EIB Global, the specialised arm of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group, has granted a loan of more than €550m to Serbia for the Railway Corridor X’s Belgrade-Niš section upgrade.

Part of the EU’s €30bn Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, Railway Corridor X is a pan-European corridor that links central Europe with Thessaloniki, Greece.

EIB Global has committed up to €1.1bn in financing, including the signing of a €550m loan for the project.

For the project’s upgrade works, the EU agreed to offer a €2.2bn financing package to Serbia.

The funds will help carry out upgrades on the railway infrastructure along the Belgrade-Niš section on Corridor X, including the building of new bridges and tunnels.

These upgrades will help trains travel at speeds of up to 200km/h between Belgrade and Niš.

The package comprises a €550m loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction Development (EBRD), up to €598m in EU investment grants, and a €1.1bn EIB loan.

Grants worth €265m were already approved by the EU. Under the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), the signing of the first loan tranche for €82.8m has been completed.

The Republic of Serbia President Serbia Aleksandar Vučić said: “We are receiving €610m as a gift, out of a total of €2.7bn. The biggest aid, the biggest support, the biggest amount of money.

“When we do this, Niš will be an hour and 40 minutes away from Belgrade, and right now you cannot get there by car in less than two-and-a-half hours. When the railway was built in 1884, it took eight hours to travel, now it takes six-and-a-half.”