borna-abramovic-keynote-introductory-speaker-the-2021-mobilitatis-omni-conference

Borna Abramović

Dr., Associate Professor, Chair of Railway Transport Management at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences, University of Zagreb, Croatia
16-10-2020: 130 Years of the Radgona Railway (Radkersburger Bahn)

Ceremonial Signature of the Declaration on the Mura's Bridge

Founders, members, and partners of Mobilitatis Omni have marked the 130 years of the Radgona railway (in German: Radkersburger Bahn) opening with the ceremonial signature of the Declaration on the Mura's Bridge in the Mura-Drava-Rails Network. On October 16th, 2020, 130 years have passed since the opening of the Radgona railway line. This line connected the residents, cities, and regions along the Mura River with the Southern Railway, which connected Vienna with Trieste via Ljubljana and, on the other hand, connected with the Budapest – Pragersko line via Ljutomer and Ormož. Today, these connections are blocked by a missing critical link – the cross-border Mura Bridge.

Introductory Presentation

Borna Abramović: Increase mobility of the region using the local railway lines

October 16th, 2020; 14:00 – 14:45. Introductory presentation. Video (English, subtitles in English; .mp4; 9:20 min; 29 MB).

Transcript of the presentation

Hello, everyone. I wish you a pleasant day, this Friday. I am now, currently stationed in Zagreb, in Croatia. We do not have nice weather here, it is a bit dark, we are expecting to rain.

Today, I will give you a short presentation on how to increase mobility on the regional level, using the local railway lines. So, maybe first, because this is an online session and we will not have an opportunity to drink coffee together, [I shall introduce myself].

I am an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences, at the University of Zagreb, where I am Head of the Chair of Railway Transport Management. I am also Vice-President of the Croatian Chamber of Transport and Transport Technology Engineers, I am President of the Group of Integrated Public Passenger Transport at the Croatian Chamber of Economy and I am the President of the Governing Board of the Croatian Railway Safety Agency or so-called national safety authority.

For today, I prepared a short summary. First, I will have an introduction, then I will talk to you about the vicious circle, then I will show you one very interesting case study in South Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. Then I will try to make some conclusions.

For the introduction. We all know that the regional railway is under the break-even point. It means that a very big amount of the regional railways are on the border if it is better to run it or to shut it down. Why is that?

Because, on the regional level we have a big and high competition of cars, so the first issue is that the number of the cars is rising exponentially, the quality of roads is also rising, not so quickly, but also rising. Then, we have a lack of investment in this regional railway lines and of course, because we are at this break-even point, there is a necessity for subsidy.

In the current situation, it is almost impossible that we run a regional railway line without any help by subsidizing it. So, what is the vicious circle? This circle is often used in explaining regional railways across Europe. Not only in Slovenia or Croatia or Hungary or Austria but we can see this process in the whole of Europe. So, what happened?

First, we find out that the number of the [railway] passengers is dropping down. The next thing that we decide to do, we cut down the number of trains. Therefore, the number of the trains drops down, also. After that, we lose the quality of service. Finally, because the number of the passengers is dropping down, we decided to make fewer trains on the track and then the overall quality of service is dropping down. Moreover, what happened? This circle repeats.

After few iterations, we get zero passengers, with zero passengers we get zero trains, with zero trains we get no service. So, is there any option on how we can go out of this circle? Certainly, there is. And certainly, the regional government or regional people can do quite good things to put railway again on the track.

Now, I wish to share with you a comic. How does the stakeholder see the story of the regional railway lines today? This comic is from a very famous American political cartoonist, Andy Singer. Singer has many books and many comics on the topic of public transport systems, in these comics we can see, f. e. on the first picture we have public investment, and then in the second picture we can see wasteful subsidies.

On one side, the opinion of the people is that when we invest in the road, this is O. K.; then we call it a public investment. Nevertheless, when we invest some money in regional railway lines, then they say that it is completely crazy to put any money into this kind of system.

This is a very important paradigm to understand the future of the regional railway lines. We must change the mindset of the user. We will build or make a new regional railway service because people need that kind of service.

Now, I will try to be very short and very brief on one very positive scenario. This is the case study in South Bohemia. I think, when we wish to find a solution, we will always find a way to make something better. In South Bohemia, as you will see on my slide, down there is České Budějovice, the capital of this part of the Czech Republic. Here we have two railway lines, one is to Týn nad Vltavou, and the second one is to Netolice. Officially, these two railway lines were closed for passenger transport more than ten years ago.

The government of South Bohemia and Czech national operator decided that the number of passengers is too low and they decided not to run trains there.  Of course, there were nice initiatives, by people living in those two cities, Týn nad Vltavou and Netolice. They wanted to have a tourist offer because besides the railway you have very nice castles, very nice sceneries to see with the train. That is why they decided to make a new timetable between Netolice and Týn nad Vltavou, only on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays.

The whole line runs by the private operator. They found out that there is a private operator in the railway sector that wants to have tourist offers in this neighborhood. The timetable is not so dense that you would have trains running the whole day. What is important? On both last stops, in Netolice or in Týn nad Vltavou there is also a bus connection to other scenery that cannot be reached by railway connection. They made an integrated approach, railway tourist line plus buses so that they attract people to come there.

In Czech, they call it: “Jihočeské léto s motoráčkem”, it means that they have South Bohemian summer with motor railway trains. Very interesting. Here, some pictures of it. In the last picture, you can see how the motor train looks like, and the railway station in Týn nad Vltavou. As you can see, it is a very typical railway station for this part of Europe. You can see also the bus, a very interesting key point, this is the old bus, it is a very old bus, and it is for this tourist offer.

Very interesting to know, this service is running with some old-fashioned railway motor car, then with the old-fashioned buses. As you can see in the third picture, in June on the railway day for this regions, all politicians and others known people come to celebrate this kind of offer.

Instead of some large and huge conclusion. I wish to quote Antony Foxx. Foxx said, „The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.”

Foxx was to say, when we plan railway services for today, we are late, too late. We need to plan railway services at least five years in advance and we can start running trains now. The results will come within the next years. We must be patient.

Thank you all for your attention.

The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.
Anthony Foxx, Director of The Volcker Alliance, former United States secretary of transportation

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