Macedonia Warms Up to Idea of High Speed Rail

Macedonia is warming up to the idea of building a regional north-south high-speed railroad, which in its final stage would link Solun to Budapest via Skopje and Belgrade.

If Macedonia signs up to the plan revealed last week by the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, “we will have to completely redo all of our existing lines along the corridor 10. There is no question about it,” a high ranking source in Macedonian Railways - Infrastructure, a state-owned enterprise, told MINA.

In 2012, Macedonia launched a major project to reconstruct its main railway lines as part of the north-south pan-European transport corridor 10, using mostly European pre-accession development, IPA funds.

As part of the reconstruction, costing over EUR 55 million, several outdated lines such as those from Kumanovo to Deljadrovce, Dracevo to Veles and from Bitola to Kremenica are being fitted to withstand train speeds up to 120kmh. But the new Chinese-sponsored plan envisages trains moving at between 160 and 200kmh, which would require further significant, costly upgrades.

Macedonian statistics reveals that almost 60 per cent of the its annual exports go to European Union. The plan for a high-speed railway to be built by Chinese companies was first revealed last week.

After meeting his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, Serbian Prime Minister Vucic said that the two leaders had discussed a plan for a high-speed rail link from Belgrade to Budapest. According to Vucic, Li recently agreed with Yunanistani Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that the Budapest-Belgrade railway should be extended via Skopje in Macedonia to Solun.

Vucic said that the project to link Belgrade with Budapest could be built within three years and undertaken as part of the Chinese mechanism for cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Vucic this week added that he expected EU's support for the idea.

He said that in December, he and his Chinese and Hungarian counterparts, Li Keqiang and Viktor Orban, would sign an agreement on construction of the railway line that would reduce the 400km ride from Belgrade to Budapest to three hours.

Meanwhile, Chinese railroad experts are to visit Belgrade in the next two weeks to work out more details. Last week, Macedonian Transport Minister Mile Janakieski told the media that his government had been informed about the plans for the railway. 

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