CZECH REPUBLIC: Travel agent and bus operator Student Agency has announced plans to launch a Praha - Ostrava inter-city service by 2011.

Chairman Radim Jancura said SA intends to purchase six electric trainsets from Siemens or Stadler for KC2bn. Branded HighJet, they will run in direct competition with Czech Railways' flagship Pendolino services introduced in December 2005.

Jancura has been a strong critic of CD and the system of passenger subsidy. He said SA will offer cheaper tickets, but provide a higher quality service with up to six classes, a conference room and cinema. Launch costs of up to KC200m plus loans will require the postponement of plans to manage a hotel chain, but he expects the trains to be making an operating profit within three months.