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Western Balkan Railway Summit 2021: The top of the Balkan Railways met in one place

Western Balkan Railway Summit 2021: The top of the Balkan Railways met in one place
photo: Western Balkan Railway Summit 2021/Western Balkan Railway Summit 2021
07 / 10 / 2021

With the arrival of the "Connecting Europe Express" train at the Belgrade Center railway station, the "Western Balkan Railway Summit 2021" was officially opened. The train was welcomed and visited by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, Minister of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure Tomislav Momirović and Deputy Director-General for Mobility and Transport Sector in the European Commission Maja Bakran Marčić, as well as general directors of railway companies. On that occasion, the Prime Minister stated that the planned railway projects in Serbia are worth more than six billion euros and that the goal is for Serbia to completely modernize the railway traffic and connect with all countries in the region and the EU by rail.

The international train "Connecting Europe Express" was launched by the European Union as part of the celebration of the European Year of Railways in 2021, and which will pass through 26 countries on the old continent in a little over a month. The organizers of the Western Balkans Railway Summit 2021, which was held at the Hyatt Hotel, were the Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and hosted by the Ministry of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure.

The summit brought together transport ministers from the region and EU member states bordering the Western Balkans, representatives of the European Commission, and railway professionals, to advance regional and European transport policies and contribute to safer, better connected, and sustainable rail transport. During the summit, the line ministers also signed the declaration "Commitment to the Railways". The construction of a modern digitalized railway network with direct express trains, connecting the most important cities in the region, will contribute to better connectivity, safer forms of transport for business and private travel in the Western Balkans, and environmental sustainability, transport ministers in the region agreed. Priorities have been set, including the re-establishment of the train network, to better connect the region and the EU, improve the process of digitalization of railway systems in the field of data exchange in cross-border transport of passengers and goods, improve railway safety and open the railway market.

"Given that rail transport has the least harmful impact on the environment, it is responsible for an extremely small percentage of greenhouse gas emissions and has great potential to contribute to the economic progress of the entire region," said Matej Zakonjsek, director of the Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community.

During the Summit, several panels of discussions were held, and one of them was called "Railway Operations", which was attended by directors of railway operators from the region. One of the panelists was the General Manager of "Serbia Cargo" JSC. Dušan Garibović, who on that occasion wished a pleasant and successful stay in Belgrade and Serbia and explained that our company is a national operator, which operates in competition with 11 private carriers, from the moment when the market for the transport of goods by rail was opened in 2016. "Our struggle is not only a struggle with Covid and its consequences, but a struggle with several realities that are best seen from where we live and work, and are a little harder to notice from the side. We are facing infrastructural problems, primarily due to large and capital infrastructural works, which significantly complicate the work of all railway carriers and at the same time inherited an extremely bad and old rolling stock by restructuring the Serbian Railways. Despite that, and thanks to the offensive policy and environment created by the leadership of the Republic of Serbia in the last few years, we have large investment projects and we manage to follow the increase in production of large investors and economic entities, which have an increasing need for increased railway service. " among other things, said the general director.

It is necessary to satisfy both the infrastructure and transport users, i.e. to connect them, in which Serbia Cargo succeeds, and the greatest satisfaction is that all users, for whom Serbia Cargo exclusively transports, have been satisfied for years, regardless of the problems it faces (detours), the use of diesel traction instead of electric traction due to non-electrified railways…), which greatly increases costs or expenses.

"Business is difficult, but we have decided to go in two directions, one is strategic, to follow all business platforms and directives in the EU, so in that sense, we bought 16 multi-system Vectron locomotives two years ago, as a pledge for the future, and on the other hand, we try every day to overcome the problems that arise due to infrastructural works and the closure of railways, to enable transport users to transport their goods at the desired time, "said Garibović. He also mentioned the good cooperation with all regional, primarily national, but also private operators, as well as the fact that in a few years Serbia will have a representative infrastructure and vehicles, but until then the users