These improvements are intended to enable the region to introduce multimodal transport options, which will mitigate environmental pollution and increase the attractiveness of rail travel. This could also mean less traffic congestion and fewer road fatalities for the Western Balkans, a region with a high rate of 233 passenger cars per 1 000 inhabitants. That is particularly significant because most of the region’s cars are energy-intensive and more than a decade old.
With less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, rail remains a climate-friendly mobility option. It is also the most energy-efficient mode for freight transport. On average, a single train can carry as much freight as 280 trucks.
“We aim to ensure the economic viability of our transport projects, including their adaptation to climate change,” says Lilyana Pavlova, the European Investment Bank vice president responsible for the Western Balkans, “while respecting the environment, improving safety and promoting social wellbeing. As it is high on our agenda, we want to revive the popularity of rail to make it the first choice when it comes to transport in the region, by facilitating quick and safe movement of people and goods.”
“Smarter, safer and digitalised rail will help us address the environmental issues and enable shift to more sustainable mobility,” Pavlova adds.
Supporting regional cooperation and connectivity
Western Balkans partners can benefit from the jointly funded European Investment Bank and European Commission team of experts at JASPERS, who help rail infrastructure managers plan and implement projects. The most recent addition to their assignment portfolio relates to advisory support for level-crossing safety on the railway network across the region. This kind of support combined with favourable loans and EU grants makes EIB Global, the European Investment Bank’s arm for the region, a key financer of the rail sector in the Western Balkans.
“EIB Global works together with governments in the region to improve the condition of infrastructure by providing technical assistance for the preparation of key projects within the Economic and Investment Plan,” says Matteo Rivellini, EIB Global’s head of division for the Western Balkans and Turkey. “To date, the EU bank has invested close to €650 million in the rail sector of the Western Balkans, supporting regional cooperation and connectivity.”
“In line with our new Transport Lending Policy and EU Connectivity Agenda, EIB Global priorities include the electrification and modernisation of major routes and the replacement of diesel with electric traction, which are key to reducing noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions,” he adds.