Rehabilitation of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line, Serbia

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The Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line is being rehabilitated with new electrification, signaling and telecommunication systems. Credit: European Union (EU).

The rehabilitation project is expected to create approximately 250 new jobs during the construction, operation and maintenance phases. Credit: Phil Richards/Flickr.

The rehabilitation of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line is expected to be completed in the first quarter (Q1) of 2025. Credit: Phil Richards/Flickr.

The Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line in Serbia is being reconstructed and upgraded to improve passenger and freight transportation. It will allow better integration between Serbia and the rail network of the European Union (EU).

The project will include electrification and the installation of new signaling and telecommunications systems.

The total cost of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway rehabilitation project is estimated at 268 million euros ($315 million), including 59 million euros ($66.2 million) for the electrification of the entire line.

The tender for the reconstruction and electrification works of the 82 km long Sicevo-Dimitrovgrad line section was launched in September 2021.

Construction of the rehabilitation project is expected to begin in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, while completion is expected by Q1 2025.

Details of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line

The existing railway line connecting Nis to the Bulgarian border has a total length of 104 km while the section between Nis and Dimitrovgrad is about 97 km long.

The Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line is part of the Xc branch of the South East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) Corridor X core network, a pan-European corridor passing through Serbia. The Xc branch connects the city of Nis with Dimitrovgrad and the Bulgarian border.

The railway line between Nis and Dimitrovgrad is also part of a corridor that connects Central Europe to Bulgaria and Turkey via Croatia and Serbia. It is considered as an alternative to the Rhine-Danube Core Network Corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). TEN-T is an initiative for the development of a new network of roads, railways, inland waterways and airports across Europe.

In addition, the line is part of the Orient/Eastern Mediterranean corridor, which connects Salzburg in Austria to Thessaloniki in Greece. About 872 km of the corridor is located in Serbia, which represents about 23% of the country’s total railway network.

Details of the rehabilitation of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line

The Nis-Dimitrovgrad line is the only section of Corridor X that is not electrified. Non-electrification and D3 category weight limits are the main causes of bottlenecks in this section. The aging railway signaling and control system was commissioned over 50 years ago and needs to be replaced as it limits travel speeds to 30 km/h to 50 km/h.

The reconstruction and modernization of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad railway line will be implemented in four stages. The first component will concern the reconstruction and preparatory work for the electrification of the Sievo-Stanienje-Dimitrovgrad section. It will concern the reconstruction and upgrading of the railway infrastructure and superstructure, tracks and platforms of certain stations and level crossings.

A 22 km long single-track railway line will be built north of Nis for the transport of passengers and goods under the second component. The new bypass railway will divert downtown traffic and reduce congestion.

The third component will concern the electrification and installation of signaling and security (SS) and telephony and telecommunications (TT) devices. Power supply lines will be constructed and upgraded under the third component.

The fourth component will include works supervision and assistance to the project implementation unit.

The length of branch tracks will be increased to 750m for all stations along the route to improve the efficiency of freight trains.

Financing of the modernization of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad line

The railway modernization project has received a loan of 134 million euros ($159 million) from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a grant of 73.04 million euros ($87 million ) of the Western Balkan Investment Framework, a blended facility created to support key infrastructure projects aimed at promoting the socio-economic development of Western Balkan countries.

The Serbian government will fund at least 10% of the overall project cost. Serbia is also seeking an additional grant of 34.4 million euros ($41 million) for the construction of the single-track bypass railway.

Benefits of the project

The Nis-Dimitrovgrad Railway Rehabilitation Project is expected to generate around 250 new jobs during the construction, operation and maintenance phases.

The project will increase travel speed to 120 km/h and reduce travel time by two hours when completed. The line’s annual freight volume is expected to increase by 30% to 2.2 million tonnes per year.

The improvements made under the project will help to reduce the operating and maintenance costs of the railways. The modernization will move the railway line to the D4 weight limit category, which will allow axle loads of 22.5t and increase the permissible load to 8t/m from 7.2t/m currently in category D3.

The project should encourage a modal shift from road to rail transport. The electrification of the line will reduce the current levels of air and noise pollution generated by the diesel-powered fleet.

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