HZ Cargo locomotive

CROATIA: The government has launched a new attempt to find a strategic partner for national rail freight operator HŽ Cargo.

Confirming that he expects a partner to be identified by the end of the year Minister for the Sea, Transport & Infrastructure Oleg Butković explained on February 16 that he believed the process would more successful than a previous attempt in 2015, because HŽ Cargo was now a ‘clean, healthy company with stable operations’.

Towards the end of 2022, the government approved a settlement of a 16-year old legal dispute between HŽ Infrastruktura and HŽ Cargo regarding the allocation of property when the formerly integrated state railway was restructured. The government is reported to have agreed to provide €170m to end the dispute.

Meanwhile, other rail freight operators have suggested that HŽ Cargo’s failure to repay around €32·6m of long-standing access charge and electricity debts to HŽ Infrastruktura amounts to an unfair state subsidy.

Although the state-owned operator is still a major player in the Croatian rail freight market, it no longer has a majority share. HŽ Cargo carried 15·73 million tonnes in 2007, which fell to 9·94 million in 2015 when independent operators entered the market. By 2021 HŽ Cargo was handling just 6 million of the 15·18 million tonnes moving on the country’s rail network.