How will Serbia renew the railway with six billion euros?

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Most of the six billion euros that will be invested in the modernization of the railway in Serbia will go to the sections on the European Corridor 10, which includes the railway from Sid to the border with Northern Macedonia.
The tender for the contractor on the longest section from Belgrade to Nis should be open these days, and the works completed in 2026.
However, the modernization of Serbian railways will continue even after the completion of that extensive work, Anita Dimoski, Assistant Minister for Railway and Intermodal Transport in the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, told Sputnik. Transport, she says, is a living thing and happens in real life – when certain investments are completed, others will begin.
What will the railway modernize first?
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic, announced that Serbia plans to invest more than six billion euros in railway projects, announcing the complete modernization of railway traffic in the country and connections with the countries of the region and the European Union.
Since the train in Serbia on the Belgrade-Nis line closed for the first time in August 1884, 3333.4 kilometers of railway network have been built until today, in which, however, insufficient investment has been made.
What has not changed since Prince Milan Obrenovic marked the beginning of the construction of the first railway in Serbia in June 1881, right from Belgrade to Nis, is that the railway is the basis of economic development.
That is why Dimoska says that we have to reconstruct, build and modernize the railway network in order to be able to achieve our goals. She notes that the national program of public railway infrastructure is harmonized with the program of economic reforms of the Government of Serbia, but it also fits into the reforms and strategic documents that the EU countries have adopted as a priority. It also fits into the Green Deal, a European green agreement that recognized the advantages of railways as the least polluting of all means of transport.
That is why the German government last year approved a plan in the amount of 86 billion euros of investments in its railway network in the next 10 years. And with those investments, it will continue to lag behind Austria and Switzerland.
When asked in what priority funds will be invested in Serbia, our interlocutor supported the answer with numbers.
“That investment program of over six billion euros means that we will first go to raising the level of service quality on the main, regional and local railways. In our railway network, about 42 percent are main lines, 38 percent are regional, and about 20 percent are local lines. Exactly in relation to that percentage share are the investment programs that should be realized through the reconstruction, construction and modernization of the railway network,” says the assistant minister.
Where will Serbia go?
She reminded that the realization of significant infrastructure projects is underway on the railway Corridor 10 – from Belgrade to Subotica, the so-called Hungarian-Serbian railway, whose investment value is 2.3 billion euros. At the beginning of next year, we will have the Belgrade-Novi Sad high-speed railway in commercial use. That route will roll over in 38 minutes.
“This year, we will start the third section of reconstruction and construction from Novi Sad to Subotica, which is part of the European Corridor 10. We also have the Belgrade-Nis project as part of the same Corridor. The investment value of that project is around 1.8 billion euros. A feasibility study is underway that will show the true investment value for the reconstruction and construction of the section and its modernization. It also includes a donation in the amount of 35 to 40 percent of that investment, which is about 700 million euros of non-refundable funds that our country received from the EU,” explains Dimoska.
That, she adds, is followed by the reconstruction of the branch from Nis to Dimitrovgrad, whose value is 268 million euros, of which 60 percent are loans, and 40 percent are EU grants. We also have the continuation of Corridor 10 from Nis to Presevo and the border with Northern Macedonia.
Corridor and alternative routes
In addition to these large projects on the Corridor, there are also regional railways, or alternative routes. These are those from Novi Sad via Bogojevo, Sombor to Subotica, as well as the route from Subotica via Senta, Banatski Milosev, Zrenjanin, Pancevo, to Belgrade, and from Pancevo to Vrsac to the Romanian border.
“What should be mentioned are various sources of financing – loans from the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, then loans based on intergovernmental bilateral agreements such as the one with the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China,” said Dimoska.
She adds that significant financial resources in the total amount are donations from EU IPA funds and non-refundable funds from the Western Balkans Fund formed a few years ago.
When asked how much time is needed for the realization of such a large project, what are the deadlines, she reminds that it is already known that the section Belgrade-Novi Sad will be in commercial use at the beginning of 2022.
Hungarians in parallel with us
“As for the section from Novi Sad to Subotica, ie the border with Hungary, construction should start by the end of the year and last for four years. The Hungarian side will also start the works on the fast railway to Budapest this year, and the completion of the construction is in approximately three and a half, four years,” states Dimoska.
She points out that the beginning of the construction of tunnel number 4 on the section Stalac-Junis will practically be the beginning of the realization of the project Belgrade-Nis, a section 238 kilometers long. At the end of September, a tender for the selection of contractors will be opened, so the conclusion of the contract is expected by the end of the year. The beginning of the works is planned for March 2022, and the end in 2026, the assistant minister specifies.
The planned deadline for the completion of the reconstruction of the branch from Nis to Dimitrovgrad and the single-track railway that will be electrified and with a bypass around Nis is 2024.
It remains to reconstruct the section from Nis to Presevo, ie to the border with Northern Macedonia, 156 kilometers long. For now, it is certain that the 23-kilometer stretch from Nis to Brestovac will cost 60 million euros and that 85 percent will be financed by EU donations from IPA funds.
From Brestovac to Presevo, optional analyzes are being made, which should be completed by the end of this year, on the basis of which it will be decided which of the three options is the most profitable, because it is a geographically extremely difficult section passing through Grdelica gorge, the assistant minister said.
Reconstruction of the Belgrade – Bar railway has also been agreed
She notes that the revitalization of the Belgrade-Bar railway through our country has already been agreed, on which the section from Resnik to Valjevo, 77 kilometers long, has already been reconstructed. A preliminary project from Valjevo to Vrbnica is currently being prepared, and according to a preliminary estimate, the investment value of that 210-kilometer-long railway is close to a billion euros.
“It is financed by a loan from the Russian Federation and the project documentation is done by a Russian contractor. It will be finished in the middle of next year. Since it started operating in 1976, investments have been made in it, but much less than it should have been maintained at the required level of services and in accordance with the requirements of the economy,” she says.
That the revitalization of the railway network in Serbia is a job that has just begun is clear even after the statement of the director for mobility and transport sector of the European Commission Maja Bakran Marcic that the EU has determined 30 billion euros for investments in sustainable transport and railway infrastructure in the Western Balkans, Sputnik reports.