The tender was published on August 7, but was only released in Slovakian, while the full official European Union (EU) portal for public tenders only has a note saying the tender is due to be released in the coming weeks. AllRail says this gives Slovakian operators an unfair head start to prepare their bids.

The alliance says that the short time period before the tender starting on February 1 leads it to believe that the tender has been designed to suit the incumbent operator, state-owned Slovakian national passenger operator ZSSK.

“Protectionism disguised as a competitive tender undermines both the Single European Rail Area and the EU Fourth Railway Package,” says AllRail secretary general, Mr Nick Brooks. “We will be sending our objections to both the Transport Ministry and EU stakeholders.”

The tender comes two weeks after Slovakia’s antimonopoly office fined incumbent operator ZSSK Cargo €2.99m for abuse its of dominant position in the rail freight sector.