The Slovenia Times

Koper-Divača Railway: A decade too late, yet still crucial



When the first African electric transnational railway began operation a few weeks ago, there was a song in the air serenaded by a chorus of tribal singers. As African leaders, European diplomats and pop icons climbed the stairs of the new, air-conditioned train travelling between Djibouti and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, there was merriment in the air, writes the New York Times.

The reporter who wrote the story would be hard-pressed to find similar scenes in Slovenia at any point in the last couple of decades. Slovenian railways and trains have long ceased to be a point of pride for Slovenians, who use the existing rail infrastructure sparingly, mostly due to poor connections and slow trains. A train from Koper to Hodoš travels its 315 kilometre route from the south-western to the north-eastern tip of Slovenia in six and a half hours - an hour and a half more than it takes a Chinese high-speed train to complete the route from Beijing to Shanghai which is four times farther.

Transport companies have had fewer qualms using Slovenia railways, but that may change in the future. Croatia is building a modern railway from the Port of Rijeka to the Hungarian border, and the Austrians are investing around EUR 10bn in a railway that will connect Vienna with the ports in Northern Italy. The competition is fierce and Slovenia's port, Luka Koper may, in the not too distant future, see some freight being transported through nearby ports instead. It will all depend on whether the Slovenian government can solve the increasing problem of railway connections from the Port of Koper to the inland hub of Divača. The existing single track railway has almost no capacity to spare, admitted Drago Matić, CEO of port operator, Luka Koper. Trains are incurring more and more delays which is causing headaches for transport and logistics companies operating on tight schedules. If Slovenia wants the Port of Koper to develop further, there is no other option but to build the second railway track from Koper to Divača.

However, a second track will not be cheap. Slovenia has missed its chance to get extensive EU financing for the infrastructure project which is worth at least EUR 1bn. The Minister for Infrastructure, Dr. Peter Gašperšič, is nevertheless convinced that Slovenia could get around EUR 250m from Brussels, although it remains to be seen where the rest will come from.

There is little incentive for private investors because it will take at least 30 years for the investment to be repaid. This, however, doesn't mean that the second track isn't crucial for Slovenia or the future development of its logistics sector. Even if the investment doesn't make sense for a private investor, it is important for the nation as a whole. Without it, Luka Koper could lose up to 240 million tons of freight in the 30 years to 2055, which would mean up to EUR 3.4bn from the economy.

Yes, the project is expensive and yet there is underlying logic for it - a second railway track from Koper to Divača means further development of Luka Koper and is key for the future of the Slovenian logistics industry.


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