Panel hears entire railway network needs to be upgraded
Logistics, port services, transports and warehouses are important for Slovenia, and the port of Koper is of strategic importance, not only for Slovenia but also for the countries north of Slovenia, and it needs to be developed further, he said.
The task of the minister is to provide conditions for the port to continue to operate optimally, to increase transshipment and that the national railway operator Slovenske Železnice is integrated in this as much as possible, Vrtovec added.
At the event in Ljubljana at which an analysis of port business's impact on the economy was presented by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), the minister also pointed to the importance of in-land logistics centres for the development of the industry.
"Despite having excellent opportunities in logistics, we still don't have a major in-land warehouse," he said, adding that a scenario for expansion of the Maribor airport by 350 hectares for a modern multi-modal logistics centre would be finalised in a month's time.
Vrtovec also noted that the entire railway network needed to be developed further. "If we show that we are serious about modernising the entire railway network, the port of Koper will grow," he said, adding that the new railway line to Koper would be operational by 2026.
Dimitrij Zadel, the CEO of the port operator Luka Koper, said that a strategic business plan had been drafted so that the port was ready once the new railway line opened.
Slovenske Železnice director general Dušan Mes also talked about modernising the entire railway network, adding that the Koper railway alone was insufficient for the entire potential of Slovenian logistics to be utilised.
It will be a great turning point, Mes said, while also noting that the Ljubljana-Jesenice link should be upgraded with another track as soon as possible, and that the same was true for the Maribor-Šentilj line.
He believes that financing railway upgrades from the current state budgets is not realistic, mentioning the Kočevje railway, which was built without EU funds, as an example. "We worked on it for 10 years and it cost EUR 100 million."
Vrtovec added that the distribution of 81% of the budget funds was determined in advance and agreed that the railway network cannot be upgraded only with budget funds, because there was not enough money.
Abroad, infrastructure funds are established for such purposes, but something like that is hard to prepare, the minister admitted.
GZS director general Sonja Šmuc said that investments in infrastructure were a must, because they were a basis for companies dealing with various forms of transport and logistics to be competitive.
Gracijan Necmeskal, the president of the Slovenian Ship and Freight Agents Association, said that the bad experience from the past resulted in some distrust when investments were being implemented due to frequent delays. "But we learn from bad experience," he added.
A summary of the study was presented by GZS chief economist and its co-author Bojan Ivanc, who said that more than 7,000 jobs in Slovenia were indirectly linked to the port activity.
According to him, every euro in added value in port activity brings almost an additional euro in other related activities, and each port job results in an additional 1.55 jobs in other related activities.