ZAGREB, February 1, 2019 – Other countries are developing their railway networks while Croatian railways are accumulating losses, trains are slower and slower and the number of passengers traveling by train is decreasing, opposition members of parliament said on Thursday during a debate on a new bill on the railway which the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) believes will contribute to increasing the competitiveness of railway transport.
Our rail resembles the rail from the time of the Wild West, the infrastructure could be used to make westerns, Miro Bulj of the opposition MOST party said, noting that a bicycle ride from Split to Osijek took less than a train ride from one to the other city.
Unlike Croatia, other countries develop their rail sector and use it as an instrument for development, said Anka Mrak Taritaš of the GLAS party.
Ivan Lovrinović of the Let’s Move Croatia (PH) party said that the rail sector lacked a strategy and was increasingly accumulating losses, which, he said, made it similar to the government.
Emil Daus of the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) said that the situation with the railway in Istria was disastrous, that the potential of the port of Rijeka was not being used just as the advantages of smaller Istrian ports were not being used. A railway upgrade would contribute to an increase in tourist arrivals, modern trains would not harm the environment, Daus said, adding that a Pula-Zagreb train ride, combined with bus, now lasted a minimum nine hours.
“The rail maintenance company HŽ Infrastruktura will absolutely not be privatised, that was never said,” a State Secretary at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Transport, Nikolina Brnjac, told Social Democrat Alen Prelec who wanted to know which part of the railway infrastructure would be privatised – railway stops, stations or rail tracks.
The rail sector reform is designed to enable citizens to use its benefits, with the railway being the backbone of land transport, supported by bus transport, Brnjac told Božica Makar of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS), who wanted to know if the train and bus fare systems would be modernised as well.
While opposition MPs claimed that the bill on the rail sector would not make the sector better, HDZ MPs praised it, with Ivan Šuker saying that it would mark the start of the rail sector’s restructuring. He noted that along with the shipbuilding sector, the rail sector had been the biggest user of government guarantees in the amount of some 30 billion kuna over the past 28 years.
The government has said that the bill is designed to fully align the relevant national legislation to EU law, specifically the fourth railway package, which comprises a technical and a market pillar.
The main goals of the package are the establishment of a single European rail area and simplification of the legislative framework.
The new Croatian bill on the rail sector is also aimed at liberalising the passenger rail transport market.
More news on the Croatian railways can be found in the Travel section.