Macedonian train travel is set to get easier and greener thanks to the EBRD’s funding of an ambitious modernisation programme that will benefit passengers and freight transporters alike.
The EBRD is lending up to €50 million to the national rail operator, Macedonian Railways Transport (MRT), so that it can invest in new rolling stock and make its activities more energy efficient.
MRT’s rail service, which covers a network of some 700 kilometres in total, has received very little investment since the early 1990s and the average age of the current rolling stock is between 30 and 45 years. As a result, passenger and freight services in the country are often unreliable as well as being fuel-inefficient.
The EBRD loan, backed by a sovereign guarantee and with a tenor of 15 years, will pay for the purchase of six new passenger trains and 150 rail wagons, plus the rehabilitation of three electric locomotives. It will also finance energy efficiency improvements to MRT’s maintenance workshop and the introduction of a company-wide energy management system.
In addition, technical cooperation funds from the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund will help MRT to modernise the way it operates by separating its passenger and freight businesses. The funds will also support MRT as it engages in the procurement process for its purchase of new rolling stock.
“Improving the quality of Macedonian rail services and reducing the railway’s energy consumption are important objectives of this first EBRD project with MRT and will benefit the whole economy,” said Elena Urumovska, Head of the EBRD’s Office in Skopje. “The EBRD is also pleased to lend its support to the institutional strengthening of MRT through the implementation of a railway sector reform programme.”
“With the renewal of the railway fleet, MRT will greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its passenger and cargo operations,” said Oliver Derkoski, MRT’s General Manager. “The project will allow us to raise the quality of service offered to clients and strengthen their trust, as well as lowering emissions and improving the energy efficiency of our fleet.”
Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski said: “Rail travel is the most economic form of transport and a good railway system is essential for the improvement of the business climate in our country. The existing railway system has need of investment and this financing package is the best way of addressing that need.”
The EBRD is already deeply involved in improving Macedonian train travel. In 2010, the Bank provided a €17.6 million sovereign loan to the national rail infrastructure company to finance the renewal of track along key sections of Pan-European Rail Corridor X in the country. This is the main north-south route, providing a connection to Serbia and onwards to Europe in the north and to Greece in the south.
In August of this year, the EBRD extended a €46.4 million loan to the same company, the Public Enterprise for Railway Infrastructure (PERI), to help upgrade a 30km stretch of rail line that forms part of Pan-European Rail Corridor VIII, which links to Albania in the west and Bulgaria in the east.
To date the EBRD has invested over €1 billion in about 80 projects in the Macedonian economy.