TASR, Teraz.sk, 07.09.2014

Polacek: Broad-gauge Line Beneficial If Reloading Site Is Built in Slovakia.

Bratislava, September 7 (TASR) - The plan to extend the broad-gauge railway line from Kosice to Vienna should be ranked among projects that would help form economic links across countries lying between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, according to Danube Knowledge Cluster managing director Peter Polacek.

      Polacek went on to say that from Slovakia's point of view it would be interesting if a combined terminal was set up with access to the Danube River so that Slovakia's territory could serve as a reloading site for container transport in the north-south direction.

      "This could apply in particular to two terminals - Komarno (Nitra region) and Eisenstadt in Austria, with a route going through Hungary. This alternative seems to be viable given the fact that the towns of Komarno [Slovakia] and Komarom [Hungary] have synchronised zoning plans. Komarno is capable of de veloping freight transport and enjoys a strategic position on the Danube River," emphasised Polacek. [Komarno and Komarom face each other across the Danube. - ed. note]

      Meanwhile, the key element in a study from 2011 that was supposed to assess the feasibility of extending the broad-gauge railway was played by only a single terminal in Vienna. "This study drafted by Roland Berger counted on diverting work not only related to goods transport from Asia, but partly work from reloading sites in [the eastern Slovak towns of] Cierna nad Tisou and Dobra [to a single terminal]," Zeleznicna Revue magazine editor-in-chief Desana Mertinkova has told TASR.

      Neither Vienna, nor Bratislava appear to be suitable sites for the planned terminals. "Bratislava will not be viable from the perspective of all future freight transport, and it would be counterproductive to connect the capital with freight transport corridors from the perspective of the future development of Slovakia," said Polacek.

      Attorney Jana Martinkova of Advocatus Martinkova thinks that it would be better to build two terminals. "This is vital with respect to the diversification of risks, such as energy cuts, natural disasters and accidents. This is the reason why it wouldn't be good to have only one main terminal, but at least t wo, with one of them being in Slovakia. Apart from the existing one in Cierna nad Tisou, the best places would be the Komarno and Gabcikovo corridors and Bratislava. A terminal in Komarno wouldn't necessarily mean routing the track via Hungary, though," said Martinkova.

      Nevertheless, it seems that there is a major risk with respect to the entire broad-gauge railway project. "The new track should be completed in 2024. Its cost could climb to €9 billion by then, as the original price of €6 billion was considered vis-a-vis price levels in 2010. Around 400 kilometres of the new track should go through Slovakia, which, apart from this, will have to reconstruct the existing broad-gauge railway line from Matovce to Haniska near Kosice with a le ngth of around 90 kilometres. This certainly won't be paid for by the Austrians, Russians or Ukrainians. The operation and maintenance of the new track won't be possible without subsidies either," said Martinkova.

      A public tender for a feasibility study for extending the track from Kosice to Vienna is taking place at the moment. The tender was called by Vienna-based company Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft, which is jointly managed by Austrian, Ukrainian, Russian and Slovak rail companies. The tender is subject to Austrian legislation and regulations, and its announcement was published in the European Public Procurement Bulletin.
 The feasibility study is supposed to assess the extension project with respect to project documentation for the strategic assessment of impacts on the environment, documentation associated with construction targets, and parts of the documentation relating to land permits.