The rail operator Arriva, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, has been excluded from a tender to operate express trains on a route in western Czech Republic over a formality in the bid. The subsidized route will now most likely go to the only other contender, state-owned Czech Railways.
The outcome represents another failed attempt by private rail operators to secure lucrative deals on subsidized long-haul routes in the Czech Republic. Arriva’s bid to operate express trains on the Plzeň-Most route in western Bohemia was dismissed by the Czech Transport Ministry.
The ministry required bids to be valid for a period of at least 70 days, the time officials said was required to conclude a contract with the winner. But Arriva’s offer was limited until the end of September. The head of the company’s Czech branch, Daniel Adamka, said that if the contract was concluded later, the firm would not have had enough time to prepare services on the route with operations due to start by mid-December.
“It’s impossible to launch a new train line in a month’s time. We need to hire and train staff, set up ticket offices at train stations, adapt our trains for the line, and take a series of administrative measures,” Mr Adamka told the news website ihned.cz.
“Signing the deal at the start of November is a condition that no new operator can meet. It’s acceptable for only one company – Czech Railways, which have operated the line until now and does not have to make any new arrangements,” he added.
However, the Arriva CEO says that Transport Ministry officials initially assured him that the shorter validity of his company’s bid was not a problem. He now believes the change of attitude suggests the ministry did not really have its heart in seeking a private rail passenger company taking over the service.
Arriva has also tried to win a contract for operating trains between Pardubice and Liberec in the north-east of the country. It offered to run modern, air-conditioned trains with internet connections on the route. But the required price was higher than that offered by Czech Railways, which eventually landed the deal.
Private railways operators are fighting an uphill battle against the state-owned Czech Railways for deals to operate trains on subsidized long-haul routes. The Transport Ministry announced nearly a decade ago that contracts should be awarded to those who come up with the best offer, but many tenders have since been scrapped and in some cases, Czech Railways offered dumping prices to beat competitors, according to news website ihned.cz.