Led by the vision to transform Serbia into the region’s transport hub, the Government of Serbia made the modernisation of railways a priority in 2014 and, after a break of more than 20 years, launched a major investment cycle aimed at improving the rail transport system, which is unfolding in four parallel directions. The first direction is the reconstruction and modernisation of rail tracks along Corridor 10 and the Belgrade-Bar route, in order to enable the projected higher speed of rail transport. The second is the construction of a high-speed railroad to Hungary and connecting with Budapest. The third direction implies a three-year plan for the reconstruction of all regional railways. The fourth direction relates to the procurement of new rolling stock. Implementation of these four directions will increase the competitiveness of rail transport, both compared to other modes of transport and compared to Corridor 4, which traverses Romania and Bulgaria, improving transport safety and increasing the quality of rail services.
In parallel with investments, the Ministry has launched the process of reforming the rail sector. A legislative framework harmonised with EU regulations has been adopted, which have enabled the establishment of a railway services market, particularly in the area of goods transport. Three state companies have been operating on the railway market since August 2015: Serbian Railways Infrastructure JSC (Infrastruktura železnice Srbije a.d.) – public railway infrastructure asset management company; Serbia Train JSC (Srbija Voz a.d.) – the national rail passenger transport company; and Serbia Cargo JSC (Srbija Kargo a.d.) – the national rail cargo company, operating in a segment that today also includes five private companies in Serbia.
The plan is for the activities launched to be implemented by 2030 at the latest, which also coincides with the EU’s plans to modernise its core network in all member states by 2030. According to the transport policy of the EU, the deadline for the reconstruction of regional rail routes is 2050, though Serbia will complete works much sooner.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE FIRST HIGH-SPEED RAILWAY IN THE BALKANS
The Hungarian-Serbian Railway Project, which includes the reconstruction and modernisation of rail tracks from Belgrade to the Hungarian border, represents one of the most important infrastructure projects in the Republic of Serbia and one of the largest railroad construction sites in Europe.
The project is being realised with funds from a loan provided by the Chinese Export-Import Bank and partly with a loan from the Russian Federation, while the main works contractors are Chinese and Russian companies. The Belgrade-Budapest railway, the first rail route in this region capable of handling speeds of up to 200km/h, will form part of Rail Corridor Xb, which is the most important rail corridor not only for Serbia, but throughout this part of Europe. This rail route will enable our country to take advantage of its favourable geographical position and act as a kind of transit hub for the region. Moreover, the Belgrade-Budapest railroad is the first railroad construction project to be implemented by Chinese contractors on the territory of Europe, which has additional significance in terms of affirming Serbia as a key partner of China in the field of transport, in the mechanism of Beijing’s cooperation with 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Planned investments will increase the competitiveness of rail transport, both compared to other modes of transport and compared to Corridor 4, which traverses Romania and Bulgaria
FAST AND SECURE TRACKS ON CORRIDOR 10
A total of 403.7 million euros has been invested since 2015 in the reconstruction of about 223 kilometres of mainline tracks, primarily on Corridor 10 and the Bar railroad, the construction of the new Žeželj Bridge and the completion of the first phase of construction of the Prokop railway station. The effects of this investment are reflected in increased train speeds, from an average of 40-50 km/h to 100- 120km/h, increased capacity on reconstructed rail routes and the increased safety of rail transport. This has resulted in the number of passengers increasing on some routes, along with the volume of international freight traffic. The launch of works on the reconstruction and electrification of the Niš-Dimitrovgrad railroad is also expected to begin this year, with the construction of a bypass railroad around Niš, as well as the start of reconstruction of the railroad from Jajinci to Mala Krsna and construction of a new technical-passenger terminal in Zemun. In cooperation with Russian Railways, 2019 will see the preparation of design and technical documentation for reconstruction of the remaining 210km of the Bar railroad, from Valjevo to the border with Montenegro, with the aim of creating an efficient rail network to the Adriatic Sea and the Port of Bar.
RECONSTRUCTION OF REGIONAL RAILROADS AND NEW TRAINS
Within the scope of the programme for the reconstruction of regional rail routes, works were carried out in 2018 on about 280km of tracks, with the value of the works totalling around 130 million euros. Routes commissioned and brought online include Šabac-Loznica-Brasina, Novi Sad-Orlovat-Zrenjanin, Požarevac- Majdanpek, Predejane-Džep, Pančevo-Orlovat and Mala Krsna- Požarevac. Plans for 2019 include the reconstruction of 327.5km of railroads with a total value of around 30 million euros, which will further improve the overall quality of rail infrastructure and the efficiency of the rail network.
The development of rail infrastructure isn’t enough to improve rail transport on its own – with the renewal of rolling stock also required. At present there are 48 new diesel and electric trains operating on the network of Serbian Railways. Moreover, with the aim of creating the most attractive possible market and increasing the share of rail transport in the total transport of goods, eight multi-system locomotives have been purchased for the purposes of company Serbia Cargo. Following the opening up of the European transport market, these multisystem locomotives will be able to operate on the rail networks of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and other countries that have power supply systems that differ from ours, while for the first time Serbia will have locomotives that are interoperable, in accordance with EU requirements.
INTERMODAL TRANSPORT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOGISTICS CENTRES
The launch of construction of an intermodal terminal in Batajnica is planned for 2019, with around 15 million euros to be invested in construction. The Intermodal Terminal in Batajnica will be a place where road and rail transport come together, which will welcome the arrival of container trains from the ports of the Adriatic, the Port of Piraeus and European centres. There containers will be unloaded, with goods stored and distributed to end users, which will contribute to further reducing the logistics costs incorporated into product price, down to the level of the European average.
Along the length of corridors X and VII, at the points at which they come together, as well as in regions along the aforementioned routes, possibilities exist for the development of logistics centres, especially on the territories of the cities of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Niš. With the implementation of this plan,along the route Belgrade-Pančevo- Kovin-Smederevo, via three intermodal terminals and Nikola Tesla Airport, corridors X and VII will connect, making Belgrade a regional logistics centre. Furthermore, the logistics centre on the territory of Novi Sad would establish a connection between road, rail and Danube routes, respectively Corridor Xb and Corridor VII, while the logistics centre on the territory of Niš would estbalish a connection between the railway, road routes and Constantine the Great Airport.