Macedonian Railways mark 150th anniversary
Skopje, 7 April 2023 (MIA) - Railways of North Macedonia held an event on Friday to mark its 150th anniversary, i.e. the anniversary of April 9, 1873, when the Macedonian section of the Trans-Balkan railway line Vienna-Thessaloniki was opened. Participants in the event highlighted the importance of rail transport in connecting people and businesses and its advantage as the most ecological transport, focusing on the next major goal - rail connection to the east and the west.
Deputy PM for Economic Affairs Fatmir Bytyqi stressed that investing in railways is a smart investment because trains are a vital way of transporting goods across the world and the advantage is that they offer efficiency, economy, capacity.
"North Macedonia's Government recognizes the advantages of railway traffic and that is why our support for the railway through the state budget is not lacking. With the construction of the railway Corridor 8 towards Bulgaria we are building a European future for us, as well as for the railway. This investment for our companies means new European markets through more economical transportation, it establishes regional connection with the ports of Burgas and Varna in Bulgaria, and soon Durrës in Albania, which is extremely important for our economy, and for cooperation in the region as a whole," said Bytyqi.
Investments in Corridor 10, he added, will make the country a crossroads for supply chains.
"The construction of the railway from Kumanovo to Kriva Palanka, up to the border with Bulgaria, which is an investment of over EUR 600 million, is a major step in the development of the regional railway network and an indicator of the Government's commitment to the construction of an efficient railway infrastructure which will be of great help to our companies in placing their products on markets abroad," Bytyqi said, making a promise of European railway in ten years time.
Steffen Hudolin, Head of Cooperation in the EU Delegation to North Macedonia, said the railway plays an importanty role in the economic development of every country because it transports goods, connects businesses with markets and creates new jobs, and today it is also important because it protects the environment. If the first railway connection was established 150 years ago, he noted, in 2023 the focus is on improving such connection.
Hudolin pointed out that work must be done on the railway traffic projects to the west to Albania and to the east to Bulgaria, which will connect the Adriatic and Black Seas.
"We have to do our best to improve these parts," said Hudolin, noting that the financial structure is set, as well as significant help from pre-accession instruments, combined with bank loans and funds.
Regarding the section towards the border with Bulgaria, he pointed out that it is one of the leading projects in which the European Union invests.
"The goal is to connect the Adriatic and the Black Seas. Some think it's a fantasy, but we believe it can be fulfilled. The transport sector is high in the EU's priorities for North Macedonia. With more than EUR 500 million in grants from pre-accession funds, we have secured significant resources and it is high time to make further commitments and set out what needs to be achieved on the ground," Hudolin said.
He mentioned that over the past 15 years, in cooperation with the country's authorities, significant investments have been made in modernizing the railway infrastructure in the country.
Director of Macedonian Railways Hari Lokvenec opened the event on Friday, noting that he was speaking on behalf of the thousands of employees in the past century and a half who are embedded in the institutional memory of the railway and that 150 years is a jubilee of vision, continuity and true patriotism.
Lokvenec stressed that in addition to the construction of new railways, it is also a duty to maintain the existing railway infrastructure and there is no compromise when it comes to safe railway traffic.
Photo: MIA archive