Floods in Slovenia: rail freight still in a stalemate, EC unlocks funds
Running freight trains between Slovenia and its neighbouring countries is still significantly problematic due to the recent disastrous floods that hit the country. The first estimates of the damages are set at over half a billion euros, with the European Commission (EC) getting involved to make funds available as promptly as possible.
As Slovenian Railways (SZ) highlighted, one of the most damaged lines is the double track connecting Litja and Sava, where only the left track is back in service. Despite being a relatively short section, this line is part of the corridors connecting Ljubljana to Austria and Hungary. SZ stated that the rehabilitation of the full line will take place at least until 20 August. These damages are significantly more impactful for rail freight. This is because it is much more difficult to find alternative transport solutions for cargo than it is for passengers.
Aid from the European Commission is on the way, but time is of the essence
During a joint press conference with Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob, the president of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, said that there already are three packages to deal with the damages. The first initiative is the EU Solidarity Funds, which will bring 400 million euros. Of these, 100 million euros will be made available for this year, while the rest will be dispensed next year.
“The second element is NextGenerationEU”, von der Leyen said. As she explained, there are 2,7 billion euros that Slovenia can request, but it needs to do so by the end of August. For this reason, a joint task force was created by the Slovenian government and the EC to work on the administrative requirements to make sure that the money is accessible. Finally, a third package comes from the EU Cohesion Funds. As the EC’s president highlighted, there are 3,3 billion euros of programmed investments that can be repurposed and can be used until 2027.
Bad weather disrupting operations all over Europe
Unusually high amounts of rain are causing problems, including for rail freight not only in Slovenia. The same is happening, for example, in Sweden and Norway, where many lines had to be closed and numerous freight services had to be suppressed. Moreover, bad weather is causing disruption in Belarus as well, where, according to Belarusian Railways, 51 passenger trains had to be cancelled. The company did not provide any information about rail freight services, but it is likely that they are affected as well. In May, moreover, floods hit northern Italy, significantly affecting rail freight companies active in the area.