Let us revive the passenger railway in Montenegro

Adam Fularz

I have read recenty an article about railway system of Montenegro. I have also looked at the level of services for passengers, and at the ratio that detail how often the railway in Montenegro is used by the passengers compared to other countries. I think that now the level of railway usage in Montenergo is one of the worst in Europe. I would have some hints to the local government on how to reform it.

Many European countries successfully reformed their railways, with Sweden as the first one to show the new path with its revolutionary reform introduced in 1989. The ideology behind it is simple: railways are monopolies, that, if not pushed by competition, develop into lame ducks of economic system. They loose the touch with the market, do not introduce new products on the market, and in the end rely mostly on subsidies, are becoming addicts of state aid.

The Montenegrin railway system is now 98 years old, but it seems now to be in the worst decline in its history. In the travellers’ guides You can find stories of railway travellers in Montenegro who were shocked by the overwhelming dirt and unbelievably low quality of service, that they apparently have never seen before.

How to reform the railways? Simply- introduce some forms competition. Change the railway law according to the UE standards, and open a tender for local rail services in the Montenegro. In some reports I could find that busses leave from Podgorica to Niksic every 15 minutes at some times of day, although the parrarel rail line is closed. The market is clearly there, and if the railway lines could be modernised, Montenegro could have fairly decent railway system, with local trains to Niksic every 30- 60 minutes, to Bar hourly and to other destinations also with a dense schedule.

Fig. Proposed network map, thick lines: houry service, thin lines: bi-hourly service.

The current system is a nonsense- it cannot compete with private car, with busses. Trains are circulating rarely and need to be heavily subsidized because passengers are unlikely to choose system that offers few connections daily. If nothing will change shortly, the Montenegrian railway may be carrying only the „captive” passengers- those that cannot switch to other transport modes.

How should the railway be reformed? The annual cost for intrastructure use is 10 million euro, the costs for 4 new short DMU’s with places for 40-50 people on board needed to serve local connections with a dense schedule is 5 million euro (0,6 million if the railcars are leased), and the annual costs of running the hourly services from Podgorica to Bar is 650 thousand euro, hourly services to Niksic cost 700 thousand euro and the costs of two-hourly services to Bielijo Pole is 600 thousand annually. All these estimates contain infrastructure charges, but the costs to the treasury can be much lower, as the revenue from passengers is not included. The new private passenger railway operator would employ 20-30 people maximum. Railway connection to the airport from the Podgorica centre is also thinkable, and a station on the existing line nearby should be built, or a short branch directly to the terminal with at least hourly traffic. Tuzi line could be also served.

And what with the state-owned railways? Oh, forget them simply, leave them with the long-distance traffic. No country ever successfully reformed them, and such reforms consume unbelievable amount of expert knowledge, that mostly few people have. Why should small Montenegro be different? Abandon it, purely and simply, and run a tender to find private companies who would employ former railway workers, run the domestic services and perform the track renewal process. Sell the freight traffic part and charge infrastructure fees for the use of tracks. These steps would allow to get rid of lame ducks of economic development, that also have fatal safety records.

Sources: Ljubinko Dedovic, The Montenegrin Railway System, „Ekonomist magazine” (October 6th, 2003)

Posted by Adam Phoo on 04:33. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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