Croatian Bus Companies Continue to Feel Intolerable Pressure

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, although after a three-year delay this spring, a decision has finally been made to regulate the public road passenger transport service, Croatian bus companies running along the aforementioned lines warn that nothing is still happening.

As was stated in the open letter sent to the Prime Minister by the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH), an urgent meeting is requested regarding the regulation of such regular public transport.

“Ready-made legal solutions that were a precondition for signing the contract for public line passenger transport on county and inter-county lines up to 100 kilometres, aren’t being implemented due to the sheer inertia of state administration bodies.

The fact is that the decision on the distribution of funds from the state budget to the counties hasn’t yet been made, although, to the knowledge of the UAS and HUP, the funds have already been secured. On top of that, no public service contracts have been signed between the counties and private Croatian bus carriers that maintain public regular passenger transport,” they stated from HUP.

They state that private Croatian bus carriers within the scope of HUP are responsible for as much as 80 percent of public transport operating along county and inter-county lines of up to 100 kilometres, and employ more than 7,000 workers who are directly affected by such irresponsible behaviour of the competent ministries.

Namely, they point out, without concluding a public service contract, not only has the process of collective bargaining to improve working conditions in the transport sector been stopped, but existing jobs have also been called into question.

“By further prolonging the adoption of the Decision and signing contracts with private Croatian bus carriers, the maintenance of most public bus lines is now endangered, especially in rural areas. For three years now, workers and private public transport providers have been unable to plan their businesses and the prospects of their companies.

The signing of a contract on public regular transport is a precondition without which it’s impossible to improve the working conditions of employees, especially drivers, who are also in short supply,” said the Croatian bus operators.

HUP explains that the maintenance of most bus public lines is endangered due to the misconception that carriers were brought into because they based all of their business and investment plans on the Law which provided that public transport be organised by public service contracts until November the 30th, 2019, which hasn’t been implemented, although it is the only model applied in the entire EU in such situations.

“This activity is capital intensive and Croatian bus carriers are under heavy and long-term obligations, which are now being called into question. We’ve been prevented from using EU funds because public service contracts are a precondition for them. Now 1611 km2 of territory and 1.5 million inhabitants of Croatia are covered by public service contracts, while almost 55,000 km2 and as many as 2.8 million of the country’s inhabitants aren’t,” they explained.

While Croatian bus carriers have enormous and more than justified concerns about their continued existence, the multinational and wildly popular platform FlixBus, which has expanded here in Croatia over recent years, is planning yet more investments and further expansion. The FlixMobility Group has concluded a new round of funding totalling 650 million US dollars.

As they point out from FlixBus, the new estimated value of the company is now more than three billion dollars. The investment will enable the expansion of the bus line network throughout the USA, here in Europe in Great Britain, France and Portugal, as well as further expansion in the markets of Eastern Europe and even Turkey.

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