Leo Express Alstom Lint DMU (Photo Leo Express)

SLOVAKIA: The Ministry of Transport has selected Czech open access operator Leo Express for a PSO contract to operate passenger services on the 95 km Bratislava – Dunajská Streda – Komárno line.

The contract is intended to run for nine years from December 10 2023, but the ministry said the launch could be brought forward to December 11 2022.

There were seven expressions of interest in the latest tender for the contract, with Leo Express, state operator ZSSK and aspiring passenger operator Yosaria Trains being shortlisted.

Leo Express was deemed to have submitted the most advantageous offer. ‘In addition to the price, qualitative criteria decided the tender result, including the number of seats and toilets, air-conditioning and the percentage of low-floor vehicles’ said Transport Minister Andrej Doležal. ‘I believe that passengers will be satisfied with the new carrier and its services’.

Leo Express intends to deploy a fleet of 11 Class 846 Alstom Coradia Lint 41 diesel multiple-units under a 10-year lease agreement with Beacon Rail Leasing.

The Bratislava – Dunajská Streda – Komárno route was the first in Slovakia to be where passenger services were worked by an operator other than ZSSK. RegioJet took over in March 2012 and operated the service until December 2020. Ridership grew almost sixfold during this period, helped by the introduction of modern rolling stock including double-deck coaches.

In September 2020 the ministry awarded a two-year interim contract to ZSSK and Austrian Federal Railways to operate the services for two years from December 13 2020, allowing time for the tendering of a longer-term contract to run the route for 10 years from December 2022.

However the initial tender was cancelled after ZSSK was the only bidder, and with a price significantly above the ministry’s expectations. RegioJet did not bid, claiming the government was not genuinely interested in opening up the market.