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Taking significant steps forward

Posted: 23 January 2009 | | No comments yet

Mijat Kurtušic discusses the events which have made a striking difference to the Croatian railway system over the last two years.

Mijat Kurtušic discusses the events which have made a striking difference to the Croatian railway system over the last two years.

The events which have made a striking difference to the Croatian railway system over the last two years have been the division of the Croatian Railways system into four companies within the Holding (HŽ Putnicvki prijevoz, HŽ Cargo, HŽ Vucva vlakova and HŽ Infrastruktura) and the introduction of the National Railway Infrastructure Programme which was adopted by the Croatian Parliament.

The National Railway Infrastructure Programme is the fundamental document which sets out the priorities for development, building, modernisation, renovation and maintenance of the railway infrastructure system. It includes the propositions of the Strategy for transport development in the Republic of Croatia, as well as acknowledging the harmonisation process of Croatian legislation with EU regulations, international agreements and development plans of the Trans-European railway network in the region.

Within the next five-year period (from 2008 until 2012) under the National Railway Infrastructure Programme, the total amount of investments into infrastructure will be approximately HRK 18.3 billion. Out of this amount, HRK 12.6 billion was envisaged for the programme of development (modernisation  and building). The foreseen costs of  operation and maintenance will amount to approximately HRK 5.4 billion.

Infrastructure investment was chosen as a priority because the HŽ railway network is currently undesirable. Infrastructure investments are also necessary to maintain the flow of goods (freight), especially because 70% of work comes from transit transport. What lies ahead of all the companies within HŽ Holding is the preparation for a liberalised market, the preparation of operators to do business without government aid, and a necessary prerequisite is also enabling infrastructure. Using the money earmarked for maintenance and modernisation of infrastructure, we expect to somewhat alter the existing unsatisfactory technical conditions, functionality, availability of means and the conditions for the safe flow of traffic. Primarily, it is our goal to stop the decreasing technical and functional capacity and to partially modernise infrastructure. Results of great significance are expected in the ensuing  five-year period.

Investments will be made in the modernisation of lines on the Croatian  sections of corridors V and X, as well as the construction of new lines – the Karlovac-Josipdol-Novi Vindolski-Rijeka, deviation Bibinje, Gradec-Sveti Ivan Žabno line, Podsused-Samobor-Bregana line – and the construction  of double-tracks for the lines Dugo Selo-Botovo and Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac).

An especially important fact is that after nearly 40 years, the building of entirely new lines has begun, among them also the lines Podsused-Samobor-Bregana and Gradec-Sveti Ivan Žabno, which will make Croatian Railways even more actively involved in public urban and suburban transport in the city of Zagreb.  The greatest increase in the number of passengers is being recorded in suburban  routes within and around Zagreb.

Among major work performed, the substitution of the electrical traction system must be mentioned, which was carried out from Moravice to Rijeka, Šapjan, Škrljevo and Bakar (in the section from Moravice to Rijeka there is a co-current 3 kilovolt system). The work is expected to be completed in 2011 and the level of investment is estimated at €78 million. It is well known what kinds of difficulties in traffic are being created by the fact that the Rijeka line contains two traction systems, beginning from the lack of appropriate traction means, to trains being held for locomotive substitution.

The biggest investment which is nearly expiring from the five-year national programme for infrastructure development of Croatian Railways is the building and modernisation of lines on the Vb corridor. From Botovo via Zagreb to Rijeka a total of 112.1km of new lines are to be built, as well as double track amounting to HRK 118.1 million. The cost of these investments is estimated at more than a billion Euros. Upon the completion of this work, the potentials of this corridor will be entirely utilised, so that Croatian Railways and the port of Rijeka will, in this direction, be able to successfully compete with other north Adriatic ports, but also the ports of North West Europe.

An agreement with the Civil Engineering Institute of Croatia was signed in connection with making technical documentation for the performance of work on the reconstruction of the existing track and on the building of double track of the line state border-Zagreb-Karlovac-Botovo and the new Karlovac-Rijeka line.

The area in the direction of Rijeka-Zagreb-Botovo, at the border with Hungary, is very important for the connection of three big geographical units, namely the central, mountain and coastal Croatia. Due to its transport and geographic position, this direction enters global and regional European traffic flows connecting the central European area with the northern Adriatic area.

Natural conditions of the Adriatic area are being carved into the central European area with the Rijeka port area (which is also suitable for ships of the deepest draft) offering great possibilities and creating extraordinary prerequisites for transport and economic valorization. Beside the position, the attractiveness of the sea port depends most of all on the speed of goods manipulation within the port complex, and especially on the speed and capacity of goods delivery and dispatch.

For the servicing of the port from the continental side, railway transport is irreplacable and a priority. By means of constructing a lowland railway line Rijeka-Josipdol-Karlovac and the reconstruction of the section Karlovac-Zagreb essential prerequisites would be created for a fast, safe and in terms of capacity, satisfactory delivery of goods into and dispatched from the port of Rijekaand. Capacity is currently limited, but this change would bring about an increase of over 30 million tonnes a year.

With regard to use of space and the conservation of human environment, this line does not cause great disruptions because there is already a railway line on the corridor Rijeka-Zagreb-Koprivnica, and in some sections only minimal train-path corrections are to be carried out. The existing line Zagreb-Rijeka has been in operation since 1873 and according to exploitability is one of the most difficult lines in Europe and by its technical characteristics does not meet the transport demand.

The Zagreb-Karlovac line has been built for small speeds and light axle loads and therefore the building of a new train path of this line was proposed, which is shorter and mostly avoids the residential area. The advantage of this variant lies in the fact that the train path has been shortened as much as possible, and that the horizontal elements are such that in the future (if the need arises) speeds of more than 250km/h can be reached. The train path from Hrvatski Leskovac to Orlovac needs to be lifted minimally because at its highest point it reaches 40 metres of difference in height and the conditions for exploitation are a lot more favourable, which completely fulfils the goals  of new line construction.

Due to its wide transport significance, which includes the large significance of Rijeka port as well as other North-Adriatic ports, in the new market, political and economic integration processes of Western European and Eastern European countries, a major increase of goods transportation and passenger transport volumes is to be expected especially on the B section of the Pan-European transport Corridor V, on which this line is located. The greatest advantage for passengers will be shortened travel times from Rijeka to Zagreb to around one hour. These days the journey takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.

I would like to stress that the amount  of HRK 12.6 billion, envisaged for the modernisation and construction of railway infrastructure, is considerably higher (that is, 2.7 times bigger) than the funds invested in the previous five-year period. This goes to show that Croatia strongly supports the involvement of Croatian Railways into a modern trans-European railway network.

The majority of funds required for the financing of the National Programme will be covered from the state budget, which amounts to HRK 16 billion. The amounts from EU pre-accession funds (ISPA and IPA) are planned to reach more than a billion HRK and it is expected that an equivalent amount will come from other sources. Within the ISPA programme, the renovation of the railway line is being  co-financed on the section from Vinkovci to Tovarnik. The total planned price of this construction work is a little more than €60 million, with 38% coverage from the ISPA fund. These EU funds in the amount of 38% of the project price total are non-refundable, and  the tenders were carried out in line with public procurement rules for aid to non-EU countries. The rehabilitation of the railway line on the section Vinkovci-Tovarnik-state border is the first project in Croatia of such magnitude to be funded from pre-accession EU funds and the first which co-financed the investment into railway infrastructure.

Beside construction work, efforts are also made to establish electrical management of railway traffic according to European  standards (Electronic Train Control System – ETCS), which paves the way for cross-border harmonisation of signalling systems and which will enable the disposing of procedures for locomotive substitution and other reasons for train delays – especially if combined with the alterations in border control and customs procedure, the realisation of this project  can help make train transport more  competitive and improve travel times to  match with times in road transport. This will contribute to a modal shift of international transport to railways, which will have an indirect effect on the improvement in environment protection as well.

Through the IPA fund, that is, the Operative transport programme for the period until 2009, co-financing is foreseen for the following:

  • Substitution of safety-signalling devices at Zagreb main railway station (€13.4 million)
  • Okučani-Novska line reconstruction  (€28.9 million)
  • Reconstruction of the line Novska-Dugo Selo (€101.2 million)
  • Reconstruction of the line Zaprešić-Savski Marof (€18.7 million)

The efforts of HŽ Infrastruktura must serve to enable the highest possible quality and safer flow of freight and passenger transport. In this sense, the national programme of railway infrastructure development is also the basic document which identifies all those so-called ‘bottlenecks’ which limit further development of transport. Because of this we can consider this programme to be the mainstay of our  co-operation with the rest of the companies within Croatian Railways.

In the following period, the right measure of mutual relations has to be found, in which companies will pass and implement business policy which will enable them to successfully execute business operations, but also  allow optimal functioning of the system.  The experience in the application of the new organisation so far is telling us that such balance is not easily attained and that this  is an area in which we all have to keep on working intensively.

I would like to say that once Croatia is accepted into the EU, new tasks will await us in connection with railway infrastructure liberalisation. This liberalisation will go on gradually, but at this moment there is already normative regulation which can enable undisturbed implementation and development of this process. HŽ Infrastruktura will successfully perform its part of the work.  The adoption and realisation of the National Railway Infrastructure Programme is a significant step forward in the functioning and the development of railway traffic in Croatia and its joining the European transport routes.

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