SKOPJE, Macedonia — North Macedonia has started construction of a railway linking it to Bulgaria, a project that has been in the works for decades.
The project is part of Pan-European Corridor VIII, a route stretching approximately 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from the Albanian port of Durres in the west to the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas in the east. Durres is connected by sea to the Italian port of Bari.
The Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, Dimitar Kovacevski and Galab Donev, attended the inauguration ceremony on Saturday near the city of Kumanovo, affirming their commitment that the rail link between the two neighbors will be completed by here 2030.
At this stage, there are only single-track lines in Albania and North Macedonia. Connections are missing at the western and eastern ends of the corridor in North Macedonia. The Bulgarian part is over.
The line that has just started construction is called “Eastern End” and involves 89 kilometers (55 miles) of track in North Macedonia. The works will be completed by the end of 2025 and include 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) of tunnels, rail bridges, overpasses and underpasses and stations, as well as a new signaling and telecommunications system .
A “Western End” section to the border with Albania will also be built.
Once completed, the railway is expected to increase annual freight volume by 20% by 2030 and provide access to modern means of transport for more than 350,000 people. Travel time will be reduced, as well as air and noise pollution.
“This project has been on hold for 30 years. The railway called hope, as characterized by the media, is an absolutely accurate characterization,” said Kovacevski, Prime Minister of North Macedonia, adding that there was “skepticism and ‘disbelief about the realization of the joint project with Bulgaria.