Ljubljana – In 2021, the EU marks the European Year of Rail with a project named Connecting Europe Express – a train that will travel across Europe. On the occasion of its arrival in Ljubljana on Friday, Slovenian officials reiterated the country’s commitment to modernise its railway infrastructure.
Among the officials present were Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, director general of the Slovenian railway company Dušan Mes and European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean, who welcomed the Divača-Koper second track project.
“As a symbolic celebration of the European Year of Rail, we want to emphasise the importance of sustainable mobility, especially railways, which must become the backbone of passenger transport,” said Vrtovec in a press statement at the Ljubljana railway station on Friday.
“The state must ensure that railway transport is efficient, fast, economical and comfortable. We still have a lot to do, but we are moving in the right direction.
“We need additional investments in infrastructure, to make it easier for people to choose travelling by train instead of personal vehicles,” added Vrtovec.
He highlighted establishing new connections and the renovation of railway lines and stations, and the introduction of cheaper weekend and family tickets.
At the ceremony marking the arrival of the Connecting Europe Express in Ljubljana, Slovenske Železnice CEO Dušan Mes pointed out that rail has always been an important link in the development of Europe and Slovenia.
He added that Slovenia wanted to catch up with Western and Northern Europe in terms of investment in rail infrastructure. In doing so, it will also rely on European funds.
Anne Elisabet Jensen, the European coordinator for the Baltic-Adriatic corridor, stressed that rail plays a key role in the transition to a sustainable transport network.
She also lauded the project that aims to build the second railway line between Divača and Koper.
That was also highlighted by Commissioner Valean, who stressed that the European Commission was looking forward to this Slovenian project.
Visiting the Divača-Koper track construction site with Minister Vrtovec, the commissioner said that being part of the European corridor, it was an important project for Europe.
“It is important to us that the project is built on time,” said Valean, adding she was glad to see the work on the project proceeding as it should be.
These projects are important to move into a more sustainable future and strengthen freight and passenger rail transport, she said.
Minister Vrtovec was also happy with the progress of work on the site, and the EU’s support for the project, which he said would tackle the bottleneck between Divača and the Koper port.
“All the goods will arrive faster into central Slovenia and on toward countries further inland that are of key importance to the development of the Koper port,” he said.
Asked about the involvement of those countries in the project, he said he would always be inviting them to use the potential of the Koper port and the second track in one way or anther.
He said that cooperation with the countries was under way but would have to be stepped up. Most recently he discussed the potential for that in Poland, which he said recognised Luka Koper as a strategic port to supply south Poland.
“Cooperation with Poland and Luka Koper will be strengthened further. We would like them to increase transshipment with Luka Koper as much as possible,” he said.
Pavle Hevka, the CEO of the state-run company managing the second track project 2TDK, noted that EUR 247 million in grants had been obtained for the projects, but they planned to bid for EUR 100 million more.
The EU is celebrating the European Year of Rail in 2021 with the Connecting Europe Express, a train that started its journey in Lisbon on 2 September and will conclude it in Paris on 7 October.
With its journey through 26 countries, the train aims to raise awareness about the benefits of rail transport and the challenges still to be overcome. On its path through Slovenia, it is scheduled to stop in Celje and Maribor as well.