EUROPE: Czech open access operator RegioJet has announced plans to launch a long-distance passenger service on the Praha – Wien – Budapest route from June 2020. There would be two trains each way per day, operated as extensions of the Praha – Brno – Wien services which have been running since December 2017. This would be the first time that a private operator would directly compete with Hungarian national operator MÁV-Start. It would also provide passengers with an alternative route between Budapest and Praha, as the current direct service runs via Bratislava. RegioJet currently operates 14 daily coach services to and from Budapest, offering connections to Praha, Wien, Brno and Bratislava. ‘Our policy is to be the best value for money for passengers on rails’, said General Manager Ivana Kašická on August 8. ‘On the Praha – Wien route we have proven that it is possible to bring much higher quality of service on trains for much lower prices than the traditional train operators.’ The trains would use Budapest Déli station, unlike the Austrian Federal Railways Railjet services from Wien which serve Keleti. Trains would arrive at Budapest Déli at 12.14 and 20.14, and depart at 07.45 and 15.35. They would call at Budapest Kelenföld, Győr and Mosonmagyaróvár in Hungary, crossing the border at Hegyeshalom and calling at Wien Meidling and Wien Hbf before continuing to Praha. RegioJet is to work with local operators Westbahn in Austria and Continental Railway Solution in Hungary, which will provide drivers and conductors and be responsible for operations. This follows an agreement for Westbahn to take over from Graz-Köflacher Bahn as the operator and provider of drivers and conductors for RegioJet’s services within Austria from the December 15 2019 timetable change.
Uhuru Kenyatta won a critical vote in parliament to remove interest-rate caps, paving the way to scrap a law that’s starved businesses of credit.The removal of the law, which set a ceiling on what lenders can charge on loans at four percentage points above the benchmark rate, will appease the central bank that criticized it for complicating monetary policy. The law came into force three years ago to improve terms for borrowers but instead made lenders more selective on who they provided money.The vote was held amid heckling by lawmakers who wanted the loan-price regulations retained. National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi adjourned the session for 10 minutes after which he announced the house lacked the two-thirds-quorum required to overturn the president’s decision to remove the cap.“The net effect on the motion is that the ayes have it and the motion is carried,” Muturi said after the house reconvened in a live broadcast of proceedings in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.“What remains is for the government printer and the attorney-general to ensure that the bill is ready and bring it back to me for my signature and presentation to the president,” Muturi said by phone after the session.The immediate winner from the repealing of the caps will be Equity Group Holdings Plc, Kenya’s biggest bank by valuation, because it has the largest exposure in lending to small businesses, according to Ronak Gadhia, director of sub-Saharan Africa banks research at EFG Hermes Frontier. “It also has a low loans-to-deposit ratio so its capacity to lend is stronger than everybody else.”The biggest losers will probably be the micro-finance banks and mobile-phone lenders who weren’t subject to the rate cap and borrowers turned to for loans even when more expensive. The vote happened after markets closed in Nairobi.Banks will now “seek to increase their market share from mobile loans,” Gadhia said. “We should see more competition on the mobile lending space among banks going forward.”Related Uhuru Kenyatta wins Kenya’s repeat presidential poll Kenya hailed for reducing malnutrition rate Western envoys urge Kenya opposition to recognize Kenyatta