Czech railway and infrastructure managers have a couple of months to solve the crisis in passenger transport

Karel Novak, Published on 05/09/2022
Czech railway and infrastructure managers have a couple of months to solve the crisis in passenger transport
@mdcr.cz

“We are interested in ensuring that reliability, as one of the key characteristics of rail transport, is also valid on the Czech railway, not only in Switzerland,” says Czech minister of transport Martin Kupka in the second part of the interview for RAILMARKET.com, which focuses on passenger rail transport.


Rail connection in Central Europe

RAILMARKET.com: Regarding the connection of the Czech Republic with neighboring states, which direction is necessary?

„For us, in the area of passenger transport, it is primarily the high-speed connection Berlin - Prague - Brno - Vienna, but logically one of the busiest lines is the Emperor Ferdinand Northern Railway which connects Vienna, Ostrava, and Poland. That is why the high-speed line Moravian Gate from Prosenice towards Ostrava-Svinov is one of the key projects shortly in terms of time so that traffic in this direction can also be boosted,“ minister Kupka explains and adds:

„Where we feel a significant bottleneck is our capacity rail links with Germany. Of course, the dominant role is played by the Prague - Ústí nad Labem - Děčín line, both on the left and right bank - for freight traffic especially on the right bank of the Elbe, but the bottleneck Hřensko - Bad Schandau is where it comes to the crunch. Here we have a serious capacity problem. That is why the Erzgebirge Tunnel is being built, which in this case will combine both passenger and freight transport. But the next direction is Prague-Munich, where, during the term of office of this government, it has been possible to get the German side to change its attitude and to speed up the preparation of a better connection between Munich and the Czech border. It is, of course, up to the Czech side to build the Tachlovice tunnel as quickly as possible, to improve the connection between Prague - Beroun - Plzeň - Domažlice - the state border. And in this direction, we are already looking at the modernization of the Plzeň - Domažlice section, so that we can manage to create a functional connection for both freight and passenger transport here.“

And the Czech Republic opens another issue, he describes. As Czechia is gradually increasing the capacity of the fourth corridor Prague - České Budějovice, one of the last meetings of the heads of infrastructure on the Czech and Austrian sides concerned a better connection to Linz, which is of course a significantly greater burden for the Austrian side at the moment, given the terrain across the Czech-Austrian border.

9 euro ticket in Germany and crisis on Czech rails

RAILMARKET.com: What do you think of the German idea of a €9 monthly pass for regional and urban transport? 

„Germany's financial possibilities are completely different from those of the Czech Republic, even taking into account the country's previous good economic performance. If we wanted to introduce something similar, I estimate that, according to the reaction of passengers, the costs would run into billions of crowns. At the moment, given the necessary assistance both for people with energy and, of course, for those facing the Ukrainian crisis, not only for the refugees themselves but also, of course, for those helping on the Czech side, this is simply unaffordable for the Czech Republic. We cannot afford it, although as a somewhat social transport experiment it might point to various possibilities. However, even the German critics are now asking what will happen after the end of this period, because even the German budget will not have the power to provide a 9-euro ticket forever. They will have to choose some option where public opinion will naturally push the government into higher public spending,“ says minister Kupka with idea that it will be undoubtedly a further trend within Europe and each state will have to find its solution how to prefer public transport and how to develop it enough:

„And to develop it organically at the same time, because one of the serious problems, apart from the fact that it would be difficult to tighten it economically in the Czech Republic, is that we are at the capacity ceiling of passenger transport. Fortunately, people have come back on the train after covid and we have a serious train capacity problem today. We are no longer able to meet demand as we would have imagined,“ and he continues:

„This is one of the great pains and a task for the Czech Railways company to overcome this crisis as quickly as possible. It was partly caused by the bad strategy of the previous period about ECM, which is a vehicle maintenance strategy, for the whole fleet, and the result is that at the moment we are running out of vehicles. This is a task for the current management of Czech Railways to put it right within a couple of months at the latest and to return greater reliability to our railways. And we will also change the method of lockout activities and infrastructure interventions, because we are interested in ensuring that reliability, as one of the key characteristics of rail transport, is also valid on the Czech railway, not only in Switzerland,“ concludes the whole interview.

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