Croatia plans to invest about €3.5 billion in the construction and maintenance of its railway infrastructure, Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic said on Tuesday.
Butkovic said that the Zagreb-Rijeka railway had a lot of potential "even today" and that the development of the railway infrastructure was "one of the main pre-conditions" to achieve the full potential of the Rijeka seaport.
He recalled that in the 1990s railway freight transport had accounted for 90 percent of transport at the Rijeka port, but after the construction of the A1 motorway which opened in the 2000s, rail freight dropped and now accounts for about 25 percent of Rijeka port's turnover.
"Today more than ever it is necessary to change those statistics," he said, adding that "the transport strategy has recognised the potential of the Zagreb-Rijeka railway line for freight transport," and that "the European Commission too has recognised the potential of railway freight transport and has financed the construction of several railway lines in Croatia," listing several railway infrastructure projects.
Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Prefect Zlatko Komadina said that it was necessary to embark on strategic projects as soon as possible, while Rijeka Mayor Vojko Obersnel commented on the poor state of the Rijeka passenger railway station considering that next year Rijeka would be the year-long European Capital of Culture, and that it was necessary to construct a railway line to modern standards.
"This has been talked about for decades and I hope that the time has come for us all to get to work. I have warned on several occasions that the railway station needs to be reconstructed and hope that will be done soon," the mayor said.
Butkovic said that money for the railway station had been secured and that two tenders had been advertised, but the bids were significantly higher than the estimated value of the project. He added that a new tender would be advertised soon with corrected prices and that he hoped contracts would be signed before the end of the year.