The modernisation of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line could start this year, as soon as the Sino-Hungarian intergovernmental and financial agreements necessary for it are signed, said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó in Budapest on Thursday.

The Hungarian-Serbian-Chinese working party set up in connection with the modernisation of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line held its third meeting on Thursday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

DownloadPhoto: Zsolt BURGER/MTI

At the press conference held after the meeting, the Minister stressed that the two agreements would be signed by 31 October. By August 15 China will send its offer of financing, which must be more favourable than market conditions.

Mr. Szijjártó said that the Hungarian section of the railway line is 166 kilometres long, and that the cost of investment for this section is HUF 472 billion. The intention is for the journey time for passenger trains between the two capitals to be reduced to 2.5 to 3 hours, and to allow for trains carrying Chinese goods delivered by ship to the Greek port of Piraeus, bound for Western Europe via Serbia and Hungary.

The Minister explained that a double track will be created and the railway line electrified as part of the project. Furthermore, implementing the project will enable goods trains with the heaviest axle loads to use the new track, and for passenger trains to travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour. It is estimated that it will take two to two and a half years to construct the track.

DownloadPhoto: Zsolt BURGER/MTI

Mr. Szijjártó recalled that China has announced its “One Belt, One Road” strategy, aiming to establish closer trade links with Europe; in response to this, great rivalry has sprung up between European countries seeking to play the key role in implementing the strategy. He added that Serbia and Hungary are pooling their resources in order to become the two countries in Central Europe handling most of the transit traffic for the trade between China and Europe forming part of the strategy. The geographical location of Serbia and Hungary in the heart of Europe is good, the Minister said, and endeavours are being made to reap the benefits of this.

Dejan Trifunovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of Serbia, described the tripartite cooperation as very positive, adding that all essential points had been agreed. The Serbian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line is 174 kilometres long, and Mr. Trifunovic said that work on it will begin this year. He noted that the project enjoyed broad political support in Serbia.

Wang Xiaotao, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), described the Budapest meeting as productive, and said that the next meeting will be held in Beijing. Many details had been agreed at the current meeting, he said, and he believed that this clearly demonstrates that the joint efforts have produced consensus and will bring the project to fruition.

(Prime Minister’s Office, MTI)