UK-based rail operator Arriva has signed a 15-year contract to expand its services in Czechia, or the Czech Republic and enter the electric rail market in the country. 

In a deal worth €82.5m ($89.7m) and securing the company’s position as the second largest private rail operator in the country after České dráhy, the group will be operating nine electric trains in Czechia’s Pilsen region. 

Sian Leydon, managing director of mainland Europe, said: “We have demonstrated long-standing success in rail operations in the Czech Republic and this win represents a growth story for Arriva and positions us for future growth in electric rail in this market. 

“We have a strong history of providing sustainable transport solutions to passenger transport authorities across Europe, and entering a new region will further build on this.” 

The group will be recruiting 40 drivers to cover the new routes which will come into Arriva’s control in December 2023. 

Two-car Skoda RegioPanter 650 series trains will be used by the company on the Horažďovice, Plzeň to Pňovany route. 

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An expansion of operations in Czechia is part of a series of investments in Europe over recent years including a contract in the Netherlands earlier this year and another in northern Poland in 2022. 

The company, owned by Deutsche Bahn, also operates in Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, as well as the UK. 

Similar to Network Rail in the UK, Czechia’s rail infrastructure is managed by the government-owned Správa železnic, which is responsible for 9,479km of tracks in the country and contracts out the running of services to companies like Arriva. 

Arriva currently runs 623 trains and trams around Europe including 75 in Czechia. The company first entered the bus market in the country in 2006 and then the rail market in 2013 and employs over 3,600 people across all its operations.