Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway back on track and ahead of schedule

02:38

Track-laying works on the Hungarian side of the Budapest-Belgrade railway have resumed. It’s part of the construction of one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects being funded by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The construction reached a new milestone after the railway line between Novi Sad and Subotica in Serbia was completed, now the Hungarian government is planning to push through the project and complete it by 2025.

It is welcome news after the work was halted by the Chinese-Hungarian construction team in September 2023. One of the key requirements for the project is to enable trains to travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour safely. To achieve this, the line must comply with the EU-standardized safety system, known as the European Train Control System.

News that the project is set to be complete ahead of time and that construction has resumed could be a sign that these problems have been resolved.

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The government’s decision to construct the Budapest-Belgrade railway line dates back to 2014. Detailed agreements were reached with the Chinese and Serbian administrations in 2015, with the construction contract formalized in 2019.

The idea is to upgrade the 350-kilometer route between the two capitals, connecting them to another BRI project, the Port of Piraeus. It would significantly reduce travel time between Belgrade and Budapest to around 2 hours 40 minutes. 

Travel time for the 350km Budapest-Belgrade route will be more than halved from its current six hours. /Evangelo Sipsas/CGTN

Travel time for the 350km Budapest-Belgrade route will be more than halved from its current six hours. /Evangelo Sipsas/CGTN

The Political Director of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Balazs Orban, told CGTN it is a throwback to the ancient trading routes.

“This is the first high-speed train in the region,” Orban told CGTN. “It goes exactly on the traditional East-West trade routes, so I think it will have a very important impact on the region,” he added.

The railway is expected to become a logistics hub for cargo from China. Hungary said the project, that was originally planned to be operational by the summer of 2026, was ahead of schedule and Budapest is already looking into future opportunities to cooperate with China.

“We are going to finish the project in just one year, and we are looking for other opportunities and connection points, other infrastructural development projects, railways, highways, logistics centers,” Orban said. “The Chinese know-how is very high in these fields,” he added.

The construction project, valued at around $2.8 billion, is 85 percent financed by a fixed-rate Chinese loan, with the remaining funding provided by the Hungarian State.

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