The new locomotives will initially enter service on RegioJet’s Brno - Ostrava - Bohumín services, and once all approvals are complete, will be used on the operator’s other long-distance services in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine.

RegioJet expects to receive the remaining 13 locomotives between April and October 2021, all of which will enter service in 2021. The operator is also planning further fleet expansion in 2021. In addition to the 50 coaches acquired this year, the company will procure a further 70 coaches in 2021, increasing the size of its overall fleet by a third.

The contract with Bombardier includes options for a further 20 locomotives and RegioJet says it is aiming to gradually unify its fleet to only consist of Traxx MS locomotives. The operator already uses four 160km/h MS2e units as well as five Siemens class 193 Vectron electric locomotives leased from European Locomotive Leasing (ELL).

“The acquisition of 15 Traxx MS3 locomotives is the largest investment in new railway vehicles in RegioJet’s history,” says Mr Radim Jančura, owner of RegioJet. “Their purchase is related to our further expansion within the entire Central European region.”

RegioJet is set to offer new overnight trains from Czech Republic via Poland to Ukraine in 2021 and will reintroduce its Croatian overnight service next summer. The operator adds that it is also planning routes in other central European countries and began selling tickets for domestic services in Hungary in September.

RegioJet also announced on December 30 that it will offer overnight services between Prague, Krakow and Przemysl from April, from where passengers can connect to the RegioJet service to Lviv, Ukraine. Poland’s Railway Authority UTK approved RegioJet’s entry into the Polish market as an open-access operator and has allocated paths for the service.

“Entering the Polish market has been in our plans for a long time,”Jančura says.” From the spring of 2021, we will offer daily connections from Krakow, Przemysl and Lviv to Prague, Olomouc and other cities in the Czech Republic. Passengers will have the full range of services on board as they know it from other RegioJet connections, including free coffee, an internet connection and other services.”

In addition, RegioJet secured two government-backed loans worth $US 16.9m last month to support service expansion, including investments in its fleet, innovation and digitalisation of operation and services. The operator says it is planning improvements to its sales and distribution channels, emphasising increased digitisation.

“The company plans to employ up to 100 experts in IT who will be involved in development and innovation,” says Mr Petr Beťák, director of the RegioJet Digital Product Department. “In the first phase, it intends to invest approximately €4m in the entire process. RegioJet wants to use the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to become the market leader in digitisation in transport and tourism.”