Serbia to get 500 million euro loan for Belgrade-Niš railway line
Serbia will in all likelihood obtain a loan of 500 million euros from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in order to modernize the railway line linking Belgrade to Niš. Once this upgrade is completed, freight and passenger trains will be able to run at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour from Niš to Novi Sad, north of Belgrade.
The loan has already passed the ‘concept review’ stage and is currently undergoing a ‘structure review’, as the EBRD describes it. Once all the lights are green, the project can go ahead. The deadline for approval is November 30.
Although the rail section is only 228 kilometers long, it is an important link for rail freight across Europe. Indeed, it sits at the heart of the so-called Corridor X, which runs from Salzburg in Austria to Thessaloniki in Greece, and via a second branch from Budapest in Hungary to Istanbul in Turkey. These two branches form the shape of an X and the lines intersect in the middle of Serbia – on the Belgrade-Niš line.
The aim of the modernization works is to allow an increase in speed up to 200 kilometers per hour. At such a speed, the journey would take 1 hour and 15 minutes, while the current journey time between Belgrade and Niš is 5.5 hours. The works will be executed by SRI, a joint stock company incorporated as the only national railway infrastructure asset management company in Serbia.
Although parts of Corridor X are financed by China, and in the past also by Russia, the EU takes a clear position with the financing of the central part of the network. As a European Commission official said a few months ago, it is in the EU’s overriding interest to pursue its enlargement policy more effectively. From this point of view, the construction of critical infrastructures is essential for the Western Balkans.
This article first appeared on RailFreight.com.