THIS past year in Slovenia, there has been a debate on the upgrading of the Divača-Koper rail line. The project, because of its high cost, has been held hostage by the political clash between the majority and the opposition. Suffice it to say that several referendums have been held to stop the project. The most recent was held in May 2018 and was abandoned due to failure to reach a quorum.
However, we now shift focus to the project itself, extrapolating from the Slovenian political debate. The Ljubljana initiative is part of a more extensive plan than the national one, which is the European framework. The upgrading of the line is one of the interventions aimed at improving the Trans European Network Transport, better known by the acronym TEN-T. From now until 2030 and then until 2050, all the member states of the Union are called upon to carry out those actions necessary to ensure the continuity of the European infrastructure network, creating links where they are lacking and strengthening those that already exist. This network ensures the functioning of Europe’s logistics system. One of the founding principles of the Union is the free movement of goods and persons, and pursuing this principle is intended to continue its growth. Italy is also working on several projects along the corridors that cross it, such as the Turin-Lyon tunnel on the Mediterranean route, and the Brenner base tunnel on the Scandinavian-Mediterranean corridor; construction projects that are often the subject of political debate, as is happening in Slovenia.
Two of the network’s nine corridors cross Slovenia: the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor and the Mediterranean Corridor. The country in fact has a very favourable geographical position as it borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north-west, Hungary to the east, Croatia to the south-east, and some access to the Adriatic. The first corridor begins in Poland, continues through the Czech Republic, or alternatively through Slovakia, then through Austria, Slovenia itself, and ends in Italy. The second, the Mediterranean corridor, connects Spain to Hungary, crossing France, Italy and Slovenia in that order. So the country is a crossroads for trade from the West to the East and from the Northeast to the Southwest. Trade which contributes to about one third of Slovenia’s gross domestic product. The country’s main trading partners are Germany, at 16% for both exports and imports, and Italy, with values of 12% for exports and 15% for imports. Next up are Austria and Croatia at lower levels.
The expansion of the Divača-Koper railway line will benefit both of the corridors that cross the country. The route affected by the project connects the port of Koper to the rest of the country. It is currently 44.3 kilometres long. The aim is to shorten it to a total length of 27 kilometres by building seven tunnels along its current route. In this way, bottlenecks along the way that limit its potential will be eliminated. It has been estimated that once the work is completed, the number of trains that will run daily on the line will increase from 90 to 220, and the average speed will increase from 75 to 160 kilometres per hour. The project has an estimated cost of €1 billion and will be financed through both European and State funds. The Slovenian Government has received an allocation of €109 million from the Innovation Network Executive Agency (INEA) and a €200-million subscription from Hungary, which, as we said, is linked by the Mediterranean corridor.
In conclusion, this is an ambitious project that will take many years to complete. It has already encountered a number of obstacles in its start-up phase, and others will follow, but once the work is finished, the line will increase the flow of goods in and out of the country and the number of exchanges along the European axes. The usefulness of these major construction projects tends not to be understood, and their benefits tend to be underestimated, I believe because of our limited time horizon. The completion of these projects and their returns go beyond the horizon of the long-term time frame, and therefore it is difficult for us to grasp their importance: more than anything, these are gifts made today for future generations.
*Logisitcs & Supply Chain
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