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Panthers and Sharks Head Out into the Regions Hunting for Passengers

They’re here! Years of waiting for new trains in regional transport ended last year with deliveries of railcars from the company Stadler…

Panter a žralok vyrážejí do regionů na lov cestujícíchNow, ČD is approaching a true revolution. Electric RegioPanter and diesel RegioShark units have been put into operation with passengers in eight regions of the country. For residents of these localities, their deployment means the same jump in transport quality as the introduction of the CityElefant trains provided for residents of Prague and Central Bohemia some ten years ago.

At ČD, this fall is the season of railway predators and kept promises. Brand new train units are coming into service immediately in eight regions of our country. These are the trains with which ČD undertook – in contracts with individual regions – radically to increase the quality of travel in many respects such as low floors, air conditioning, vacuum toilets, etc. Electric RegioPanters from Czech manufacturer Škoda Transportation and diesel RegioSharks from Polish company PESA Bydhošť represent a revolution in regional transport.

A good investment for 4.5 billion

For a total of 19 panthers and 31 sharks, ČD will pay some CZK 4.5 billion without VAT. However, the European Union is contributing through Regional Operational Programmes to the costs of all the vehicles from Plzeň-based Škoda and of 22 of the vehicles from Bydhošť. The last deliveries are planned for the very end of 2013. We already know how the new vehicles will be divided among the individual regions, and for train units subsidised by the EU even the allocations to specific railway lines are defined in the contracts.

This large investment will pay off, however. “The new electric and diesel units will significantly improve the quality of travel on many heavily frequented lines throughout the country and will contribute significantly to modernising the rolling stock. In the selection process, we took into account the requirements of the regions and their representatives who order regional connections. I believe that both passengers and regional representatives will be satisfied with the winning vehicles,” said Antonín Blažek, ČD’s deputy CEO for passenger transport, on the predators’ launch into service.

Big cat heads for eastern Bohemia

The maiden voyage of the RegioPanter with passengers aboard took place on Wednesday, 26 September, in eastern Bohemia. Specifically, this was local train 6213, which at 11:01 departed Jaroměř via Hradec Králové to Pardubice hl.n. “It was a very nice surprise for me not to have to climb up into the carriage. It was a pleasant journey and I’m looking forward to the next one,” said Šárka Hladíková, who at the time had no idea she was the very first ČD passenger to transport a bicycle in a RegioPanter. The festive atmosphere was bolstered by students from the Chrudim hotel school who distributed refreshments to the passengers. “It’s a beautiful train – almost no noise at all; we’re completely awed – it’s great,” chuckled students Veronika Vroubková and Aneta Marešová.

“The new timetable for the Jaroměř – Pardubice line has four trains and one reserve. We’ll get another two RegioPanters at the beginning of next year. Until then, classic trains will run with Sysel driving carriages,” explains Michal Štěpán, director of Pardubice’s Regional Centre for Passenger Transport (KCOD). According to Česká Třebová depot head Jiří Slezák, the new vehicles will be maintained at the vehicle repair facility in Hradec Králové, which as a result will require some additional technical equipment.

The Plzeň region will be a little quieter

The first RegioSharks to transport passengers departed from Plzeň on Friday, 21 September. Under the contract, the new Polish train units are intended for the Plzeň – Domažlice line, but as part of test operations they will also travel on the Žatec line in the Plzeň – Plasy segment and on Sunday also on the Plzeň – Rokycany route. On this journey, too, passengers appreciated the very calm, quiet ride (the newly repaired corridor line contributed to this as well) and the sharp acceleration. It’s no wonder; unlike the one-axle bogies of class 814 Regionova units, the shark has two biaxial bogies, and the two cabins are connected in the middle by a third Jacobs bogie. “The train unit looks very nice from outside, but is especially comfortable inside. It’s very quiet thanks to its construction, so I have a very good feeling about it,” said Plzeň Regional Governor Milan Chovanec, who added that there was a need for more such high-quality trains on other lines as well, in order to attract more passengers to the railway.

The manufacturer’s representative, Marketing Director Marcin Jedrzyczka from Polish company PESA, who congratulated the Czech side on having the most modern diesel units in Europe, could be doubly proud, as the vehicles’ high quality was also appreciated by German carriers who ordered some 450 units. Those heading for the Czech Republic under the year-and-a-half-old contract are of course also produced with emphasis on very strict requirements for passenger safety and comfort. “It was necessary to analyse the entire system in order to connect the Mirel safety equipment to our system, but we have two hundred engineers who simply had to make it work,” said Marcin Jedrzyczka in Plzeň.

All eight regions enjoyed festive journeys

Introductory journeys attended by representatives of ČD and the regional administrations were gradually held in all eight regions where the first RegioPanter and RegioShark units are already running as planned. The relatively largest celebration was in the Ústí region, where both types of vehicle were presented to the public at the same time – this is the only region in the Czech Republic where ČD is deploying panthers as well as sharks. We would also add that after all deliveries have been completed, the RegioSharks running in the Ústí region will also include 7 units which ČD is paying for solely from its own funds. The other two sharks without a contribution from the European Union are intended for the Plzeň region. We wish all passengers a pleasant journey.

Václav Rubeš, Petr Horálek, Martin Navrátil

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