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Cabinet discusses broad-gauge rail

THE SLOVAK cabinet on March 16 discussed a report reviewing some of the results of a feasibility study about extending a broad-gauge railway track across Slovakia from Košice to Vienna via Bratislava. A broad-gauge railway track already runs from the Slovak-Ukrainian border to Košice.

THE SLOVAK cabinet on March 16 discussed a report reviewing some of the results of a feasibility study about extending a broad-gauge railway track across Slovakia from Košice to Vienna via Bratislava. A broad-gauge railway track already runs from the Slovak-Ukrainian border to Košice.

The proposal under discussion would extend the broad-gauge railway from Košice by 430 kilometres and add two new railway terminals – one in Parndorf, Austria and one in Nové Zámky, Slovakia. The railway track would be built in parallel with the existing standard-gauge track that crosses southern Slovakia. The total investment in laying the track and building the new terminals is estimated at €6.36 billion.

The extension of the broad-gauge track is being discussed by four countries, Austria, Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia, and is strongly supported by Russia and Ukraine. The position of various railway experts in Austria is relatively neutral but the Vienna chapter of the Federation of Austrian Industry is a significant promoter of the project.

“The Russian partners are convinced that this project offers Slovakia the possibility to profit not only from the unique opportunity to join the European-Asian transport chain but also brings an added value in the form of several supplementary activities directly attached to this project,” the report states. The report further noted that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said if Slovakia does not view the project as useful his country is ready to route the broad-gauge railway through Hungary and that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has already shown an interest.

The feasibility study prepared by Roland Berger, a German consulting firm, stated that extending the broad-gauge railway track by 430 kilometres is technically and legally feasible and would draw a significant amount of transport business. However, questions relating to the financing of the project remain unanswered; the feasibility study said the most credible way to finance the extension is through public funds.

The European Commission has stated that it does not support including the proposed broad-gauge extension into the trans-European transport network (TEN-T).

Slovakia’s position on the project has been inconsistent. The cabinet of former prime minister Robert Fico endorsed the project but the parties of the current governing coalition were critical of the high cost of the project when they were in opposition.

As the government’s assessment of the feasibility study is not yet complete, the report discussed by the cabinet did not propose any further concrete steps to be taken by Slovakia at this time.

The Transport Ministry is to prepare a proposal by the end of 2011 on Slovakia’s course of action in 2012.


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