Competition for High Speed Rail in the Balkans

* Why Macedonia should Wake up-Prof Zoran Krakutovsk

While Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece are actively working to build high-speed railways, Macedonia is fast asleep. In a several years, our country could encounter serious problems with the low speeds of the trains, taking into account the pace of development of the railway infrastructures in neighbouring countries.

This year, Greece plans to complete the production of the high speed track between Thessaloniki and Athens, where trains will be moving at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour.

Serbia as well, is currently building a section between Belgrade and the border with Hungary, which will allow trains to travel at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour by 2023.

Bulgaria is already building railway infrastructure, under which trains between Sofia and Plovdiv will be able to develop speeds up to 200 kilometers per hour.

It was the Bulgarian Minister of Transport Rosen Zheljazkov who recently mentioned the topic of a fast track in Macedonia. Prior to the beginning of the first session of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic and Trade Cooperation between Bulgaria and Macedonia, he announced that its eastern neighbor will allocate 400 million euros for the construction and modernization of the railway from Sofia to the Macedonian-Bulgarian border. Minister Zheljazkov announced that the trains from Skopje to Sofia in the future would arrive in just an hour. Such an “optimistic” scenario for the speed at which the trains will travel can be disrupted by the real situation on the ground, that Macedonia is currently building a line to Deve Bair with projected speeds of future 120 km / h trains.

Professor Zoran Krakutovski from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the University of Cyril and Methodius (UKIM) emphasized that projects for the construction of high speed railway tracks over 160 kilometers per hour should be coordinated with neighbouring countries. Macedonia will need such a railway infrastructure, but only if cooperation with its neighbours is established. “If such railroads are built and they introduce high-speed trains, it is certain that international passenger transport by rail will increase,” he says.

Unlike neighbouring countries, Macedonia currently has railroads with a projected speed of up to 120 kilometers per hour, but only if they are regularly repaired. For the needs of the “Vardarska Dolina” project, a feasibility study was conducted in 2013, an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the investment and an environmental assessment study for a future two-track line between Skopje and Veles, at which the trains would travel at 160 kilometers per hour.

However, the realization of such a high speed track would be realized in the distant future, but only if an investor for the project “Vardarska Dolina” is found.

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