December, 2023 –

We prefer transporting by truck rather than by train

Over the past twenty years, the ratio of rail to road shipping has changed significantly. Already at the turn of the millennium we transported more cargo by road than by train, and today the gap is even wider.

Last year (2022), only 22% of cargo was transported by train in Slovakia, with trucks or vans transporting the remaining almost 80%. In twenty years, the railway lost almost half of its already significantly smaller freight transport market to this more successful competitor.

Why waste rail ecology and speed? 

This trend is evident across Europe, and it’s a shame because rail transport is green and fast. What is happening that it lags behind road transport so much? “The main problem is availability of capacity and reliability. The route for shipping by rail must be reserved at least a year in advance, and each rail network has different operating conditions, fees, and rules. In addition, the carrier is often threatened with restrictions, rerouting, or replanning of its route, which cannot be foreseen in advance, mainly due to repairs and maintenance of the tracks. It’s simply too complicated compared to a truck, where you just sit behind the wheel, pay the toll, and turn on Google Maps,” says Jozef Dudák, national manager of the Slovak Republic for the TTR project.

The whole of Europe must harmonize, ŽSR already knows the requirements and the benefits

That is why international railway organizations* launched the TTR** initiative for better joint capacity planning, better coordination, and harmonization of transport conditions. All the infrastructure managers of the EU countries (including Switzerland and Norway) joined it because the railway will be competitive in Europe only if everyone cooperates.

YMS, in cooperation with ŽSR, conducted a feasibility study of the TTR project with Slovakia’s conditions ***. It mapped the domestic passenger and shipping market, available capacity of the railway network, reliability, as well as the relevant social, economic, political, and institutional context. The result is a detailed, nearly 300-page report, complete with recommendations and financial analyses, including a cost-benefit analysis. “We considered two realistic variants of Slovakia’s involvement in the TTR project, partial and complete. The study showed that both are economically efficient and profitable. However, they require co-financing from EU funds, from the Recovery Plan or the state budget, because the generated cash flows cannot ensure repayment within the considered period,” Jozef Dudák summarizes the key conclusion of the publicly available study.

The railway will deal with critical points

The analysis showed that thanks to the TTR project in Slovakia, it may be possible to increase the capacity of the railway network by approximately 16%, thereby regaining a significant part of the lost market share. However, it must treat critical areas, the biggest obstacles that discourage carriers from using trains. They are primarily the already mentioned inflexible allocation of railway capacity and the unreliability of railway transport.

What does that mean and what is the main data?

Unrealized transportation equals unused allocated capacity

Freight carriers need flexibility in ordering trains. “We analyzed freight trains dispatched over the last 10 years at 15 critical points of the Slovak railway network****. Specifically, what percentage of the long-term planned and what percentage of the short-term planned trains actually left the station. For long-term planned freight transports, when routes are ordered 8 to 12 months in advance, the railway dispatched an average of 58 percent of the ordered trains. On the contrary, when the routes were booked at the last minute, i.e. ad hoc, when the client knew that the goods would really be transported, up to 91 percent of the ordered trains were dispatched. It’s obvious that we need to change the way we use railway capacity and how we offer it to clients,” explains Jozef Dudák the result of the analysis of the real use of capacity in regular versus ad hoc transport.

We have the capacity, but we need better efficiency

For the increase in transport volume to be feasible, the entire railway infrastructure must have sufficient capacity. Therefore, the real utilization of the entire network and capacity reserves were analyzed, especially in the already mentioned critical track sections. It turned out that the average free capacity in critical sections is sometimes even higher than the average free capacity in the entire network (16.5 percent).

However, in 41% of the analyzed line sections, better capacity allocation management will be needed. “The analysis of potential capacity in the “bottlenecks” of the railway network revealed that there is an average of 19 percent capacity even on critical track sections. Of these, three locations are over 90 percent full, but this is not an insurmountable problem in freight transport, as trains can pass through these locations at night when they are not restricted by passenger trains. Here, too, new information systems will help, which will help ensure more efficient allocation and coordination of capacity,” Jozef Dudák continues to explain.

Reliability issues

The second critical point of rail transport is reliability, reflected in train delays. ŽSR does not track delays in freight transport, therefore the authors drew their conclusions from the analysis of delays in personal domestic and cross-border transport. “The analysis of train delays over the past 6 years showed that 29 percent of all track delays are caused by poor coordination of various types of construction work and maintenance on the railway infrastructure, i.e. temporary restrictions on railway capacity, which applies equally to passenger and freight transport. The new systems will focus on better management of repairs and maintenance on the tracks so that they do not result in unexpected train delays,” continues Jozef Dudák.

Real-world tests and deployment in Austria

The TTR project is already being tested in several partial pilot projects in Europe, aiming to improve processes, reveal critical points, and gain valuable practical experience for its introduction in other countries. Our southwestern neighbor, Austria, which has capacity problems, is already deploying it on its entire international part of the network in 2024.




RailNetEurope (RNE) and Forum Train Europe (FTE) with the support of the European Freight Transport Association (ERFA), the European Railway Agency (ERA) and the European Commission (EC).


Intelligent management of railway infrastructure capacity (hereinafter referred to as TTR, Timetabling and Capacity Redesign). It should be implemented between 2024 and 2026. Funds from the Recovery Plan of the Slovak Republic are allocated for its implementation.


The TTR project was the subject of the delivery of the feasibility study and its implementation in Slovakia. The study was focused on a comprehensive analysis of the railway transport market of the Slovak Republic, as well as on an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the implementation of the TTR project. The purpose of the ŠU was to assess the feasibility of the TTR project in the conditions of the Slovak Republic from the point of view of its technical implementation by the railway infrastructure manager (ŽSR), as well as financial sustainability and socioeconomic justification.