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China, Serbia, Hungary intensify cooperation on railway deal

Updated: Jun 24,2015 7:52 AM     Xinhua

BELGRADE — The preparations for the construction of a Chinese high-speed railway between the capital cities of Serbia and Hungary are underway and on schedule, Xinhua was told by the Serbian Ministry of Transport, Construction and Infrastructure.

On a three-day visit of Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli to Serbia which commenced on June 22, Serbian minister Zorana Mihajlovic said that cooperation among the three countries on the several-billion-dollar project had intensified. Mihajlovic said they would discuss the feasibility study and financing for the project of the modernization of the Belgrade-Budapest railway in mid-July.

Mihajlovic told Xinhua that the railway was strategically the most important project of cooperation with China, and the first one that involves more than one country from the region of Central and Eastern Europe on a common project.

She reminded that the railway from Belgrade to Budapest would be a part of the line that directly links the port city of Piraeus in Greece with at least six to eight Central and Eastern European countries and other Central and Western European countries, as a part of the greater transport route Maritime Silk Road linking the European and Asian continents.

Mihajlovic revealed that Serbia, by starting the project, had shown that it “not only welcomes and promotes the Chinese ‘Road and Belt’ Initiative, but has taken direct action in implementing it.”

The project for the modernization of the Belgrade-Budapest railway was initially agreed on in 2013 at the China-Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries leaders’ meeting that took place in Bucharest, while at last year’s summit held in Belgrade, China, Hungary and Serbia signed a memorandum of understanding.

At that point, Macedonia and Greece both expressed their willingness to partake in the project that is planned to turn Piraeus, the main port of Greece, into a Chinese hub for trade with Europe.

The cooperation plan for the construction of the railway was signed at the beginning of this year in Belgrade at the meeting of the Trilateral Group of China, Hungary and Serbia for Traffic and Infrastructure Cooperation, setting dates for certain phases of the project.

According to the plan, the construction of the railway should begin by the end of 2015, after the feasibility study and financial model are agreed upon, with the railway scheduled to be fully completed in 2017.

The 370 km section of the railway between Belgrade and Budapest will significantly improve the transport of passengers and goods between the two countries, as it will decrease the time of traveling of trains from eight to less than three hours.

Once finished, the double track on the route between the Mediterranean and the Danube will enable trains to run as fast as 200 km per hour, and this enables China’s land-sea passage to become a new, convenient channel for trade.

One of the biggest expected impacts of the project is promoting the economic development of Hungary, Serbia, and other countries along the passage, as well as to deepen China’s cooperation with countries in the region, with the hope of creating new jobs and boosting development of industry and railways.