governments in Bratislava and Nitra claiming the system of allowing routes to be designated was corrupt, is now calling for equal treatment. Jancura believes even the private carriers should be given the compensation for these social groups, noting how just half of the amount the state rail company receives would still let them make a profit. If his company does not get at least this, it plans to leave the market in December, having already put a halt to its planned new Bratislava-Kosice connections. The Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development refused to comment to the daily.