The discussion about the new Silk Road project has drawn attention to the use of the broad-gauge railway from Asia, which currently ends in eastern Slovakia. Some politicians even renewed plans to extend the existing rail line to Vienna to enable the smoother transport of goods from China via Russia and Ukraine, which has been on the table in Slovakia for several years.
There is the question of whether the extension of the line would make any sense, says Richard Turcsányi and Kristína Kironská from the Institute of Asian Studies. All in all, the goods will have to be reloaded, either in eastern or western Slovakia or in Austria.
“It seems that it is better to use current capacities in eastern Slovakia, instead of efforts to build a big and expensive infrastructural project whose added value is questionable,” they told The Slovak Spectator.
Linking Asia with Europe
Existing broad-gauge rail lines cross the Slovak-Ukrainian border at two places: Čierna nad Tisou–Chop and Maťovce–Uzhgorod, with terminals where goods can be re-loaded onto standard-gauge trains. A broad-gauge line extends from Maťovce as far as Haniska, near Košice, and is used to transport iron ore to the U.S. Steel Košice steelworks.
Under the planned project the broad-gauge railway line would be extended from Košice to the Twin City region of Vienna and Bratislava. Constructing the track would result in a rail system linking eastern European and Asian markets directly with the wider European market.