Portorož, 26 June (STA) - Business at Slovenia's only seaport will not be jeopardised when a new railway corridor bypassing Slovenia links the Adriatic and the Baltic seas, the boss of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) Christian Kern told the STA on Thursday, the first day of meetings of the International Union of Railways (UIC) in Portorož.
Kern, who is also the chairman of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), said that the key sections of the planned high-speed rail network could be built by 2024.
He is certain that Slovenia's port operator Luka Koper will not see a slump in cargo traffic once the network, which will not pass through Slovenia but through Italy, is built.
Works on the network, which is to run through Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Italy, are going well, he said and stressed that the main goal of the project was to attract more cargo to the ports in the Adriatic Sea.
He pointed out that cargo transport by ship from China to the Adriatic was about seven or eight days faster that transport to Antwerp, Rotterdam or Amsterdam.
The Baltic-Adriatic corridor is of great importance to the Adriatic because ports must have good inland links to attract cargo, said Kern. This is also why the second rail planned by Slovenia between Koper and Divača is of key importance, he added.
Kern rejected concerns that the new corridor would diminish the importance of the Koper port, saying that Koper was still the most important port for the Austrian economy and that Luka Koper can only benefit from the new corridor.
Meanwhile, Dušan Mes, the CEO of Slovenian railway operator Slovenske železnice, the host of the UCI meetings, expressed optimism about the future of his company.
After years of struggling and a board financial restructuring, the group generated more than half a billion euros in revenue last year, while its net profit nearly reached EUR 20m, which was considerably higher than in 2012, said Mes.
The rail operator expects to further improve its results this year, expecting to transport around 17 million passengers and more than 18 million tonnes of cargo (+3% year-on-year).
He also underscored that infrastructure investments were needed and expressed satisfaction that the state, which owns the railway infrastructure in Slovenia, has recognised this need. He also reiterated that Slovenske železnice will need a strategic partner.