Kumanovo 2nd March 2014 (MIA) – Activities for realization of the Rehabilitation of Eastern Part of Rail Corridor VIII Project, Phase I – Section Kumanovo – Beljakovce started from Klecovo Bridge in Kumanovo region. Cornerstone of the first phase of the Project worth over EUR 50 million, was laid on Sunday.

Railway section from Kumanovo to Beljakovce is 30.8 km long, being the first out of the total three sections of the railroad tracks along the international railway Corridor VIII, which should connect the Republic of Macedonia with the Republic of Bulgaria, starting from Kumanovo, passing through Beljakovce, Kriva Palanka until Deve Bair, i.e. until the border with the Republic of Bulgaria.

Prime Minister Gruevski pointed out that the Project foresees full reconstruction of the existing railroad tracks, around 31 km long, construction of three railway stations, six stops, several overpasses and underpasses, construction of bridge over Pcinja River, renewal of the existing bridges, installation of cable ducts, fences, protective barriers and new signalling devices.

Total investment for Kumanovo – Beljakovce section amounts to over EUR 50 million, and it is expected for the construction activities to be completed by the middle of 2016, Prime Minister said.

Project for railway connection between Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Bulgaria is a project being discussed for many years backwards, he added. – It was not only discussed but some of the activities were started even in 90’s, however due to the irresponsibility and the lack of seriousness of the previous ruling party, the project was halted in 2004. The money was spent and the project was not realized, and due to the unserious approach of the previous Government, Macedonia had a damage of over EUR 20 million on the basis of court disputes and damage claims from the construction companies working on the project, Gruevski said.

Prime Minister mentioned once again that most of the railroad tracks in Macedonia were built more than one hundred years ago, during the Ottoman Empire. Gruevski pointed as examples the railroad tracks Skopje – Gevgelija, which was built in 1873 and the railroad tracks from Skopje to Tabanovce, being built in 1887.

Since than onwards, there have been very small investments in the construction and rehabilitation of the railway infrastructure in the country.

Prime Minister stressed that this Government, in 2007, provided funds for repair of railroad tracks on Ilinden Railroad Station and the section Kadina reka – Rajko Zinzifov, while in 2009, there was overhaul of the railroad tracks Negotino-Dubrovo. Last year, the Government invested around EUR 17 million for repair of railroad tracks on Tabanovce-Kumanovo section and Miravci-Smokvica section. Repair of railroad tracks on Nogaevci-Negotino section is expected to be completed this year. He informed that activities have been undertaken for realizing the project for rehabilitation of the railroad tracks Bitola-Kremenica, amounting to EUR 20 million, rehabilitation and upgrading of the railway station in Skopje, as well as the other stations along Corridor 10, to be followed by the Macedonian Railways Fleet Renewal Project by procuring passenger and freight wagons. Gruevski announced that the largest projects will follow in the next few years, by constructing the railroad tracks towards Bulgaria, as well as the railroad tracks towards Albania, which will both be an investment worth EUR 1 billion.

– If we also take into account the other projects we realized, the projects under realization or the ones to be realized in the next few years, the amount for investments in the railway infrastructure is approximately EUR 1.5 billion. One billion euros as investments in Macedonian roads and one and a half billion euros as investments in Macedonian railways, Gruevski said.

Prime Minister expects for these investments to contribute to infrastructural connection and accelerated economic development on the long run. Gruevski said that the industry, construction and the companies will also benefit therefrom, which will provide for job creation.

Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Stavreski pointed out this project was preceded by preparation of comprehensive project documentation and negotiations with international financial institutions. According to Stavreski, the financial plan for the project, which will cost around EUR 600 million, has been fully completed.

We start the first phase with EUR 46 million, funds provided from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, however we have provided funds for the whole railroad tracks towards Bulgaria. As for the second phase, following the recent high-level discussions we had with Prime Minister Gruevski and the EBRD management in London, we received reply that EBRD approved EUR 145 million. The last and most expensive phase from Kriva Palanka to the border with Bulgaria will be fully completed with funds from the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and hopefully with IPA funds – Stavreski said.

According to Deputy Prime Minister, this Project will initially provide for connection with Bulgaria, with which, as he said, we have good political and economic relations. In future, it will also allow to the companies and the citizens access to the Port of Varna, reduction of transportation costs, stimulus for growth of Macedonia economy, engagement of Macedonian construction companies and workers.

Minister of Transport and Communications Mile Janakievski stressed that this railroad tracks will be built in line with the European standards.

So-far analyses have showed that the eastern section of Corridor 8, i.e. the connection from Kumanovo to the border with Bulgaria will contribute to increasing the number of passengers, but what is more important is that it is expected for the freight transport to increase from 67,000 tones to 1.7 million tones in both directions. It is expected for the trade of goods with Bulgaria to experience three-fold increase, Janakievski said.

Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications of Bulgaria Danail Stojanov Papazov said that the route of Corridor 8, passing through the Republic of Bulgaria is priority European project, part of the Trans-European Transport Network, providing possibility for using the resources from the European Funds to end of developing the railway network.

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