PANCEVO (SERBIA), March 25, 21:08 /ITAR-TASS/. Long whistle blows announced the start of a large-scale campaign to revamp Serbian railways. A 15-kilometer-long railway leading from Belgrade’s suburb of Pancevo to the Serbian capital will be the first to be renovated by Russian experts.
“We are launching the project on the (15th) anniversary of a day that brought death and destruction to the land of our brothers,” Vladimir Yakunin, the head of the Russian Railways Company, said at a ceremony in Pancevo on Tuesday, meaning the start of NATO bombardment of the former Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.
Yakunin said that railway workers were representatives of the “most peaceful profession” because railways connected not so much cities or geographical locations but people, their lives and families.
Yakunin said that he had met Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic earlier on Tuesday.
“I would like to thank you for allowing Russian railway workers to work alongside their Serbian colleagues. The project will create the foundation for your country’s economy,” Yakunin said, addressing the Serbian state’s first persons.
He emphasized that Russian Railways experts would build and renovate about 350 kilometers of railways in Serbia.
“Let them tie our fraternal peoples and countries with stronger ties,” Yakunin said in conclusion.
Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said, in turn, that the project was of enormous historical and political importance for strengthening and developing good-neighborly economic and historical ties between the two countries.
“Roads, especially railroads, form the basis for our economic cooperation and future relations,” the Russian transport minister went on to say.
He invited Serbian experts to participate in the construction of infrastructure and sport facilities in Russia, noting the role of Serbian construction experts in building the Olympic facilities in Sochi.
“We are considering the development of aviation infrastructure…We think that we can use the experience of Serbian construction workers in building other infrastructure projects in Russia as well as sport facilities ahead of the 2018 World Cup (football),” Sokolov said.
For his part, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic noted that the development of railways and railway haulages was a key factor for developing the Serbian economy, noting the renovation of Serbian railways would be a step forward to establishing closer economic relations between Serbia and Russia.
“We will go ahead with all the projects already started with Russia but we also want to implement the news ones,” the Serbian prime minister concluded.
The contract is valued at $940 million of which $800 million come as part of Russia’s loan to Serbia.
“It means that Serbia will finance only 15% of the project,” President Tomislav Nikolic said, noting the cost of the Belgarde-Pancevo section was estimated at about $105 million. Nikolic emphasized that the renovation of this line would improve the quality of passenger carriages and help fighting traffic jams in Belgrade suburbs.
Apart from the Belgrade-Pancevo track, Russian experts will renovate six sections of the X Pan-European corridor; build a second track and modernize the already existing 44-kilometer-long railway from Stara Pazova to Novi Sad; as well as renovate about 200 kilometers of the 445-kilometer Belgrade-Bar railway which is of strategic importance for Serbia because it connects it with Montenegro, Albania and Italy. The contract which the RZHD -International Company (a Russian Railways sister) and the Serbian Railways signed in May last year provide for delivering diesel trains produced by the Russian plant Metrovagonmash.
The longest implementation deadline is five years. However, some sections of the railways are expected to be completed in two years or even eight months.