The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has extended funding to construct an eastern section of the railway network in North Macedonia.

Part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII, the project will be supported with an EBRD extended loan of €200m, along with a €75m grant from the EU.

To provide technical support for project preparation and supervision, bilateral donors to the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) have provided €6m in grants.

An event was conducted to mark the commencement of construction works on a 34km section from Beljakovce to Kriva Palanka besides the finalisation of the remaining works on a 31km section from Kumanovo to Beljakovce.

Austrian company Strabag will be responsible for upgrade works on the Kumanovo to Beljakovce section, while Turkish company Gülermak will construct the section from Beljakovce to Kriva Palanka.

Beginning at Kumanovo, the 89km eastern part of Corridor VIII will end at Dave Bair on the border with Bulgaria by passing via Beljakovce and Kriva Palanka.

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The project will help improve North Macedonia’s transport system after the eastern part of Corridor VIII is fully operational.

EBRD North Macedonia head Andi Aranitasi said: “Improving transport infrastructure and especially railways, a safer and greener mode of transport, will not only improve regional connectivity and open up new economic and trade opportunities, but also plays a key role in addressing the urgent issue of climate change.”

Works also started on Albania’s railway network, including the reconstruction of rail links to connect, via North Macedonia, Albania’s port of Durres on the Adriatic with the Black Sea port of Varna in Bulgaria.

EBRD has so far agreed to provide €940m to rail projects in the six Western Balkans countries. It also plans to allocate a further €840m in the medium term.