The Ministry of Transport wants to shut down local lines

The Ministry of Transport insists on canceling operations on underused local railway lines. For this reason, the Ministry has appointed a commission to draft a legislative norm allowing at least a temporary interruption of local line operations under given conditions.

“The task is to draft conditions for the institute of interrupting the operation of very little-used railways,” confirmed  František Jemelka, spokesman for the Transport Ministry.

The commission includes representatives of the authority, the Railway Administration, the Transport Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the association of rail freight carriers ŽESNAD, the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic, and the Czech Association of Public Transport Organisers.

By amending the law, the Ministry hoped to impose the possibility of disrupting operations on specific lines as early as the summer. The standard was supposed to enable the infrastructure manager, i.e., the Railway Administration, to preserve the line.

However, in the end, the authority removed these passages due to objections from carriers, municipalities, and the public. “The Ministry of Transport proposed a solution in the amendment to the law, but representatives of the entities mentioned above-submitted comments, which necessitated reopening the discussion. Thus, it is necessary to wait for the conclusions,” Jemelka added.

A similar proposal submitted by ANO deputy Martin Kolovratník did not pass the lower house in the last parliamentary term.

Will regions have the right to veto?

According to the Ministry, the main reason for canceling underused lines is their loss-making nature. According to the Railway Administration, the maintenance costs of such lines amount to CZK 281 million annually, and the income is minimal due to the low frequency of transport orders.

The Ministry last proposed that the Railway Authority, at the request of the line owner, could authorize the interruption of its serviceability and operation without its complete closure. The condition was that no more than 300 passenger and 11 freight trains would run on the line annually for two years.

The line would then not be completely shut down but would not be maintained and could be reopened if demand for transport on it resumed.

The interruption of services on a particular line could be vetoed by regions or municipalities, provided they undertook to order at least the minimum number of train services over the next five years.

The Association of Regions of the Czech Republic is represented on the commission by Petr Borecký (STAN), Deputy Governor for Public Transport of Central Bohemia, who makes no secret of his opinion that the domestic rail network is too extensive and underused.

“I am convinced that the competence to veto line breaks should be given to regions only in the case of a clear commitment to contribute financially to its operation for an agreed period,” Borecký said.