"This is a truly historic moment for rail," Novotny told delegates at the European Railway Agency's (ERA) Moving Towards the Single European Rail Area conference in Luxembourg on November 24. "We are talking about something which everybody wishes for but has never really seen: true competition on rail. We run very modern trains at zero subsidy."

"Private passenger rail is possible and you can make a profit. It is an opportunity for Europe to modernise public transport with private capital. We are the alternative to the traditional model and we will truly open up the market and will be a new force for growth in the sector.
"We operate our trains for 16 hours per day and average 500,000km per train per year. We have zero reserve of trains, but we only cancel one service in 6000 on average," Novotny explained.

Novotny also refutes the assertion that it is only possible to make a profit by employing fewer people and paying them less. "We employ more staff per seat than the incumbent railways and we pay our staff 10% more than they used to earn with the national railway. We have grown the market by 30% on each corridor we have entered."

Novotny also argues that it is possible to operate passenger services on loss-making routes with 30% less subsidy under a private concession.

Luxembourg's minister of transport suggested that open-access operators are simply cherry picking the best routes, an argument strongly rebuffed by Novotny. "We want to operate commercial lines for zero subsidy," he says. "We have bid for everything on the table in our region and we are now preparing to bid for German concessions."

Novotny expressed concern about the latest wording in the Fourth Railway Package which allows member states to delay open competition for certain loss-making services until 2022. "We want clear language which supports true tendering," he says. "There are many private investors, such as pension funds, that are waiting for the Fourth Railway Package, but they will choose another industry to invest in if there is no opportunity for the private sector. Transport is the second internet, it makes the economy pump faster."