The long-anticipated construction of the railway line connecting the capitals of Bulgaria and Macedonia – which is also a major part of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 8 – should start in 2012.
This has been forecast by Deputy Prime Minister of Macedonia, Vladimir Pesevski, in an interview for the Macedonian TV channel Alfa.
The report says the Macedonian government is optimistic that the realization of the project for a railway connection between Sofia and Skopje, which has been around since the first decade of the 20th century, will start in 2012.
Pesevski is quoted as saying that an agreement has already been made to carry out a feasibility study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and that the Bulgarian side has shown strong interest in the project.
In his words, the construction of the Bulgaria-Macedonia rail line will double the trade between the two countries.
Alfa TV points out that according to some estimates, the construction of the railway could cost up to EUR 500 M. The report cites Mirce Cekreji from the Macedonian Union of Commercial Chambers, who says that the investment in the rail line will return in a few years by the boost of the economic relations.
"The railway connection with Bulgaria will not only boost business but will also lead to a more efficient and more responsible attitude on part of the Greek railways with respect to the region. Moreover, there is speculation that the Greek Railways due to austerity measures planned after New Year to shut the railway line Skopje-Thessaloniki," Alfa TV says in its report.
The Sofia-Skopje rail line has been the dream of Bulgarian geopolitics experts and businessmen since at least 1909. Yet, what appears to be an international transport project that can yield enormous economic and business benefits, has been debilitated for reasons of Balkan inter-state relations. In more recent times, its construction was formally started in 1994 but has made little progress since.
In a meeting at the Bulgarian border village of Gyueshevo in 2003, the Presidents of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania agreed to boost the development of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 8 – from the Bulgarian Black Sea ports to the Albanian ports on the Adriatic via Macedonia – but the political declarations have produced little results.
At present, the railway line reaches the Bulgarian border at Gyueshevo. The Macedonian railway section of Corridor No. 8 is planned to be 339 km long. At present, only the section Kichevo-Skopje-Kumanovo – 152 long – has been constructed.
Macedonia still needs to construct 66 km of railways to the Albanian border, and 89 km to the Bulgarian border.
If the rail line is completed, the travel between Sofia and Skopje will take about 3-4 hours.