Serbia to get 500-million-euro loan for Belgrade-Niš railway line
Serbia will in all likelihood secure a loan of 500 million euros from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in order to upgrade the railway line connecting Belgrade to Niš. Once this upgrade is completed, freight and passenger trains will be able to run at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour from Niš up till Novi Sad, north of Belgrade.
The loan has already passed the ‘concept review’ stage and is currently under ‘structure review’, as the EBRD describes it. Once all the lights are green, the project can go ahead. The approval deadline is 30 November.
While the railway section is only 228 kilometres long, it forms a relevant link for rail freight across Europe. This is because it lies 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 modernisation works is to enable a speed increase to up to 200 kilometres per hour. At such a speed, the journey would be covered in 1 hour and 15 minutes, whereas the current travel time between Belgrade and Niš is 5,5 hours. The works will be carried out by SRI, a joint stock company established as the sole national railway infrastructure asset management company of Serbia.
Although there are parts of Corridor X that are financed by China, and in the past also by Russia, the EU is taking a clear stance with the financing of the central part of the network. As one European Commission official put it several months ago, it is in the EU’s key interest to pursue its enlargement policy more effectively. In that view, the construction of critical infrastructure is central to the Western Balkans.
This article first appeared on RailFreight.com.
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