Railweb Reports

A recent history of passenger train operators in Romania

Posted by George Raymond on February 17, 2017

Six companies now run passenger trains in Romania. The dominant player remains the historical operator, CFR Călători, the passenger unit of Romanian National Railways (CFR). Five newer operators are in private hands. They compete with CFR Călători trains on main routes and operate secondary lines leased from CFR Infrastructură.

This review is mainly based on information – edited by Railweb Reports for this article – from the directory Europäische Bahnen 2015-2016 (EU-Bahnen) and the magazine Today’s Railway Europe.

2016 06 02 RegioTrans in Satu Nou_Eric GreulichRegioTrans train from Sânnicolau Mare to Timişoara Nord at the Satul Nou junction station. Photo by Eric Greulich on June 2, 2016.

Contents of this report

Governance of passenger train operators
Romanian rail infrastructure
Development of rail passenger services

Romania’s rail infrastructure

Compania Națională de Căi Ferate CFR S.A., also known as CFR Infrastructură, owns and manages Romania’s rail infrastructure (Wikipedia).

According to EU-Bahnen, passenger and freight train operations were split off as separate operations in 1998. In the face of chronic financial straits, CFR Infrastructură has leased many Romanian secondary rail lines to private operators.

The Romanian rail networkThe Romanian railway network. Click on the map for more detail. Source: Wikipedia.

Romania’s rail network comprises 10,638 route-km, of which are 4031 electrified and 2909 double-tracked.

Romanian passenger-train operators

EU-Bahnen says five companies run passenger trains in Romania, on very different scales. Railway Gazette International said that Astra Trans Carpatic starting running Arad-Bucharest night trains on February 2, 2017.

Operator Annual train-km (millions)
CFR Călători 50.3
RegioTrans 6.0
Transferoviar Călători 3.3
Interregional Călători 1.2
Softrans 0.7
Astra Trans Carpatic (Railway Gazette International said ATC started running trains in February 2017)

Annual train-km (millions) of Romanian passenger train operators. Source: EU-Bahnen.

CFR Călători reported its train-km for 2015; the train-km for the private operators are estimates for 2016 based on their operating contracts with the transport ministry.

The current timetables of the private train operators are visible on http://tren.transira.ro/.

Governance of passenger train operators

The following overview of the governance of passenger train operators is based on information from the publications cited in this article and on information provided to Railweb Reports by a source familiar with Romanian railways. We welcome additional information.

Competition on main routes

CFR Călători and private operators offer competing services on some major routes. CFR Infrastructură manages these routes’ infrastructure. The private passenger operators coordinate their timetables with CFR Călători’s. The law forbids private operators from charging fares higher than CFR Călători’s, but they can and often do charge less.

Non-interoperable lines

Some secondary lines in Romania bear the designation “non-interoperable”. This means that CFR Infrastructură can or does lease the line to a private operator.

CFR map of non-interoperable lines
Non-interoperable lines in Romania (in grey) as of March 2016. Click on map for more detail. Source: CFR Network Statement.

According to the CFR Network Statement, some 3,754 km or 35% of the 10,625 km CFR network is non-interoperable. [This share seems smaller on the the map above. – RR] According to Wikipedia, such a lease grants a virtual monopoly to a passenger train operator. On such lines, Romanian and not European regulations apply.

The administrative non-interoperability of a CFR secondary line is not to be confused with the physical non-interoperability of a secondary line whose physical constraints such as the dimensions of tracks, tunnels or platforms keeps some or all main-line rail vehicles off the line.

Tendering of passenger train services vs. leasing of lines

Generally, in Europe, a public authority seeking to provide passenger trains on a given route issues a call for tenders specifying required service levels. Ticket revenue is generally not expected to cover costs, so the call or bids state the level of public subsidy.

The Romanian transport ministry apparently does not issue tenders for passenger rail services. However, CFR Infrastructură does run auctions at which private companies can bid for the right to lease a non-interoperable line, typically for four years. During this time, the operator is not only responsible for train operation, but also for the line’s maintenance.

CFR map of lease holders
OFR non-interoperable secondary lines leased by private operators as of March 2016. Click on map for more detail. Source: CFR Network Statement. Sister or parent companies hold leases for passenger operators as follows: RC-CF Trans for RegioTrans (green on map); TFG for TFC (light purple); and Via Terra for IRC (dark purple).

Operating agreements with private operators

Private passenger train operators provide service based on an agreement with the transport ministry specifying the level of service and the percentage of its costs that the operator must cover out of ticket revenues. Ticket revenues must typically cover 15% of the operator’s costs on regional lines and 35% on interregional routes.

CFR Network Statement

The CFR Network Statement presents – in English and Romanian – network maps, a list of railway undertakings (i.e., passenger and freight train operators), principles for the scheduling and pricing of passenger services of new entrants, and lists of relevant laws and regulations.

Recent developments in Romanian rail infrastructure

Development of rail passenger services is occurring in the context of ongoing rehabilitation and upgrade of Romania’s rail infrastructure, which was the subject of the following items in Today’s Railways Europe:

  • February 2014: Romania’s transport ministry was due to meet with Chinese partners to discuss plans for a new, €11 billion, 200-250 km/h rail line from Constanţa to Bucharest and Arad, a new or upgraded 160 km/h line from Iaşi via Bucharest to the Bulgarian border at Giurgiu and completing the railway ring around Bucharest.
  • July 2014: Some €144 million has been allocated for non-metro rail projects this year. They include rehabilitation of the main lines from the Hungarian border to Sighişoara and from Bucharest to Constanţa, and another review of the proposed 38-km link between Vâlcele and Râmnicu Vâlcea. This would shorten the Bucharest-Sibiu route by about 117 km. Construction began in the 1970s, with extensive tunnels and viaducts, but then was abandoned.

2016 12 27 between Coslariu and Sighişoara
Rehabilitation of the double-track Coşlariu-Sighişoara section of Pan-European Corridor IV for 160 km/h. Photo on Demember 27, 2016 by Lucrari Feroviare.

  • September 2014: In July, CFR awarded an Italo-Romanian consortium €6 million to upgrade the roughly 90-km double-track and electrified Coşlariu–Sighişoara section of Pan-European Corridor IV (Berlin/Nuremberg–Prague–Budapest–Constanţa/Thessaloniki/Istanbul) to 160 km/h. The six-year project started that same month.
  • September 2014: A consortium of three Romanian companies won a €28 million contract as part of the EU’s TEN-T programme to prepare two bridges for 160 km/h: the 968-metre Borcea bridge 152 km from Bucharest, and the 1596-metre main Cernavodă bridge over the Danube 165 km from Bucharest.
  • November 2014: The Romanian and Chinese governments continued to discuss the Chinese’ possibly building a high-speed line. The EU did not endorse a Constanţa–Bucharest high-speed line, so focus is now on a 350-km/h line from Bucharest to Iaşi, perhaps continuing Chişinau, the capital of Moldova.
  • December 2014: Global consultants AECOM published an EU-funded review of railways in Romania to 2030. Of Romania’s l0,768 km of main-line routes, 27% are double track and 5290 km are secondary lines, many of which are now leased to private operators. Unlike many countries, Romania has closed only a small percentage of its lines – about 3% since 1970. Running speeds are 25-80% of the line design speeds in most of the country. Only 66% of the 1066 CFR passenger locos and multiple-unit trainsets were functioning in 2013. The report proposed bringing core main lines up 100 km/h, deploying ERTMS signalling and doubling and electrifying as needed. A priority is the new link between Piteşti and Râmnicu Vâlcea. The plan ignores the roughly 2740 km of lines leased to private operators, which carry around 20% of rail passengers. AECOM estimated Romanian railways would require €15.4 billion to 2030.
  • February 2015: The Romanian transport ministry says its budget priorities for railways in 2015-2017 are completing modernisation of the roughly 220-km Bucharest–Constanţa main line and electrifying the roughly 100 km between Galaţi, Barboşi, Tecuci and Mărăşeşti.
  • April 2015: The transport ministry said in February that under the Transport Master Plan, €14.9 billion will be devoted to 23 upgrade projects on 3219 km of main line. Seventeen of these are rehabilitation to achieve 160 km/h; five sections totalling 422 km will be electrified; and a new 38-km link will be built between Vâlcele and Râmnicu Vâlcea. A further €3.9 billion would update and in some cases re-open 1131 km of “potentially economic” lesser lines, some of which are narrow gauge. The proposals cover the period to 2030 and now go to the EU, which would provide much of the funding.
  • May 2015: Romania has applied for €890 million in EU funding for rail projects under the “Connecting Europe Facility” (CEF) programme. They include modernisation of the 37-km Braşov-Apata and 45-km Cata-Sighişoara sections of the Braşov-Sighişoara main line for 160 km/h and 22.5 tonne axle loads.
  • June 2015: The Transport Master Plan foresees €3.9 billion to rehabilitate ten “potentially economic” lines. This includes €3.5 billion for repairs to four active lines totalling 702 km of track. More controversial are three further standard-gauge lines totalling 203 km and needing €177 million. Financing is unlikely for three 760-mm-gauge lines that have been closed for about 15 years: they total 225 km and would need around €207 million.
  • September 2015: About 10 km of new track is to be built on the main Bucharest-Budapest line just west of Sighişoara. The same Spanish-Austrian consortium that in 2012 won a €246-million contract to modernise 28 km between Sighişoara and Aţel won a further, €39-million contract in 2014 for more work between Sighişoara and Daneş. Four new sections comprising bridges and two tunnels totalling 1370 m will straighten the line to allow 120 km/h. The old track will then be removed.
  • September 2015: The Romanian government proposed a 40% cut in its network as part of its Transport Master Plan, but reduced this to 20% by 2020 in the face of EU objections to the closure of EU-funded routes.

2015 12 rebuilt Arad stationArad station, whose rebuilding was completed in December 2015. Photo by Iulia Ionescu.

  • February 2016: The EU financed 85% of a €56 million rebuilding of Arad station completed in December. The project was part of a €300-million update of the 41 km eastwards from the Hungarian frontier at Curtici. This now has ETCS Level 2 signalling and GSM-R with speeds up to 160 km/h. Contract leader Alstom installed Romania’s first centralised traffic control centre to run the route.
  • March 2016: The EU has agreed to finance four more projects under the “Connecting Europe Facility”. Benefitting from 85% EU financing are further upgrades of the main line from Hungary to Bucharest on the 45-km Sighişoara-Cala and 36-km Apaţa-Braşov sections (€678 million); a study of requirements to upgrade the 113-km Drobeta Turnu Severin–Caransebeş line to EU standards (€8.4 million); and a feasibility study of rehabilitating the 100 km from Craiova to Calafat and the second Danube bridge (€1.5 million). The EU will also pay 100% of a €1.1-million project to improve Romania’s capacity to prepare and implement the spending of EU funds on rail infrastructure.
  • June 2016: Companies have bid on feasibility studies to upgrade two vital lines. The Craiova-Calafat branch became important with the opening of the second Danube bridge (Calafat/Vidin), which provides a new link to Bulgaria and beyond. The 108-km single-track line needs electrification and upgrading to 160 km/h. The 158-km route from Cluj-Napoca to Oradea and the Hungarian frontier at Episcopia Bihor needs electrification and upgrading to 120 km/h.
  • October 2016: The EU has approved upgrading the 46 km between Apata to Cata, between Sighişoara and Braşov, as part of its €440 million or 82% share of a €538-million effort to progressively bring the Arad-Braşov line to 160 km/h.
  • January 2017: An electrified line to Otopeni airport will open by April 2018. The project involves upgrading the Galaţi line as far as Odăile halt, 17 km from Bucharest Nord station, and 2.3 km of new line. The EU will partly finance the €88 million job.
Bridges over the Argeş near Grădiştea2 The railway bridge over the Argeş river near Grădiştea, which collapsed in a 2005 flood. In the background, the second bridge started in 1986 but never completed. Photo by Radu Constantin.
  • January 2017: The EU has granted funding to rebuild the railway bridge over the Argeş river near Grădiştea, on the main line connecting Romania and Bulgaria, which collapsed in a 2005 flood. Traffic has detoured via Videle for 11 years. Earlier, in Communist times, a second bridge was started but never completed.

2010 04 25 bridges over the Argeş near GrădişteaAnother view of the bridge over the Argeş that collapsed in 2005 (left) and the second bridge started in 1986 (right). Photo on April 25, 2010 by Radu Constantin.

  • January 2017: The 68-km rail ring route around Bucharest operated in the days of steam but has fallen partly into disuse. By February 2017, work costing €200,000 will reopen west and north sections. After more extensive work priced at about €15 million, the eastern Progresu–Pantelimon section may reopen by November 2018.

Development of rail passenger services

The following sections present recent developments concerning the Romanian rail passenger operators.

CFR Călători

CFR Călători SA is Romania’s state passenger train operator.

According to EU-Bahnen, like other railways of the former Eastern Bloc, CFR’s ridership began a sharp decline in 1990. Between 2003 and 2007, CFR Călători bought 96 Siemens Desiro self-propelled passenger cars called Blue Arrows. More recently, the company acquired 80 new sleeping cars. In 2006, CFR Călători bought and then modernised electric multiple-unit trains built in 1965-1970 from the state railways of France (SNCF) and Luxembourg (CFL).

2016 06 29 CFR Calatori near ButanCFR Călători train from Braşov to Budapest near Butan. Photo by Eric Greulich on June 29, 2016.

Between 2009 and 2011, employment at CFR Călători shrank from 16,588 to 13,927 and had further dropped to 13,195 by the end of 2014. In 2015, an average of 1,338 trains per day carried a yearly total 55.0 million passengers over 4.62 billion passenger-km. [This implies an average journey of 84 km – RR.]

In 2014, CFR Călători had 2.04 billion RON in revenue and a net profit of 69.9 million RON. In 2015, the company ran 50.3 million train-km.

According a EU-Bahnen list, CFR Călători has 360 diesel and 365 electric locomotives, 216 diesel and 33 electric self-propelled cars and 2288 passenger cars, including 227 sleeping and 22 restaurant cars.

Today’s Railways Europe carried these items on CFR Călători:

  • January 2013: CFR estimates that it has been losing about €10 million a year because about 30% of passengers have been travelling without tickets. Some ticket collectors were accepting a small payment from passengers and splitting it with superiors. In a big sweep in the Braşov district, 200 employees, including CFR directors, were charged with bribe-taking.
  • June 2013: CFR’s financial situation is worsening daily. ln 2012 the company showed an operating loss of €125 million, and the World Bank, IMF and the EU forced CFR to appoint private managers from outside the company. The new CEO resigned, however, in April 2013 after three months when his board of directors rejected his restructuring plans. Opposition to privatisation within CFR and outside is great. To save money, some passenger trains have been “temporarily” withdrawn on the Gradiştea–Giurgiu and Medgidia–Negru Voda lines. Many locos and multiple units are out of service because no repair money is available.
  • January 2014: In November 2013, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forced the Romanian government to close more lines to save operating costs. By the end of 2013, another 700 km were to be closed or leased to private operators, plus 900 km more in 2014, to save some €15 million yearly.
  • May 2014: The IMF is forcing CFR to continue to reduce costs by leasing more lines to private operators. A further 486 km and ten stations have now been released, bringing the total to 3754 km and 102 stations.
  • August 2014: In June 2014, the Romanian parliament approved a report by consultancy AECOM that suggested focussing on just 6200 km of the national network, which currently comprises some 10 000 km of track, and either leasing out the other lines to private operators or closing them. Passenger traffic is currently 73% of CFR’s business but AECOM projects that by 2030, ridership will have fallen 97% from its 1990 level.
  • September 2014: In July, CFR started running its first 160 km/h, non-stop trains between Bucharest and Constanţa. Track upgrades allow the six-coach trains to cover the 225 km in under two hours. Two Danube crossings await updating, however.
  • October 2014: CFR plans to buy 120 trains capable of between 120 and 200 km/h. Half are to be delivered 2015 and the rest in 2016-2018.
  • February 2015: According to EU rules from 2007, delayed passengers should receive up to 100% of the ticket price if their train is late. A waiver for Romania now been extended to December 2019.
  • April 2015: Can the “Banat Semmering” line survive? ln the Banat region of southwestern Romania, the 33-km mountain line from Oraviţa to Anina has long been compared with the Semmering Pass in Austria. The scenic line, which climbs 339 m and features 14 tunnels and nine viaducts, is down to one train pair a day. CFR has long offered the unprofitable line for lease – unsuccessfully, because private operators cannot use their full-size railcars in the narrow, curving tunnels. Despite the threat of closure, the line does appear in the recent Transport Master Plan – with €56 million required for updating.
  • November 2015: CFL had previously leased the 31-km branch from Paşcani to Targu Neamt and the 35-km branch to Odorhei to private passenger train operator RegioTrans. But RegioTrans decided to cease operating these routes. In September, this forced CFR to re-activate its own service on both lines. In the same month, CFR also restored service on the 33-km Timişoara Nord – Remetea Mica line and to Târgovişte–Pietroşita in October.
  • December 2015: In October, CFR resumed operations on the Caracal–Corabia line and on the 57-km line from Goleşti, near Piteşti, to Câmpulung and Parcul Kreţulescu, with connecting trains to Bucharest Nord
  • January 2016: In November, CFR resumed operating the 38-km line from Curtea de Argeş to Piteşti, with connections to Titu and Bucharest. The attractive old station at from Curtea de Argeş is to be modernised. In this same month, services also restarted on the 16-km Hunedoara-Simeria line, the 12-km Şibot-Cugir branch and line to Teius, and the 50-km Roşiori Nord – Turnu Magurele line. CFR has thus reopened 12 routes in recent weeks, largely due to private operator RegioTrans giving up its leases on some branches.
  • September 2016: On July 5, transport minister Dan Costescu said he thought train travel was “a luxury”, implying that money would be better spent on road infrastructure. He was immediately replaced by Sorin Buse, who had earlier been general manager of Renault Technologies Romania for five years.
  • March 2016: The transport ministry says Romanians travel on average only 215 km annually by train compared with the European average of 650 km. [Combined with the average journey length of 84 km noted above, this implies that the average Romanian makes 2.6 train journeys a year. – RR] Although fares seem low to visitors, low salaries make trains expensive for locals. Aging rolling stock and poor reliability also discourage passengers.

S.C. RegioTrans S.R.L.

According to EU-Bahnen, the private passanger train operator RegioTrans split off in 2005 from RC-CF Trans. RegioTrans is Romania’s second-largest passenger train operator after CFR Călători, and the largest private one.

RegioTrans progressively took over rail passenger service on routes previously operated by CFR Călători, on which in some cases services had already stopped. On several main routes, RegioTrans developed services running parallel to those of CFR Călători. RegioTrans services were mainly in the regions around Braşov, Luduş/Blaj, Timişoara und Arad. The EU-Bahnen list shows 21 routes.

2014 08 24 RegioTrans
A gatekeeper watches a RegioTrans train pass on the Jebel-Giera line, on which service has since ended. Photo August 24, 2014 by Eric Greulich.

RegioTrans mostly bought the trainsets it needed from the French railway SNCF, most of which were diesel Caravelles. EU-Bahnen’s list shows that RegioTrans has 129 trainsets, of which the great majority are ex-SNCF sets built by ANF between 1964 and 1978. In 2010, RegioTrans opened a new workshop in Arad. In Timişoara Nord, RT runs a maintenance and stabling facility west of the station. Since 2010, RegioTrans subsidiary Marub S.A. in Braşov has been handling most heavy maintenance.

Between 2009 and 2014, RegioTrans’s revenue increased from 121 to 275 million RON (61 million euros) and headcount from 558 to 992. Net profits in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were 40.3, 0.06 and 7.57 million RON respectively.

In 2008 – the last year for which EU-Bahnen contains such data – RegioTrans moved 2.73 million passengers. In 2011, 183 million RON or about 81% if its revenue came from subsidies of the Romanian state.

EU-Bahnen still shows ownership of RegioTrans as being split 50-50 between Costel Comana and Iorgu Ganea. In the 1990s, Mr Comana was a high CFR manager and Mr Ganea operated gaming arcades. However, Mr Comana commit suicide in February 2015 in South America and Mr Ganea was arrested on charges of bribing high-ranking transport ministry and CFR officials in 2012 in order to receive state subsidies for passenger services.

EU-Bahnen says that in March 2015, Romania’s safety authority AFER revoked the safety certificate of RegioTrans, forcing its shutdown. This followed the discovery of 29 safety problems in the preceding two weeks. From April 2015, after issuance of a new safety certificate, operation progressively resumed, but not on all routes.

Still under contract with the Transport Ministry, RegioTrans was expected to run 6.0 million train-km in 2016.

Today’s Railways Europe carried these items on RegioTrans:

  • February 2013: RegioTrans is running about 42 routes leased from CFR. The majority were minor lines. RegioTrans also operates long distance trains on major routes such as Braşov to Bucureşti and Constanţa.
  • August 2013: At a June auction, RegioTrans won the right to operate the Costeşti – Roşiori Nord line for four more years.
  • September 2014: At a July auction, RegioTrans acquired four-year leases to operate three branches in the extreme west of Romania: Nădab–Grăniceri (20 km), Timişoara Nord–Jimbolia (Serbian border, 39 km) and Timişoara Nord – Timişoara Vest (4 km).
  • December 2014: At an October auction, RegioTrans leased two minor lines from CFR: Ploieşti–Armăseşti (48 km) and Făurei–Urziceni (67 km), for a period of four years. The next auction was slated for November.
  • May 2015: ASFR, the Romanian rail safety authority, ordered the shutdown of all RegioTrans services from March 17 after withdrawal of the company’s safety certificate. It is thought that 29 of company’s 222 traction units were declared unsafe. This caused massive disruption, as RegioTrans is now Romania’s biggest private passenger train operator. Commentators alleged that the ASFR order came in the context of political dealings and corruption. The historic public operator CFR is obliged by law to provide a minimal passenger service. So although short on rolling stock, CFR started running some services on March 18 on 11 routes to replace RegioTrans trains.
  • May 2015: RegioTrans founder Costel Comana was found dead in the toilet of a plane flying between Colombia and Costa Rica, having committed suicide. He was believed to have fled to South America to escape arrest by the Romanian anticorruption agency. His business partner and numerous other managers from both private operators and CFR are targets of a major corruption investigation. Starting in the early 2000s, Comana built up a massive private passenger operation that now has about a 15 % market share in Romania and runs trains on almost 50 routes, mainly on minor lines but with a few main-line services.
  • June 2015: After all RegioTrans trains were withdrawn upon revocation of the company’s safety certificate on March 17, services began to restart from April – initially on just 15 routes using 35 railcars. CFR, which had replaced some of the RegioTrans services, continued running these until April 18. Normal RegioTrans operations were phased back in April as more stock was certified.
  • August 2015: RegioTrans has had all its rolling stock officially checked and has restored almost all its services.
  • November 2015: RegioTrans, which had previously leased the 31-km branch from Paşcani to Targu Neamt and the 35-km branch to Odorhei, decided to cease operating both routes. Since September, CFR has been obliged to reoffer service.
  • January 2016: 12 routes have been reopened by CFR in recent weeks, largely due to private operator RegioTrans giving up its leases on some branches.
  • May 2016: ln 2012 it was rumoured that Arriva (Deutsche Bahn) wished to acquire 70% of RegioTrans, but this did not happen. Now similar rumours have emerged.

S.C. Transferoviar Călători S.R.L. (TFC)

According to EU-Bahnen, S.C. Transferoviar Călători S.R.L. (TFC) was founded in 2010 as a rail passenger subsidiary of the private rail freight company Transferoviar Grup (TFG). Between 2011 and 2014, TRC’s revenue grew from 36.4 to 81.5 million RON, its headcount from 98 to 239 and its net profit from 1.4 to 2.4 million RON.

A EU-Bahnen list shows TFC rail passenger services on nine routes, three of which terminate in Bucharest Nord.

TFC train at Bucharest Nord 12 Nov 2016On one of his frequent stays in Romania, Railweb consulting partner William Anderson saw this TFC trainset in Bucharest Nord on November 12, 2016.

The EU-Bahnen rolling-stock list shows that unlike CFR and the other three private Romanian private passenger train operations, who mostly use trainsets that formerly ran on France’s SNCF, the lion’s share of TFC’s roster is 30 three-car trainsets built between 1965 and 1973 that formerly ran on Germany’s DB. TFC obtained at least some of the DB units via the dealer HEROS Helvetic Rolling Stock GmbH. Somewhat newer are 13 other trainsets built in 1981-82 that ran on the Dutch NS. TFC sister company, Remarul 16 Februarie S.A. in Cluj-Napoca, maintains the trains.

Under the contract with the Ministry of Transport which financially supports TFC’s services, TFC was expected run 3.3 million train-km in 2016.

Today’s Railways Europe carried these items on TFC:

  • July 2013: TFC took over the Slanic branch in September 2012 when CFR Călători found it uneconomic. TFC now runs seven train pairs on the 44-km route from Ploieşti Sud into the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains to reach to Slanic, one of which runs all the way to Bucharest Nord weekdays.
  • October 2013: Austrian company Donau Finanz said it would acquire both the passenger and freight operations of the TFC group. TFC is running trains on nine routes totalling 840 km.
  • February 2015: In November 2014, TFC began to operate four daily train pairs on the 51-km Ploieşti Sud – Măneciu branch. The line had had no passenger service for some time after CFR found it unprofitable.
  • May 2015: As part of a major investigation, Transferoviar owner Călin Mitică is under house arrest for alleged corruption.

S.C. Interregional Călători S.R.L. (IRC)

According to EU-Bahnen, Interregional Călători (IRC) belongs to four individuals; Iulian Gaga is the largest shareholder with 55%.

Founded in 2005, the passenger operator IRC is part of a group that also includes the freight forwarder Via Terra. Operations began in 2007 in the route between Vaşcău, Holod and Ciumeghiu with used Caravelle self-propelled trains bought from the French railways (SNCF). Service between Bistriţa Nord and Bistriţa Bârgăului began in 2009; by December of that year, the company operated 250 km of regional routes.

2016 09 15 Interregional Calatori (IRC) Bistrita (Lama)IRC train at Bistriţa (Cartier Lamă). Photo September 15, 2016 by Norbert Töttösy.

In 2010, IRC began service between Şărmăşag and Săcuieni Bihor; two trains a day continued to Oradea and another ran directly between Şărmăşag, Oradea and Holod. Service between Bistriţa Nord and Cluj-Napoca began in 2013.

2016 09 12 Interregional Calatori (IRC) Susenii BargauluiIRC trainset in Susenii Bârgăului on September 12, 2016. The photographer, Norbert Töttösy, says that IRC bought three such VT628 DMUs from German operator DB Regio in 2016 and five more in 2017.

IRC operates its passenger trains under a contract with the Romanian Ministry of Transport. According to EU-Bahnen’s list, IRC operates 17 self-propelled trainsets, of which 13 are former SNCF sets built by ANF in about 1964-1968. IRC was expected to run around 1.19 million train-km in 2016.

In November 2013, Today’s Railways Europe reported that IRC had begun operating five train pairs daily on the 23 km line from Oradea to Cheresi, close to the Hungarian border. The line had been closed by CFR in 1997.

S.C. Softrans S.R.L.

According to EU-Bahnen, Softrans S.R.L. was founded in 2002 and mainly transports railway ballast in block trains. Softrans arose in the context of the bankruptcy of the Electroputere locomotive plant in Craiova, which led to the creation of a number of railway-related companies, mostly by former top Electroputere managers.

Among them are the train builder Softronic and the passenger train operator Softrans. Augustin Popescu, Ion Gârniţă and Ionel Ghiţă each own a third of Softrans.

Between 2009 and 2014, Softrans’ revenue rose from 4.3 to 39.6 million RON (8.8 million euros) and headcount from 24 to 40. Net profit in 2012, 2013 and 2014 was 2.5, 2.7 and 10.3 million RON respectively.

Softrans trainset in Bucharest Nord 12 Nov 2016Softrans trainset in Bucharest Nord on November 12, 2016. Craiova will be the European Capital of Culture in 2021. Photo by Railweb consulting partner William Anderson.

Softrans operates only on the main-line CFR network, and not on leased secondary lines. In June 2014, Softrans launched a daily, locomotive-hauled train pair between Craiova and Motru Est Gr. Călători. In September 2014, Softrans launched a daily service between Craiova, Bucharest and Brașov with a Hyperion electric trainset built by Softronic. Two daily train pairs currently operate on this route. In June 2015, the company revived regular service between between Craiova and Constanţa with a second Hyperion trainset. A third Hyperion set was expected to enter service in 2016.

EU-Bahnen’s list shows that Softrans holds 12 sets of equipment, including the three Softtronic Hyperion trainsets and six Electroputere units that appear to be locomotives. Under its current contract with the Transport Ministry, Softrans was expected to run 680,000 train-km in 2016.

Softrans train in Bucharest Nord on 12 Nov 2017Another view of the Softrans trainset. Photo by Railweb consulting partner William Anderson.

Today’s Railways Europe carried these items on Softrans:

  • October 2014: New passenger operator Softrans, the operating arm of locomotive manufacturer Softronic, ran services from its base at Craiova via Bucharest to Constanţa until September 13 using its fast Hyperion EMU. The second-class fare from Bucharest was only 64% of CFR’s. CFR was obliged to reduce fares. Softrans also runs a local service from Craiova via Filiaşi to Motru.
  • November 2014: From September 15, the new Hyperion EMU began running Craiova–Bucharest–Braşov services. Again, fares undercut those of CFR. Also in September, Softrans cut back its Motru service to Filiaşi.

S.C. Astra Trans Carpatic S.R.L.

In January 2017, Today’s Railways Europe reported that Arad-based passenger coach builder Astra Vagoane Călători hoped to begin a new overnight service on the Arad–Timişoara–Craiova–Bucharest route from the December 2016 timetable change. The company expects to offer trains as far as Constanţa in the summer season. Railway Gazette International said that the trains in fact starting running on February 2, 2017.

2017 02 13 Astra Trans CarpaticAstra Trans Carpatic’s new overnight Arad–Timişoara–Craiova–Bucharest train in the Basarab service facility next to Bucharest Nord. Photo on February 13, 2017 by Andu Ikarus.

Like Softrans, Astra Trans Carpatic operates only on the main-line CFR network, and not on leased secondary lines.

Fulger Transport Rapid Interurban de Călători

According to EU-Bahnen, S.C. Fulger Transport Rapid Interurban de Călători S.R.L. (FTRIC) was founded in May 2013. Its owner was Caumalis Ventures Ltd. Cypres, via two intermediary firms, Transport Operativ Feroviar de Marfă S.R.L. and Întreţinere Transport Feroviar S.R.L. In 2013, FTRIC reported 3.3 million RON in turnover and a net profit of 0.3 Mio. RON but had no employees.

EU-Bahnen said that in May and June 2013, FTRIC leased the Dorneşti–Gura Putnei–Putna, Gura Humorului–Dărmăneşti, Dornişoara–Floreni, Crasna – Huşi, and Sebeș Alba–Petreştii de Pădure lines from CFR.

In August 2013, Today’s Railways Europe reported that FTRIC has won the right to operate most of these lines for four years in a June 2013 auction.

Neither source has mentioned any FTRIC train operations. As of January 2017, the company has no website.

SC Vest Trans Rail SRL

According to the CFR Network Statement, Vest Trans Rail is also licensed to operate passenger trains.

Railweb consulting partner William Anderson contributed to this report.

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