EBRD Vice President Jürgen Rigterink

Importance of investing into the railway system in Serbia and the Western Balkans, not only for infrastructural interconnection, but also in light of the green agenda.

Railways offer an environmentally friendly, sustainable, innovative, safe and efficient means of transport. However, for many years the railways were suffering from the seemingly unstoppable triumph of the car which has led to underinvestment and the abandonment of once well-established railway connections. Now the tables have been turned. Now is the time to invest in rail to bring Europe and its region closer together in a way that also addresses the environmental challenges of our times. This is an opportunity not to be missed especially for the Western Balkans countries where connectivity remains on top of the agenda. Now is the time to seize the support available and invest in the modernisation of the region’s railways. The EBRD and its partner institutions, EU and EIB, are providing well-structured finance and support for the implementation of investments in line with best international standards and practices.

EBRD is already involved in the modernization of railways in Serbia - how goes the project implementation, are there any problems and which, how much was invested in these projects?

The Bank has been involved in the rail sector in Serbia since the early 2000s and is therefore one the main counterparts of the Serbian Government when it comes to investment and reforms in rail. In total, to date EBRD invested EUR 564 million in the Serbian rail sector in both infrastructure and rolling stock.We are currently working to implement existing projects with Serbia Voz on Train Passenger Station in Zemun and procurement of new electric multiple units for passenger traffic. Supporting only physical investments is only one part of our work. EBRD through investment projects also supports the much-needed sector reforms to strengthen corporate governance, implementing higher procurement and environmental & social standards, youth and gender inclusion.

What are the EBRD's plans for the future, when it comes to railway transport in Serbia?

One of the most important project that we will support is reconstruction of Belgrade-Nis section. In close cooperation with the EIB and the EU, through Western Balkans Investment Fund, we work  together to finance the rehabilitation and upgrade of this key rail section of the pan-European transport Corridor X  (c. 243 km-long), with the aim to increase speed to up to 200 km/h while enhancing quality of passenger and freight rail services. With this project we will step up investments to support railway development and encourage the modal shift particularly from road to rail. Once finalised, Corridor X will connect Western Austrian with Northern Greece, significantly strengthening European integration all along its route.

To what degree are railways in the Western Balkans connected and adapted to the EU railway network and pan-European corridors?

Railways in the Western Balkans are on a good track to adapt to the EU railways networks and pan-European corridors. We have ambitious plans to improve service quality and speed across rail networks along the extension of the Trans-European Transport Network in line with EU standards, further strengthening of capacities to prepare and implement projects accordingly, improved governance, as well as enhanced safety and maintenance. The priority in the Western Balkans rail sector remains market opening, governance and interoperability.We will continue to work with state railways, private investors and our clients and the governments in the region to achieve these priorities.

What sectors will be EBRD's priorities in Serbia in the coming period?

Key areas of our support will continue to be improving access to finance and know-how for SMEs, providing financing for new private sector investments of local and foreign corporates, which can create new job, or bring into Serbia new, green technology. We will work on promoting investments in renewables, improving energy efficiency in public and residential buildings, introducing smart metering for electricity, and further modernising rail and road infrastructure and operations.

Source: EURACTIV.rs
Photo: EBRD