China Railway group wins contract for Belgrade to Serbia high speed rail

A consortium led by China Railway Group (CRG) has been awarded a 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) contract to build the Hungarian section of a railway linking Budapest with Serbia’s Belgrade, in China’s first high-speed rail win in the European Union.

Three firms – CRG’s China Railway International Group, a subsidiary of national operator China Railway Corporation and the Hungarian State Railways – will form a consortium to construct the 160 kilometre route, CRG said in a statement on Wednesday.

The railway, which will be 350 kilometres long with the Serbian portion, will be completed in two years and will be able to accommodate trains travelling up to 200 kilometres per hour, it said. The Chinese firms will account for 85 percent of the consortium, it said, without providing further details.

The Budapest-Belgrade-Skopje-Athens railroad is a planned project of a high-speed railroad track which will start in Budapest, via Belgrade and Skopje to Athens. The Budapest-Belgrade railway will be finished in two years. Planned speed is 160 km/h between Budapest and Belgrade, current line between Thessaloniki and Athens is 200 km/h with upgrades to 250 km/h ongoing.

The rail upgrade fits with a Chinese plan to turn Greece’s main port of Piraeus — where Chinese shipping giant Cosco Pacific holds a 35-year concession to upgrade and run two container cargo piers — into a regional hub for trade with Europe.

China sees the region, comprising some of the EU’s newest members and others in the Western Balkans that are trying to join the bloc, as a potentially lucrative market and bridgehead to the wider EU, drawn by relatively low wages, educated workforces and scope for development on the EU’s fringes.