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Port Operator Warns against Hasty Scrapping of Key Rail Link

Koper, 25 September (STA) - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole seaport, issued a warning on Wednesday against government plans to scrap plans to build a second rail track between Divača and Koper, a project the company deems essential for the development of the port.

The government should have a "positive, clear and stable position" on such strategic projects, which "cannot be conditional on positions within the term of a single government," the company said in a press release.

The statement comes after Infrastructure Minister Samo Omerzel reiterated his position earlier this week that the 27 km of new track, a project estimated at EUR 1.4bn, was simply too expensive.

Instead, he proposed a EUR 300m upgrade to existing tracks that would eliminate bottlenecks and suffice to keep up with the projected increase in transshipment at Koper for another decade.

But Luka Koper said "premature statements by political representatives" arouse "doubt among foreign partners" and undermined the credibility of Slovenia's claims that it will increase transport capacity.

The company noted that 70% of the cargo through the port is destined to markets further inland in Central and Eastern Europe, which are fiercely contested.

For Luka Koper, the only alternative to the Divača-Koper track would be a link between Koper and Italy's Trieste, though "operating risks" would have to be examined.

Trieste-Koper is being pushed hard by Italy, but there are fears in Slovenia that linking the two cities would undermine development of the rest of Slovenia's rail network, as the cargo would be diverted north through Italy and Austria.

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