The Effects of Liberalisation of the Passenger Railway Market on the Situation of Regional Rail Connections in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria
Liberalisation of railway market can be an important instrument for increasing the attractiveness of local rail services and consequently for making the railways more competitive with other means of transport, which could result in changing the modal share in the favour of railways. The differences in the railway liberalisation level as well as in the policies towards rail transport between Central and Eastern European countries are vast, hence the present situation and the future prospects of regional services are diverse. Whereas there is only one railway line in Slovakia which is not operated by the state railway company ZSSK, a few private local connections which complement a very dense network of ČD state railways are in service in the Czech Republic. Poland, by contrast, is a country where liberalisation of railway market is most advanced as several different companies are responsible for transport in the regions. However, the results of this large scale liberalisation are ambiguous as the positive effects (reopening of some lines) are balanced by isolation of the new regional government-owned systems from each other. In Austria, by contrast, the existence of several private and regional government-owned local railways which are an indispensable part of the regional transport networks has contributed to maintain an effective transport system. Although the effects of liberalisation on the local railway networks can often be ambiguous, several cases from the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland show that privatisation and municipalisation may have a positive effect on the railway service as it has enabled to maintain the service on many sections which were at risk of closure. However, the most important condition of the effective transport development seems to be an active cooperation between the railway operators and the local governments as an expression of appropriate transport policy.
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