Govt approves EUR 20m for prep work for mega rail project
The financial aspect of the project has not yet been approved, but Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič told the press after the cabinet session that the estimated price tag was below EUR 1bn, excluding VAT.
The project company 2TDK was set up in March with EUR 1m in assets, while the funding approved today is to be injected by 7 February 2017, when Slovenia plans to apply again for EU funding under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
Slovenia was unsuccessful in obtaining such funding two years ago, but the minister stressed that the project was now at a much more advanced stage.
"This time it's different, we have a building permit, a special project company has been set up, the finance construction is outlined, and the funds for the state's financial contribution are also ensured," Gašperšič said.
Slovenia plans to pump a total of EUR 200m into 2TDK, the rest of which is to be provided after a special act is passed to define exactly how the new rail track will be built and financed. The cabinet expects to send it to parliament by the end of January.
EU grants are to cover 25% of the investment, and another 30% is planned to come in form of a loan from the European Investment Bank.
The minister confirmed that the track would be used for both passenger and cargo traffic, but three options still remain open as to how the project will be financed.
According to the minister, a public-private partnership is the least likely option, because it would increase the costs of the project, while the most optimal option would be public financing with participation of one of the hinterland countries.
Gašperšič said the government was negotiating intensely with Hungary, which he added would give the project an international dimension and increase the chances for EU funding.
He stressed though that Hungary would not get an ownership stake in port operator Luka Koper.
The construction is expected to take up to seven years, and the call for tenders is to be published in late 2017.