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Next phase of work on Mediterranean Corridor brings Albania closer to the EU

By Bojana Vlajcic

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Ursula von der Leyen (in red) and Edi Rama (behind her) inspect progress at the construction site of the Tirana-Durres railway

  • European Commission President visits Tirana-Durres railway rehabilitation works
  • EBRD’s €36.9 million loan supplemented by €35.5 million EU grant
  • EBRD investment in Western Balkans rail to reach €1 billion by year end

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today visited construction works on Albania’s Tirana-Durres railway, a project financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF). This project is part of the Mediterranean Corridor.

President von der Leyen was accompanied by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Belinda Balluku, EU Ambassador to Albania Christiane Hohmann and EBRD Head of Albania Ekaterina Solovova.

Later this week, a similar visit will take place to inaugurate work on the railway line in North Macedonia. The reconstructed rail links will eventually connect Albania’s largest port of Durres in the Adriatic, via North Macedonia, with the Black Sea port of Varna in Bulgaria.

Including these two projects, the EBRD has committed €940 million to rail projects in the six Western Balkans countries to date and plans to invest nearly the same amount ‒ another €840 million – in the medium term.

Ekaterina Solovova said: “Improving connectivity in the country and within the region remains one of the EBRD’s key priorities. In addition to the reconstruction of roads, we are keen to provide more support for railway investments in the region, because rail is a greener mode of transport. The EBRD is currently considering another major investment in the Albanian railway sector for the rehabilitation of the rail connection to the border with Montenegro, which will bring our total Western Balkans rail support to over €1 billion.”

The first major overhaul of the Albanian railway is progressing, with construction work under way on the 34-kilometre Tirana-Durres section, after several decades of underinvestment.

The EBRD- and EU-supported investment will also include the construction of a new railway line connecting Tirana and Durres to Tirana International Airport. Work on both sections is being carried out by Italian company INC S.p.A.

The investment, worth a total of €92 million, is co-financed with a €36.9 million EBRD loan and a €35.5 million EU investment grant through the WBIF. The remainder of the funds have been secured by the government of Albania.

An additional €2.75 million in grants from bilateral donors have been secured through the WBIF.

The rehabilitation of the Tirana-Durres railway – part of which is dysfunctional ‒ will allow for safer and faster rail travel; the current average speed is less than 60 km per hour. On the reconstructed line, the expected travel time will be 22 minutes, while getting from Tirana to the airport will take 12 minutes at a speed of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

To date, the EBRD has provided more than €307 million of financing and helped mobilise an additional €300 million of EU funding through the WBIF and the national Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) for the construction of road and railway projects in Albania

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