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KIA contract promise broken

WORRIES about Slovakia's ability to deliver promises it gives to international investors seem to be materializing. It now appears certain that the highway from Bratislava to Žilina, which the state promised to complete by the end of 2006, will not be finished on time.

WORRIES about Slovakia's ability to deliver promises it gives to international investors seem to be materializing. It now appears certain that the highway from Bratislava to Žilina, which the state promised to complete by the end of 2006, will not be finished on time.

"We will not manage to finish a six to seven kilometre-long stretch around Považská Bystrica," Tomáš Šarluška, spokesman for the Transport Ministry, told The Slovak Spectator.

The original investment contract signed by Hyundai/KIA and the Economy Ministry stated that by the end of 2006 an unbroken highway between Bratislava and Žilina would be completed. At the time the contract was signed, 42 kilometres of highway was missing.

However, a six to seven kilometre stretch between Sverepec and Vrtižer will not be ready on time. Unless a solution can be found this means that KIA lorries will be driving through the centre of Považská Bystrica.

Transport Minister Pavol Prokopovič has already met and reported the expected delay with KIA representatives. He said that they were not angered by the complication.

"I'm in contact with them, they know about our problems. They are mostly interested in how to solve the issue so no financial losses are incurred," Prokopovič told the daily SME.

However, another meeting will be necessary to iron out the problem, Šarluška said, although he could not specify when that meeting would be.

The ministry has two temporary solutions up its sleeve.

The first is that KIA could transport its cars by rail. The second is to build a temporary road bypassing Považská Bystrica. The road would be for the exclusive use of KIA lorries, said Šarluška.

The ministry believes that no major delays would result if the parties opted for a rail solution, despite ongoing construction works on the fifth railway corridor, which includes the section from Žilina to Bratislava.

Transport Ministry officials said that the rail timetable and pricing structure could be adapted to accommodate this solution.

If the railway option is chosen, the Transport Ministry assumes that the terminal at Dobrá, near Čierna nad Tisou would be used, Šarluška told the Spectator.

Only between one and five percent of the capacity of the Čierna nad Tisou terminal is in use. Construction costs for the facility reached Sk750 million (€19.6 million), half of which came from the state budget. It has been in use since 2001, used as a separate unit only since June 1 of this year.

According to Prokopovič, a lot has been achieved but nobody can yet talk about satisfaction. "I'll only be satisfied when KIA cars are transferred through [the terminal] and at least 80 percent of its total capacity is being used," Prokopovič told the TASR news wire.

Meanwhile, Transport Ministry and Považská Bystrica authorities are blaming each other for the delay.

"I'm disappointed. We've been waiting for a territorial decision for a year. We are now expecting problems with issuing a construction permit," said Minister Prokopovič.

However, the mayor of Považská Bystrica, Ľuboš Lackovič, said in a memo sent to The Slovak Spectator that the delay in the territorial decision was due to the ministry's failure to forward the required documentation.

"Commenting on the minister's statement that 'we are now expecting problems with issuing a construction permit that is within the authority of the [Považská Bystrica] municipality', I can't say anything else, only that being ignorant of the law is not an excuse.

"Legislation clearly defines that permission for the construction of a highway is to be issued by the relevant ministry. In this case it is the Transport Ministry, as an authority that represents state interests. Považská Bystrica's construction department will only issue permits related to the engineering infrastructure network and there is no problem with that at all," writes Lackovič.

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