ZSSK CARGO and Rail Transit Transport

ZSSK CARGO and Rail Transit Transport

The geographical center of Europe, Slovakia, has the seventh densest railway network in Europe, and for rail transit transport, the ideal solution is to use the services of the largest full-network carrier, ZSSK CARGO.

The surface of Slovakia is defined the western end of the Carpathian Mountain Range, which makes the country mountainous. Despite that, international freight rail traffic does not bypass the country. On the contrary, river valleys and lowland regions are criss-crossed by a network of railway routes that connect the west with the east, as well as the north with the south.

West-East Connection

As early as 1864, the construction of the railway started, which connected Košice with the Czech Bohumín through the valleys of the Hornád, Váh and Kysuca rivers and the Jablunkovský pass. The Košice-Bohumín railway was completed in its entire length in 1872, originally by a private consortium of Belgian entrepreneurs, which was taken over by the Anglo-Austrian Bank. After the First World War, the railway, to which other lines were gradually connected, became part of the Czecho-Slovak Railways. To this day, the connection between industrial Ostrava and eastern Slovakia is one of the most important arteries of rail transport in Slovakia. In the key and currently modernized hub of Žilina, the line also branches in the direction of Bratislava and Austria, but also in the other direction to the Czech Republic, through the Horní Lideč Pass. The section between Poprad and Svit was also modernized, and the section of the track in the direction from Poprad to the east is currently under modernization.

The most characteristic international transport here is iron ore. It goes from the mines in Ukraine through the transshipment points in Eastern Slovakia and is most recently transported to Třinecké železirány in the Innofreight system. In the past, coal from the mines around Ostrava and Karvina traveled in the opposite direction, which still travels today, but nowadays it arrives from overseas and is transhipped in the Polish ports of Gdańsk and Gdynia. After the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, this route became even more strategic. Cereals and oilseeds from Ukraine to the ports of the North Sea, fuels for Ukraine, edible oils or kaolin from Ukraine to Italy travel along it, or, on the contrary, humanitarian aid, such as the firefighting equipment from Italy to Ukraine. Ad hoc transit transports are also frequent - new vehicles heading from Western Europe, or complete trains with sugar in the direction from East to West.

The DC 3 kV voltage is on the entire line, and ZSSK CARGO has a strong fleet of locomotives and wagons to ensure transit transport. The fifty double locomotives of the Class 131 (which go to the Czech territory as far as Ostrava) are complemented, if necessary, by 23 dual-system locomotives of the Class 363, also coupled in pairs to overcome the difficult climb over the Štrbská ramp, as well as ten modern multi-system Vectron locomotives of the Class 383. In case of shortage traction vehicles, twenty of the oldest DC electric locomotives and the only six-axle electric locomotive in the ZSSK CARGO fleet, locomotives of the Class 183, can also be involved in transport.

South-West Connection

A very prominent and important artery is the corridor leading from the Břeclav-Kúty border station through Bratislava and Nové Zámky to Štúrovo and continuing to Hungary. This line has been connecting Vienna and Budapest since 1850 and is still important for international passenger and freight transport. It is part of the over 4,300-kilometer-long 4th Pan-European Transport Corridor connecting the German Dresden with Istanbul with branches to the Romanian port of Constanta and the Greek port of Thessaloniki. This shortest connection of the North and Black Seas is rivaled by a parallel line through Hungary and Austria. Although it is longer, the insufficient infrastructure prevents higher transit transports across Slovak territory. At the moment, the line from Bratislava towards the Czech border is being modernized, along with the connection from this line to Austria which is being electrified. That will significantly support Slovakia's railway connection with the world.

Among the commodities in transit on this corridor, you will find fuels from Hungary, mineral raw materials from Romania, and cereals from both of these countries. There is also wood, which goes to processors in Romania along this corridor, oil products to Hungary, chemistry from Hungary to Poland, etc. is also significant. If this corridor could compete with the Austro-Hungarian one, many other possibilities would open up, such as the transportation of new cars from car companies in Hungary and Romania, but also in the opposite direction - from Germany. Flows of growing intermodal transports are also significant - in containers, swap bodies, but also entire semi-trailers in strong transport flows to Romania and Turkey.

On this line there is an AC voltage of 25 kV, and therefore the locomotives that dominate here are mostly Class 240 locomotives, 35 of which are still operated by ZSSK CARGO. They can operate both on Czech and Hungarian territory. However, they are gradually being replaced by locomotives of the Class 363 and 383, due to their high age.

A North-South Link in the West

A particularly important connection in Europe is the connection between Bratislava and Žilina. In Bratislava, lines to Austria and Western Europe, as well as Hungary and Adriatic ports, are connected. In Žilina, the railway connects to the Košice-Bohumín route and thus to Ukraine and Poland. Both voltage systems of Slovakia, which change near Púchov, are on this line. The biggest competition for this route is the connection between Poland and Austria via Moravia - and thus the connection between Bohumín and Břeclav. This is also why the connection between Poland and Hungary is used intensively on this route, which is helped by the single-track line leading from Leopoldov to Galanta. Trains can thus avoid the congested suburban traffic of Bratislava and connect Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Hungary with Central and Northern Europe.

A frequent transit commodity on this axis is wood going from Poland to Hungary and Romania. So are coils of wire, iron scrap and chemical products.

ZSSK CARGO has more than thirty locomotives of the 363 and 383 series, which reliably, responsibly, and ecologically haul the transit load through the Považie region and thus provide a suitable corridor alternative connecting the so-called three seas - the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas.

A North-South Link in the East

The connection between Poland and Hungary is not possible only in the west of Slovakia. For many shipments, the connection offered by ZSSK CARGO along the eastern Schengen border is more advantageous. It leads from Plaveč in northeastern Slovakia on a single-track line through Prešov to Košice and then south to Kechnec, where transit trains go to Hungary and further south and southeast. In 1870, the Viennese Union Bank obtained the concession for the construction and operation of the line from Košice to Tarnów in Poland. The business started here in 1876.

This connection between the north and the south also uses the connection of lines heading to the eastern border with Ukraine. Trains transshipped at Eastern Slovakian Transshipment Yards can therefore travel to Europe and the world not only via the Košice-Bohumin main line, but also in the direction of Poland, as well as Hungary and ports in Slovenia and Croatia.

Transport here is dominated by wagons for the metallurgical industry towards Ukraine with both raw materials and finished products, which are supplemented by wagons for the chemical industry to Hungary.

The entire railway connection in the east of Slovakia is powered by DC voltage, so even here you can rely mainly on locomotives of the Class 131 for your transports with ZSSK CARGO, which, in their Polonized version, go all the way to Polish Baltic ports.

Slovakia as a Transit Railway Country

Whether it is the growing importance of connecting Ukraine with the rest of Europe, or better connecting northern and western Europe with its southeastern countries, Slovakia is at the center of the action. And for transportation through its territory, you can rely on the only network-wide freight rail carrier in the country, ZSSK CARGO. Reliability, environmental friendliness, quality and plenty of traction vehicles guarantee that, regardless of which direction you need to transport your goods, ZSSK CARGO can help you.

If you are interested in transit transport through Slovakia, or the export or import of raw materials and goods in Slovakia, contact the relevant sales manager at ZSSK CARGO according to the commodity you wish to transport. You can find all contacts at https://zscargo.sk/en/contacts/sales-managers.


Photos: Štefan Kováčik, Filip Havrilčák, Lukasz Lacek, Matej Budaj, Šimon Pjaták, Viktor Šesták

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