Serbian Belgrade-Novi Sad high-speed railway marks 1 year of operations
The Serbian Belgrade-Novi Sad high-speed railway marked its first anniversary on Sunday. The Chinese-built line has transported nearly 3 million people between Serbia’s two largest cities since operations started last year.
The high-speed railway line of around 80 kilometres connects capital Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city located in the north-west of the country. It went into operation in March last year, and has since transported 3 million people, according to Chinese state media Xinhua news.
At the anniversary ceremony at the Novi Sad railway station, Serbian and Chinese officials also looked ahead to more improvements in high-speed rail. Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s prime minister, said: “Today, we know that we are capable, and we are ready to move forward, and we know that we will construct the remaining section to the border with Hungary”, referring to the upgrade of the 350-kilometre-long Belgrade-Budapest railway, which is underway.
The Belgrade-Novi Sad railway section is “a symbol and a fine example of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Serbia within the Belt and Road initiative”, said Chen Bo, Chinese ambassador to Serbia.
Construction of the second section, 108.1-kilometre-long between Novi Sad and Subotica, near the Hungarian border, started in November 2021. The outdated Budapest-Belgrade railway is being modernised to improve the connectivity between Hungary and Serbia. The modernisation project will deliver a 350 kilometre-long double-track electrified high-speed railway network and enhance passenger services.
More investments in high-speed rail, also from EU
China is not the only one building and investing in Serbian infrastructure, however. The EU, of which Serbia is a candidate for ascension to member state for years, is also investing in rail. This February, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Serbia announced jointly a 2.2 billion financial package for the modernisation of ‘railway Corridor X’. This Corridor is one of the pan-European corridors connecting Central Europe with Thessaloniki, Greece. It has been identified as Flagship 1 – Connecting East to West, within the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.
The EIB will provide 1.1 billion, the EBRD 550 million. The EU donation totals 598 million, the largest non-repayable amount that Serbia has received. According to the EIB, the total estimated needed investment for the Belgrade-Niš line upgrade is roughly 2,8 billion euros. The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) and the Serbian government will also contribute to the project financially.
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