Slovaks eye €4.3 bln railway for Russian goods


Slovakia expects to start building broad-gauge railways worth more than €4.3 billion across its territory in 2010 to speed up the transport of Russian goods to the West, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Thursday.

Broad-gauge railways used in the former Soviet Union end at the eastern Slovak border with Ukraine where products and raw materials have to be loaded onto standard gauge railways for further transport. Fico has been promoting extension of the broad-gauge railways through Slovakia to its capital Bratislava, which has a port on the river Danube and lies some 60 kilometers from the Austrian capital Vienna. “Expert groups from Austria, Slovakia and Russia are engaged in intensive work on this project, which will have a total value of more than €4.3 billion,” Fico said after meeting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov in Bratislava. “Unless some unforeseen obstacles arise, construction of this project can be expected to start in 2010,” Fico added. Neither Fico nor Zubkov said how the railway project should be financed.

Fico, who won a 2006 election on promises to take better care of the poor and speed up infrastructure projects to attract investors to less developed eastern Slovakia, has to cut the country’s fiscal deficit to fulfill his goal of adopting the euro in 2009. Slovakia will have to continue reducing the state budget shortfall even if the European Union judges it ready to enter the single currency area next year, and the government has not yet said whether it planned to finance the railway project. As part of the infrastructure plan, Fico is looking for partners for the so-called public-private partnership projects under which private businesses would finance and build highways worth billions of euros and then operate them for decades. (Reuters)

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