Things have been very stressful on the European rail routes for months. Matej Franc also has to keep his "ear to the ground" all the time. New routes, rescheduling, replacing locomotive drivers, organizing repairs…. But the calm, occasionally smiling Head of Rail Operations at Metrans Danubia doesn't let that show. "Our trains always run," he says confidently. "Everyone here at Metrans has the customer in mind, I can count on that!"
He has taken time to guide visitors around the rail terminal in Dunajska Streda, Slovakia, and he enjoys it. You can see the pride he takes in the HHLA subsidiary's modern container hub. In 2006, the large facility was built into the flat Danube lowlands, and the first train was welcomed in February 2007. Today it offers storage space for 15,000 standard containers, and 600 employees handle about 20 trains a day.
Four light gray rail cranes move across the five tracks. The waiting trains not only travel to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and nearby Hungary on the other side of the Danube. There are also regular block train connections to Arad in Romania as well as to Koper in Slovenia and Trieste in Italy, both port cities on the Adriatic, but today also to Pireaus or Istanbul.
Metrans provides "total full service," as Matej describes with a comprehensive wave of his hand. Containers are handled, stored and transported, of course, but they are also weighed, cleaned or repaired as needed. Repairing seems to be one of the boss's hobbies. With a particularly broad smile, he points to an old but thoroughly repaired and gleaming shunting locomotive that has been adorned with the name "Little Tiger."
Matej is still grinning: "I only have one hobby, and that is the railroad!" Even in his spare time, he tinkers with new technical solutions and can often be found in the terminal's own workshop. This is where, for example, the company's own diesel locomotives are maintained, which Metrans needs on the routes that have not yet been electrified.
He was made a real railwayman at the Railway Secondary School, where he completed four years of training and his school-leaving certificate at the same time. Then at the University of Transport, he became a real rail specialist. "But I actually see myself more as a universalist," Matej says. "I'm not allowed to drive a train, but otherwise I know my way around pretty well."
He feels at home in the small town of Dunajska Streda, where he has a house with his wife and three daughters. It's only ten minutes to work and there are no traffic jams, not even on the new highway to the capital, Bratislava. No disadvantages? Matej looks around: "Well, everything is so flat here, and I come from the middle of Slovakia after all. I sometimes miss the mountains…."