Freight train in North Macedonia (Photo: Toma Bacic)

NORTH MACEDONIA: Contracts have been signed for work on two sections of the planned rail link between North Macedonia and Bulgaria, which will form part of Pan-European Corridor VIII from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.

Austrian company Strabag has been awarded a €40m two-year contract to undertake rehabilitation works on the 31 km Kumanovo – Beljakovtse line which has been out of use since 1994.

Turkish company Gülermak has been awarded a three-year €155m contract to build the 34 km of new alignment from Beljakovtse to Kriva Palanka on the planned route to Bulgaria. This section is to be financed with a €68·5m grant from the EU’s Western Balkans Investment Framework and a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development.

Serving five large and nine minor stations, the single track Kumanovo – Beljakovtse – Kriva Palanka line will be electrified throughout.

Under a separate contract, Strabag will also undertake works on the Negotino Vardar – Nogaevci section of Corridor X at a cost of €4·8m.

After the signing of the contracts, ŽRSM Infrastruktura CEO Hari Lokvenec said ‘there is no place for pride and satisfaction, as we have a difficult and arduous works ahead of us.’

Lokvenec reported that design work had now been completed for the continuation of the route from Kriva Palanka to the Bulgarian border, and that €216m of the €405m required to fund the project had been secured. This includes €155m of grants from the Western Balkans Investment Framework, and €61m through the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance programme.