Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

Transport Minister Janakieski: By 2018, Macedonia will be a country of express and safe highways

According to our analysis, it's not economical to make highway of the Veles-Prilep road section. It is a project that was launched by the former government, but without full financial support. We do not start a project without providing the financial resources first.

Macedonia received EUR 305 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), EUR 145 million of which will be allocated for the construction of the Bljakovce – Kriva Palanka railroad, and EUR 160 million for the National Roads program. We talked with the Minister of Transport and Communications, Mile Janakieski, immediately after receiving the information about the approval of these funds.

We started the interview with the information about the new funds that should contribute to improve the road infrastructure in the country. EUR 145 million for the Bljakovce – Kriva Palanka railroad. What’s in it for Macedonia?

Janakieski: EBRD Board of Directors has approved funds for the construction of the second railway section to Bulgaria (Beljakovce -Kriva Palanka). It is about a projected amount of money. Moreover, funds for roads have also been approved. Immediately after the signing of the contract we expect a public announcement on finding a construction company that would begin with the construction works in 2015. This year we began with the construction of the first railway section Kumanovo – Beljakovce and the call for a consulting company that will do the the third phase of project, i.e. railway section from Kriva Palanka to the border with Bulgaria, is underway. Soon after, the law should be found in Parliament, so that the Parliament approves the loan.

One of the major projects of the Ministry is to improve the road infrastructure. Skopje and Ohrid will connect with the new Ohrid-Straza highway, and there is also an announcement on the construction of Gostivar-Straza highway. How much its costs?

Janakieski: The overall value of the Ohrid – Kicevo highway is EUR 373 million and it is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018. In regard to the rest of the highway, we are currently preparing the documentation and expect to issue a public call for finding a concessionaire at the beginning of next year. Our goal is to have the highway completed in 2018. The travel will be drastically reduced for almost half an hour, and the safety of the passengers  will be much greater.

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Other highways and regional roads are being built as well. How are things going with the road section to Gevgelija?

Janakieski: The construction of Demir Kapija-Smokvica highway, the last section of Corridor 10, started in late 2012 and, in accordance with the agreement, should be completed by the end of 2016. More than 50 percent of the construction works are completed. Now, it is in the stage of constructing bridges. In 2016, we expect the Corridor, which goes from Serbia through Macedonia to Greece, to be constructed as a highway in Macedonia. It is the busiest highway.

The Skopje – Stip highway is also one of the major projects.

Janakieski: The construction of Skopje – Stip highway started this year and, in accordance with the agreement, should be completed by the end of 2017. Everything is going smoothly, at faster pace than envisaged. This highway is 47 kilometers long, the investment is worth EUR 206 million, and the road will be shortened by ten kilometers, and the speed of motion will be much higher, given that until now people drove through residential areas, and now we have a highway. It is expected that people will be able to travel from Skopje to Stip for half an hour.

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Talking about roads, a project for Veles-Prilep highway was announced. Could it be realized?

Janakieski: It is a project that was launched by the former government, but without full financial support. We do not start a project without providing the financial resources first. One of the projects approved by EBRD refers to this section. Funds have been approved for the Prilep-Grdasko road section, as well as for the Ohrid – Pestani road, which is very important for the development of the tourism in Ohrid. Then the Stip – Kocani road and the Struga- Trebenista road. These four projects should begin by the end of 2015. Three different sections have been planned for the Prilep – Gradsko highway – the first is financed by the EBRD, the second section by the IPA funds and the third section, it is a small portion, will be funded by the Budget for public roads. It is a four-lane highway. We expect it to be completed  no later than 2019. According to our analysis, it’s not economical to make highway of the Veles-Prilep road section.

New roads would also demand for modernization of toll stations. There are announcements that a Turkish company will be constructing for electronic toll collection system.

Janakieski: We are about to close the deal with the Turkish company “Aselsan”, which has already been selected and remains to submit technical paperwork and financial guarantees. The maximum period for project implementation is 18 months. A new system would not rely on human factor is to be introduced, it will contain special marks and drivers would not have to stop the vehicle to pay. There will be a prepaid-card, a system in the automobile itself, while a special reader will be reading and charging. Cards that can be inserted into automates are also included in the project. The existing toll stations will be expanded, while the capacity of some of them will be doubled. In an year in a half, we will have a new modern system and there will be no congestion of the roads. Simultaneously, we are working on a project for construction of new and modernization of the existing gas stations in the country to provide conditions for many foreign travelers to stop and spend money in Macedonia.

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Trains are one of the main means of transport in Europe and the world. Procurement of new freight wagons has been announced.

Janakieski: 13 freight wagons have arrived and the remaining 150 are set to arrive by the start of next year. What is more important, new passenger cars will arrive by the middle of 2015 and their delivery will be finalized by the beginning of 2016. The 150 freight wagons are significant for the industry, railway capacity increases and transport modernizes. Concerning passenger cars, there will be six modern trains – two electrical, four diesel. We expect that as of July 2015 Macedonian citizens will travel in new trains.

What about the old railway stations?

Janakieski: Skopje Railway Station is currently being renovated and it should be finished by next year. Reconstruction process of 10  major railway stations along Corridor 10 – Prilep, Veles, Gradsko, Gevgelija – is in the evaluation phase.

The millionth passenger has arrived at Alexander The Great Airport. Has the air traffic met the expectations?

Janakieski: When we closed the deal for airports concession, and when TAV began operations with Macedonian airports we have had about 610.000 passengers. This year, if weather conditions are favorable, we can reach up to 1.200.000 passengers. That means we have reached the goal, we have increased the number of passengers, frequency on Macedonian airports has increased. Skopje Airport now has a new outlook, while Ohrid Airport has been modernized and Stip Airport will be constructed in the future. In cooperation with “Wizz Air” and the other companies we have opened 14 lines in just 2 years. Skopje Airport is leader in the number of passengers in the region. This numbers show that concession of the airport is a successful story. “Alexander The Great” airport has been proclaimed for best airport up to two million passengers in Europe. In 2015, our challenge will be attracting a low-budget airline for four new destinations and revival of Ohrid Airport. We will do our best to establish a national airline in Macedonia.

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By: Biljana Zafirova

Photo: Aleksandar Ivanovski