Upgrade starts for Kosovo’s single international rail link

Fushe Kosove – Mitrovica rail Kosovo’s Minister of Environment and Infrastructure, Liburn Aliu, has launched the modernisation works for the Fushe Kosove – Mitrovica rail line, on Route 10, which provides the connection with Serbia and North Macedonia.

In January 2022, Infrakos and Generale Costruzioni Ferroviarie (GCF) signed a EUR 48 milion contract for upgrade works and the construction of the second track along the Fushe Kosove – Mitrovica railway.

The rehabilitation of the route in Kosovo will be carried out in three phases. The first one covers the section between Fushë Kosovë / Kosovo Polje and North Macedonia, the phase 2 includes the Fushe Kosove – Mitrovica rail line and the third one will see the upgrade of the line between Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Leshak/Lesak and the border with Serbia.

The work will include the refurbishment of 35 km of track and the upgrade of five railway stations, in line with Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) standards. This is the second of a three-phase rehabilitation project and follows work already underway on the section from Kosovo’s border with North Macedonia to Fushë Kosovë.

The work to rehabilitate the country’s only international rail link is being financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union (EU).

The investment is being financed with a EUR 40 million EBRD loan to Kosovo’s national railway company, Infrastruktura e Hekurudhave të Kosovës (Infrakos), and EUR 42 million EIB loan. In addition, almost half of all project costs are expected to be covered by an EU investment grant of around EUR 83 million through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).

“I thank the European Union, in particular the European Commission for the continuous support for financing the rehabilitation of the Route. It will bring the citizens of Kosovo even closer to the EU and will serve as a greater boost for the economy of Kosovo,” the minister said.

The project received WBIF support on several occasions, including for Fushe Kosove – Mitrovica rail project with a EUR 17.2 million grant from the EU under the Connectivity Agenda in 2016 to cover 49% of the investment costs for this phase (phase 2), a EUR 1 million grant from the WBIF Bilateral Donors for the preparation of design and tender documents and a EUR 500,000 grant from the EU for the feasibility study for the rehabilitation of Route 10. Through the Ministry of Finance, Infrakos will contribute with a EUR 5.8 million investment.

“We are delighted to see that Kosovo is moving forward with the rehabilitation of its railway, the largest investment in the country’s transport infrastructure for decades. It will connect Kosovo with the region and beyond and will help boost economic opportunities and make travel easier, safer and greener for its citizens,” Neil Taylor, EBRD Head of Kosovo, said at the ceremony.

When the project will be completed, the modernised railway line will improve the transport capacity both for passengers and freight and will significantly reduce the travel time. The trains will run at speeds between 80 and 120 km/h, from currently 60 km/h due to the infrastructure’s poor condition and serious structural constraints. The project will also allow a freight axle load of 22.5 tonnes. According to estimations, the passenger and freight rail capacity will be improved by more than 1.2 million
people and respectively 1.2 million tonnes.

The Route 10 is part of the Orient/East-Med Corridor crossing Kosovo from the north to the south, between the border with North Macedonia and the one with Serbia and constitutes Kosovo’s connection to the wider region by rail. The Route 10, part of the TEN-T in the Western Balkans is 256 km long out of which 149 km are in Kosovo.

Transport Community composed of the EU and the six Western Balkans countries is involved in projects to modernise the rail infrastructure in the region which faced financing challenges compared to road infrastructure in the past 15 years. According to Transport Community’s report published in November 2022, 80% of investment was provided to road transport, while 12% of the total investment was delivered to railways. 785 km of rail sections situated on the core Network are currently under various upgrade phases which worth EUR 2.82 billion. All 15 identified rail transport projects in the re-
gion should be completed by 2027, the report says. In Kosovo, the construction work on the Kosovo Polje – Hani Elezit section towards North Macedonia should be completed by 2023.

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