INTRO: After five years of debate, plans to sell over one-third of the CD network go back to parliament later this month

ON APRIL 30, the Transport Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Moos will lay before his government detailed proposals for selling off parts of the national rail network. The third phase of a programme initiated in 1994 is due to see the privatisation in two stages of 117 regional lines totalling 2966 route-km.

The reform process was put in train by the passing of Railway Law code 266 in 1994, which broadly enshrined the principles of European Union directive 91/440. It ordained a three-phase restructuring programme, of which the first phase covered modifications to the legislative framework, liberalisation of access to the infrastructure and transfer of the government’s regulatory role to the CD supervisory board.

Phase II covers the restructuring of the railway administration itself from a state organisation responsible for infrastructure and operations. CD is due to become a state-owned company in 1999; two or three years later it is due to take the next step to a limited company, although all shares will still be owned by the government. Discussions are under way over bringing this second step forward to 2000.

The most controversial part of the plan is Phase III, which is intended to ’optimise’ the CD network. Successive transport ministers have put forward proposals to close or sell off up to 40% of CD’s 9400 route-km, sparking heated opposition before the policy was finally approved last August (RG 10.97 p642). The details to be unveiled this month envisage the sale of lines to various private operators, regional authorities, and industrial groups, who may also seek open access to the CD network.

February 28 saw the signing of an historic agreement at Horky station, when National Property Fund chairman Roman Ceska and his counterpart from the Jindrichov Hradec Local Railways marked the transfer of two 760mm gauge lines to JHMD for a symbolic KC1. JHMD has been running the lines from Jindrichov Hradec to Nova Bystrice (33 km) and Obratan (46 km) since July 20 last year, having initially leased them following the end of CD operations on January 25 (RG 2.98 p82).

Another 10 rural routes totalling 168 km have been leased out by CD for private operation, and a further 33 amounting to 828 km will be offered this year (right). This transfer of operational responsibility will leave their ownership with CD for the time being. The next actual sale will see the 19 km line from Sumperk to Kouty nad Desnou and the 3 km branch to Sobotín transferred to the Federation of Desn