While European railways are being renewed and updated, Croatia’s railways appear to be in a worse state than they were fifty years ago.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes on the 10th of May, 2018, if, in the next twenty years, a total of 50 billion kuna was invested into railway infrastructure in Croatia, it would be in the same state it would be when it was built 40 to 100 years ago.
This statement was was made at a rail conference which was organised yesterday by the Alliance for Railways, with the assistance of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP). It has therefore been concluded that Croatia doesn’t exactly have the worst railway system, but that the country is severely lagging behind other European Union member states, and what is particularly worrying is that things are continuing on an unwelcome downward spiral.
One of the main reasons for the current situation is a lack of proper strategy. Ante Bajo from the Public Finance Institute points out that the financial condition of HŽ is unsustainable and is based entirely on the state budget.
“Croatian Railways is registered as a public trading company, but annually, between 50 and 80 percent of the money for the functioning of certain companies within that system comes from the budget. We’re talking about billions of kuna, and after the government abolished HŽ Holding in 2013, we actually don’t know exactly how many of the affiliated companies are using it, and how much they get from the budget,” Bajo said.
The absence of a common axis for Croatia’s railway system following the abolition of HŽ Holding was also underlined by Nikolina Brnjac, State Secretary at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure.
She warned of an overall low level of investment in Croatia’s railways, and pointed out that during the last period, 85 percent of investments were related to the roads, with a mere 10 percent of that cash going to the railways.
All these problems have led to the average speed on the same tracks actually being less than it was back during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A quick example is that, back in the 1990s, two hours were needed to travel between Zagreb and Vinkovci, whereas today, that very same trip takes double the time. Because of all this, rail travel is gradually becoming less and less popular in Croatia, although it remains the safest way of transport and there have been no deaths among rail passengers in the last decade. Official statistics indicate that 28.2 percent of cargo is transported by rail to the EU, and almost 50 percent of it goes to countries like Switzerland and Austria. In Croatia, the number is much lower, standing at a stagnating 17.3 percent.
As far as passengers are concerned, the situation is even worse because only 3 percent of those travelling around are doing so by rail, and in the EU, the average stands at 8.4 percent. In Switzerland, 17.3% of the total number of passengers are transported by train, and Austria boasts a figure of 12.1 percent. The Czech Republic and Slovakia both stand at 8 percent.
Click here for the original article by Darko Bicak for Poslovni Dnevnik