With the Combination of Rail and State Measures towards the Development of Rail Freight

A workshop entitled Regional Rail Connectivity in the Danube macro-region was held in Belgrade on Thursday and October 3rd and 4th. The workshop was organized within the framework of the implementation of the Danube Strategy – Priority Area 1b (PA1b), coordinated by the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure and co-organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The area covered by the Danube Strategy extends from southern Germany to the Black Sea. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine are part of it. The European Union, through its five financial programs, promotes the Danube area in various fields, including the development of interconnected transport networks.

The objectives of the workshop were to increase awareness on importance of better Danube region rail connectivity and to strengthen cooperation between the regional transport stakeholders to create common, reliable and sustainable rail services on the international market. It was attended by high-level representatives of ministries, railway carriers, infrastructure managers, terminal operators and ministries from all countries of the Danube region.

In the panel Railway sector – what we need and what we want, the director of SŽ-Tovorni promet Melita Rozman Dacar presented the activities of the Slovenian Railways Group and of SŽ-Tovorni promet, which must fight daily for business in the highly competitive European transport market. She also described the problems caused to railway carriers in Slovenia by the poor condition of the public railway infrastructure and the numerous works on it. She stressed that Slovenia has been investing heavily in the state railway infrastructure in recent years, which should be welcomed. In the short term, however, the works are causing traffic obstacles. Therefore, SŽ-Tovorni promet on a daily base implements various operational measures to provide its customers with the best possible services.

The director of SŽ-Tovorni promet paid special attention to railway transport in the region, especially on the former Corridor X, which ran across the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Since 1990, the volume of cargo carried there has dropped from almost 12 million tonnes per year to less than one million tonnes. Only in recent years, rail transports have gradually increased again, but the share of rail in the region is still below 20%.

As Melita Rozman Dacar, emphasized, the former Corridor X is a competitive transport route that is essential for the development of the region and has high potential for rail transport. In order to be able to take advantage of it, better cooperation is needed between railway carriers, which must constantly adapt to their customers and provide them with comprehensive information and one-stop-shop services. As an example of good practice, she described the introduction of the Sava Express product between Ljubljana and Belgrade, as well as the cooperation of national railway carriers in the region, which is actively encouraged by SŽ-Tovorni promet.

In addition to the measures of the carriers, further investment in railway infrastructure will also be necessary. Infrastructure managers will need to actively participate, so that work is done in different countries in a coordinated manner and the barriers to international goods flows are minimized.

According to the Director of SŽ-Tovorni promet, the countries of the former Corridor X – the proposed RFC 10 corridor – will have to support the development of freight transport by rail by introducing appropriate financial, tax and regulatory measures. Rail freight is an important factor in the preservation of our natural environment, and has been recognized by the European Union as one of the key building blocks of sustainable development.