SLOVAKIA: National passenger operator ZSSK and the Ministry of Transport have signed the first long-term contract for the provision of subsidised services, replacing a three-year contract covering 2008-10.

The 10-year contract guarantees a fixed annual subsidy, which should help to stabilise ZSSK which made an operating loss of €78m in 2010. ZSSK will operate 30·3 million train-km in 2011, 5% down on 2010. State subsidy will be reduced by 11% to €205m with several less-busy services cut back.

In the first of a series of austerity measures aimed at the company breaking even by 2013-14, ZSSK had announced its intention to cut passenger services on over 20 lightly-used routes from March 6, and reduce its workforce by 10%.

However, a working version of the plan was leaked and attracted criticism from the regional authorities. On January 21 the Prime Minister said no steps would be taken until audits were completed and recovery plans in place at the state-owned passenger, freight and infrastructure companies

  • On January 1 infrastructure manager ZSR decreased track access charges following a decree from regulatory authority ÚRZD. Passenger charges fell by 10% and those paid by freight operators were reduced by 50% from levels which ranked among the highest in Europe and were thought to be resulting in transit flows bypassing the country. ZSR expects that it will receive €49m in charges from passenger and €47m from freight traffic this year, down by €80m from 2010. The lower charges will be compensated by the state, which will provide €199·5m in subsidy.