ZSSK will initially operate two return services per day on the 450km route via Žilina, although frequencies could be increased if demand is sufficient.
ZSSK withdrew all remaining Bratislava - Košice inter-city services on January 17 2016. These trains had been making a loss since Czech and Slovak private operator Regiojet launched competing services in 2014.
That year the Slovak government also introduced free travel for students and pensioners on ZSSK services, equivalent to 42% of passengers in a move which was seen as favouring ZSSK over open-access operators.
Regiojet has threatened to withdraw its inter-city services in Slovakia if the government allows ZSSK to operate in a manner that could lead to a deterioration of its competitor’s business. Shortly before the ZSSK inter-city services were cancelled, Regiojet filed a complaint at the Slovak national antimonopoly office claiming ZSSK was offering below-cost tickets and seeking compensation for losses resulting from what it considered to be illegal behaviour.
The move will provide more seats on a route where capacity has fallen short of demand this year. In January this year RegioJet promised to increase capacity to cover the shortfall left by the demise of ZSSK services, offering to lengthen its trains from six to 13 coaches. However, the plan was blocked by infrastrucutre manager ŽSR, which argued the route could not accommodate passenger trains of this length.
This led to a compromise and RegioJet now operates 10-coach trains, although the restaurant car has been withdrawn from the train in favour of increasing seating capacity. However, Regiojet still struggles to meet demand at peak times.