AmCham Macedonia Winter 2014 (Issue 40) - Page 8

ANALYSIS Zos Trnava, for the construction of 150 freight railway cars. This year, plans include the construction of six new passenger trains and reconstruction of Skopje’s main railway station as well as ten more along Corridor 10. Long-awaited rail link to Bulgaria At bilateral talks held last July in the Bulgarian town of Kyustendil, both Macedonian and Bulgarian officials agreed that improving mutual transport links was on their list of priorities. After all, Bulgaria has just 2 kilometers of track to lay in order to reach the Macedonian border. Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Finance, Zoran Stavreski, recently said that construction of the first section of the long-awaited railway running eastward to Bulgaria will start this year and should be completed by 2022. This announcement follows two decades of similarly expressed intentions that have been left largely unrealized. “The first section, from Kumanovo to Beljakovce, should be completed by 2017 and the two remaining sections should be finished by 2022,” Stavreski said, adding that the railway will be key to reviving the economy in the east of the country. The project will be implemented in three distinct parts. The first stretch will be financed by an already approved €46.4 million EBRD loan and built by H.F. Wiebe, starting in March. The Government said it had also received written confirmation from the European Investment Bank (EIB) that it will help finance the second stretch, estimated to cost €145 million. Construction on the second section should begin in 2015. The plan for the third section (leading to the Bulgarian border itself) estimated to cost €332 million is still under preparation. Last year alone, Serbia built just over 58 kilometers of new highway along Corridors 10 and 11. The construction of new highways in the October 2012-December 2013 period was worth €262 million. While most of the financing for new roads in Serbia up to the end of 2013 came from the IMF, the EBRD and the EIB and the work was carried out by construction companies like Aktor and Terna, the start of 2014 marked a notable shift toward financing from Chinese investment funds in Serbia. In late December 2013, the Chinese Shandong HiSpeed Group started construction at the Obrenovac-Ub stretch of Corridor 11 that will better link the country with Romania and Montenegro. In October 2013, Serbia borrowed some $300 million from the Chinese EXIM bank for this project as well as to cover another stretch from Lajkovac to Ljig. At the Bulgaria Economic Forum held in Sofia in November, the Bulgarian government presented the major infrastructure projects to be funded under EU’s Operational Programmes in the 2014 and 2020 period. Among the main road projects to be financed with the funds are the Struma highway (connecting Sofia with the Greek border), the Hemus highway (from Sofia to the coastal city of Varna) and the Black Sea highway (connecting the two major coastal cities of Varna and Burgas). In terms of rail, Bulgaria plans to complete and repair the tracks between Plovdiv and Burgas, to upgrade the Karnobat-Sindel railway (connecting southeastern and northeastern Bulgaria) as well as to repair the railway between the towns of Ruse and Varna. From the Bulgarian side, the work will be a lot easier as the country has to finish only some 2 kilometers to the border. Other major projects in the region In 2011, Albania’s Rreshen-Kalimash highway was completed by Bechtel-Enka at a cost of $1.2 billion. Today, Aktor is working in Albania on the TiranaElbasan highway project. 8 Emerging Macedonia Winter 2014 Issue 40