In an exclusive interview for RAILMARKET.com, the transport minister says that given the nature of rail, especially electrified rail, as one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport, this is understandably the direction that Europe is now looking at in the first place.
„At the same time, there are several bottlenecks on the European network. In the future, and the current experience with aid to Ukraine shows this, it will be important to remove these bottlenecks. The Czech Republic also has several such bottlenecks, which is why looking towards the TEN-T is a natural priority of the Czech Presidency,“ Kupka adds.
In terms of the key issues, however, and this is what the informal Council in Prague – a meeting of all transport ministers – will be dedicated to, is the further development of the TEN-T network, including possible connections to the east - towards Ukraine, towards Moldova.
„One of the specific topics that we are discussing is, for example, the transformation of part of the Ukrainian railway to a standard 1435 mm gauge, which would significantly simplify further traffic flows and further possible intervention by Czech companies towards the East, towards Ukraine, to participate in the reconstruction of that country, and also to acquire another important market,“ minister explains.
RAILMARKET.com: One of those priorities is to shift freight transport from road to rail. Does the Czech Republic have any steps in place to support this change and what role could digitalisation play in this, for example through platforms such as RAILVIS.com?
„It turns out that with the existing capacity of the networks, where it is of course very expensive to further expand and develop them, it is also necessary to use digitalisation to the maximum to get as much traffic as possible onto the existing number of rail tracks and their capacity as efficiently as possible. It is a way to make significant savings not only in terms of economics, but it is a logical way to make significant savings in terms of the efficiency of those transport connections and the use of different modes of transport so that the maximum potential can be exploited from each mode: for rail transport over longer distances, in the case of the last mile, the efficient use of road transport and the use of fast and efficient transitions between the two modes. This is certainly something that both logistics and transport companies are thinking about and will try to use modern tools.“
Martin Kupka continues that as far as the obligations and responsibilities of the state and Europe are concerned, it will be primarily the creation of better transport links and the expansion of that capacity, which is currently extremely full. That is why the Czech Presidency's theme is the development of the TEN-T network. What is essential for the Czech Republic is the building of additional railway infrastructure on new tracks.
„As for freight traffic impact, this is very significant, because the current corridors can no longer carry a larger traffic load. The only way to further develop freight transport in this direction and to take advantage of the modal shift is to free up capacity, it is a necessary step. Today, freight traffic is often shifted only to night times, which significantly limits its further possibilities in terms of wagon loads and so on, “the transport minister clarifies the whole situation.
RAILMARKET.com: What else will the Czech Presidency address in the field of transport?
"Naturally, we have to respond to the extraordinary situation in Ukraine and the Russian aggression in the transport sector. On the threshold of the Czech Presidency, we developed an important form of assistance through Solidarity Lanes, an organization for transporting Ukrainian agricultural products to save them from Russian thefts. It was the European Commission that involved the various Member States in mutual, as significant as possible, assistance for the removal of bottlenecks in the passage of the rail network across Europe so that, where transport was collapsing, trains of this specific aid could be run to ports in the north and south of Europe. And at the same time, it provided wagon sharing, because the biggest problem was the lack of suitable carriages. And in this respect, the current crisis also points to further needs of the entire European rail market and the entire European rail network," concludes Martin Kupka in this part of the interview.
The second part of our interview with transport minister Martin Kupka will be dedicated to personal rail transport.