Case Study: Along the Prague-Ostrava route

The Prague–Ostrava route is the busiest railway line in the Czech Republic, with the highest density of both freight and passenger traffic. The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is the country’s largest city, with approximately 1.4 million inhabitants. Ostrava, meanwhile, is the second-largest city, with approximately 800,000 inhabitants, located in the centre of the north- eastern industrial region. There is extensive traffic between these two cities. 

The high density of railway traffic on the Prague–Ostrava line is determined by the fact that the direct highway between Prague and Ostrava includes a long roundabout route via Brno. Therefore, in this instance, the railways have a strong competitive advantage over road. The length of the last bus line was 402 km, and the journey took five hours and 20 minutes. In comparison, the railway route is 356 km and has a travel time of just over three hours. Frequent congestion is typical along the Prague–Brno–Ostrava highway, and air service is marginal, which further increases the competitiveness of rail. 

České dráhy is the state-owned railway operator in the Czech Republic, and was the only operator on the Prague–Ostrava line until September 2011. 

In 2009, access to railway infrastructure on the Ostrava-Prague route was liberalised. Equal access conditions were introduced for all carriers for use of this route. As of December 2011, the services of the state-owned České Dráhy were no longer subsidised on this route. Thanks to the introduction of the new rules, new operators quickly began operating on the line. In September 2011, service was launched by RegioJet and in December by Leo Express. 

Today, in one working day, České Dráhy, RegioJet and Leo Express run 16, 10 and seven pairs of connections along this route, respectively. This gives a total of an impressive 33 pairs of trains per day. The fastest trains cover the distance between Ostrava and Prague in around three hours and the slowest trains take almost four. The maximum speed on the line is 160 km/h.

The majority of connections are operated by the national carrier. Out of 16 pairs of trains, seven are operated by comfortable Pendolino electric multiple units (trains with self-propelled carriages that are fuelled by electricity). The remaining connections are Ex (Express), EC (Eurocity — international trains), EN (international night trains) category trains, in which there is an optional seat reservation in two offered classes: first and second. There are dining cars on most trains. WiFi, 230V sockets and space adapted for transporting bicycles are standard.

RegioJet operates 10 pairs of connections daily. The trains are put together in classic carriages, and the individual carriages offer the passengers a journey in various standards. Passengers can choose between business, relax, standard (compartment carriages), astra (non-compartment carriages with on-board entertainment), low cost, children’s zone, quiet zone, and on night connections, sleeping cars and couchettes. Not all connections have all types of classes.

Leo Express operates seven pairs of connections on the Ostrava-Prague route. As with other carriers, some trains do not start in Ostrava, but arrive from further away, also in other countries. The trains are powered by electric multiple unit trains from Stadler Flirt. Passengers can choose between economy, business and premium class. The business and premium classes offer a very high level of travelling comfort, especially in comparison to the economy class.