China on brink of closing $3bn Belgrade-Budapest high-speed rail deal

China’s push to construct a high-speed rail line between Belgrade and Budapest moved a step closer following a trilateral meeting on the project between the governments of China, Serbia and Hungary on Friday, 9 September, China’s state news agency Xinhua reports.

The meeting was held to iron out technical problems with the construction of the electrified 200km/h line.

Afterwards Serbia’s Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure issued a press release saying that the design of the first phase, a 40km stretch between Belgrade and Stara Pazova, would be complete by the end of September and that the final commercial contract would be signed by the parties in October.  

The railway as a whole will be 350km long, and will cut the travel time between the two capitals to one and three-quarter hours. At present, direct trains take around nine hours to make the trip. Its estimated cost is in the region of $2.9bn.

The line will improve China’s ability to move its exports around southern Europe from the Greek port of Piraeus, which it now runs. It also provides a market for its rail technology and rolling stock.  

The meeting was presided over by Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s transport minister, along with the Wang Xiaotao, deputy director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, and Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister (pictured), reports InSerbia.

The project for the modernization of the link was first agreed in 2013 at a tripartite meeting in Bucharest. Construction is expected to take about 30 months, and work is expected to get under way this year.

Image: Wang Xiaotao with Peter Szijjarto (centre) meet in Budapest last year (Government of Hungary)

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