THE European Union (EU) has announced a grant of up to €600m to enable a substantial modernisation of the 230km TEN-T Corridor X connecting Belgrade and Niš in Serbia.

The funding, announced by commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, Mr Olivér Várhelyi, during a visit to Serbia on February 28, is part of a wider €2.2bn financial package for the project. Of this, €265m has been already approved by the EU for the upgrade, which will support line speeds of up to 200km/h, reducing journey times to 1h 40min.

The rest of the package consists of a €1.1bn loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a €550m loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The Corridor X project is a flagship investment in the EU’s €30bn Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, and aims to connect the region with the EU via Croatia, through Belgrade and further to Niš, Skopje and Greece.

The project will contribute to the modernisation of railways in Serbia and improve connectivity with other European rail networks.

“We have picked this project because we think that this project is capable of changing the realities on the ground for the people of Serbia, for the people of southern Serbia, and with that also for the entire region,” Várhelyi said during the visit. “Because this project should bring growth and jobs; this project should bring investments in areas where most needed - in the south of Serbia - but this should also bring a new Serbia and a new region.   

“Because this project should not only create a much broader trade route, but this should also offer opportunity for the citizens of Serbia to get to the capital much faster - up to 200km/h - meaning that we can reduce significantly the time of travel, meaning that we can also contribute to accelerating the economic small fabric of the country, meaning bringing more growth everywhere.”