CZECH new entrant Leo Express says it will invest Koruna 100m ($US 4.5m) to support its further development in 2023, and that it is targeting a “significant share” of the passenger rail market in the Czech Republic as well as further expansion into other countries by 2030.

The operator made the announcement in a statement to confirm its 2022 financial results. Leo Express reported consolidated sales of more than Koruna 500m in 2022, a 15% increase compared with 2021. The operator carried 1.5 million passengers across its rail and bus services in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland during the year.

Of these, 938,000 travelled on its flagship service between Prague and Ostrava, from where passengers can continue to Bratislava and Kosice as well as to Krakow in Poland. In addition, more than 500,000 passengers used Leo Express’ regional rail services in Orlicka, while the operator transported 19,000 people on connecting buses to and from Ukraine. Leo also carried 142,000 passengers in Slovakia.

In 2023 the operator plans to launch a new service between Bratislava and Komárno and this is accounting for the bulk of its Koruna 100m investment, which is financed through the company’s own capital reserves. The company was awarded the 10-year PSO contract in 2022 and will operate 21 Alstom Coradia Lint DMUs on the route. It will also increase the frequency of its Krakow service to three days per week, operating on Thursdays in addition to Fridays and Saturdays from June 1.

To support its expansion, Leo is seeking to recruit additional drivers, senior mechanics, electricians and maintenance workers.

Leo Express is also set to significantly expand its network at the December 2024 timetable change after securing permission from Czech regulator Transport Infrastructure Access Authority to introduce new international services and boost the frequency on domestic routes in February.

Spanish operator Renfe completed the acquisition of a 50% stake in Leo Express in August 2021.