Friday, 15 February 2019

Pelješac Bridge Access Roads Will Be Finished on Time

ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 - Minister of the Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković said on Friday that the state-owned Hrvatske Ceste (HC) road construction and management company was not surprised by the appeal against the tender for the construction of access roads to the future Pelješac Bridge.

Responding to questions from the press at the presentation of a project to modernise port infrastructure in the northern coastal town of Crikvenica, Butković said that the appeal was lawful and added that HC would respond to it within 30 days. He said that the State Commission should deal with the appeal as soon as possible because EU funding was involved.

Asked if the construction of the Pelješac Bridge was the start of "a great Croatian-Chinese friendship", the minister said that companies from all over the world could apply for the international tender and that the tender process had been overseen by the EU.

"Anyone could apply and the offer that meets the criteria was selected, in this case a Chinese consortium. Our experience is good, initial reactions are good and I believe it will stay that way until the end," Butković said.

"As far as I could see, the appeal should not halt the process and extend the time for the submission of bids," Butković said and added: "It can't happen that the bridge is finished and the access roads are not. We need to finish the project within the given time frame so that the EU funding is not wasted. We are not running late, and whether or not we will finish the bridge and the access roads on the same date, that's pushing it a little bit too far."

The State Commission for the Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures on Wednesday received an appeal from the Varaždin-based Colas company against the construction of two sections of the Ston Bypass (DC414).

More news on the Pelješac Bridge construction can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Croatian Railways Resemble Rail from Westerns, Say MPs

ZAGREB, February 1, 2019 - Other countries are developing their railway networks while Croatian railways are accumulating losses, trains are slower and slower and the number of passengers traveling by train is decreasing, opposition members of parliament said on Thursday during a debate on a new bill on the railway which the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) believes will contribute to increasing the competitiveness of railway transport.

Our rail resembles the rail from the time of the Wild West, the infrastructure could be used to make westerns, Miro Bulj of the opposition MOST party said, noting that a bicycle ride from Split to Osijek took less than a train ride from one to the other city.

Unlike Croatia, other countries develop their rail sector and use it as an instrument for development, said Anka Mrak Taritaš of the GLAS party.

Ivan Lovrinović of the Let's Move Croatia (PH) party said that the rail sector lacked a strategy and was increasingly accumulating losses, which, he said, made it similar to the government.

Emil Daus of the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) said that the situation with the railway in Istria was disastrous, that the potential of the port of Rijeka was not being used just as the advantages of smaller Istrian ports were not being used. A railway upgrade would contribute to an increase in tourist arrivals, modern trains would not harm the environment, Daus said, adding that a Pula-Zagreb train ride, combined with bus, now lasted a minimum nine hours.

"The rail maintenance company HŽ Infrastruktura will absolutely not be privatised, that was never said," a State Secretary at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Transport, Nikolina Brnjac, told Social Democrat Alen Prelec who wanted to know which part of the railway infrastructure would be privatised - railway stops, stations or rail tracks.

The rail sector reform is designed to enable citizens to use its benefits, with the railway being the backbone of land transport, supported by bus transport, Brnjac told Božica Makar of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), who wanted to know if the train and bus fare systems would be modernised as well.

While opposition MPs claimed that the bill on the rail sector would not make the sector better, HDZ MPs praised it, with Ivan Šuker saying that it would mark the start of the rail sector's restructuring. He noted that along with the shipbuilding sector, the rail sector had been the biggest user of government guarantees in the amount of some 30 billion kuna over the past 28 years.

The government has said that the bill is designed to fully align the relevant national legislation to EU law, specifically the fourth railway package, which comprises a technical and a market pillar.

The main goals of the package are the establishment of a single European rail area and simplification of the legislative framework.

The new Croatian bill on the rail sector is also aimed at liberalising the passenger rail transport market.

More news on the Croatian railways can be found in the Travel section.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Croatian Transport Minister in China for Cooperation Talks

ZAGREB, January 21, 2019 - The Croatian Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, met with Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng in Beijing on Sunday for talks on cooperation in transport infrastructure, the possibility of Chinese companies using the northern Croatian Adriatic port of Rijeka and of opening direct flights between Zagreb and Beijing, the Croatian ministry said in a press release on Monday.

Butković cited the Pelješac Bridge as the most significant project that provided a boost to cooperation between Croatia and China. He emphasised Croatia's favourable geographic position and informed his Chinese counterpart of activities Croatia was undertaking, especially with regard to railway infrastructure in the Mediterranean corridor.

Li said that China was encouraging its companies to apply for tenders and to comply with deadlines and Croatian regulations. He pointed out that the two countries were fostering friendly relations and that Croatia was an important partner to China.

Cooperation in the area of infrastructure is only in its initial, but very good phase and will continue to deepen through the One Belt, One Road and China+16 initiatives, Li said.

The meeting with the Chinese transport minister was the first of several meetings the Croatian delegation will have during their official visit until January 26.

The Croatian delegation includes representatives of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, the HŽ Infrastruktura rail company, the Hrvatske Ceste road construction and maintenance company and the Rijeka port operator.

The visit marks the continuation of the process of intensifying relations between the two countries and preparations for this year's summit between China and 16 Eastern and Central European countries, which will be hosted by Croatia.

On Monday, Butković is scheduled meet with executives of the China Road and Bridge Corporation, which is building the Peljašac Bridge, and the China Communication Construction Company.

More news on the cooperation between Croatia and China can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 14 January 2019

From 2022, No More Toll Payment Queues on Croatian Motorways

Starting from 2022, the tolls on motorways managed by Croatian Motorways (HAC) and the Rijeka-Zagreb Motorway (ARZ) companies will be charged by the DSRC system (Dedicated Short-Range Communications) or via the Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) system. The new toll collection system has been recommended by Spanish consultants from IDOM Consulting, who won the tender announced by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure to develop the new toll collection system, reports Večernji List on January 14, 2019.

The consultants have suggested the so-called “free flow” toll collection system with multiple lanes. The system will be contactless and non-cash. The DSRC system means that vehicles must have a device or transponder installed through which the mileage would be monitored and the toll calculated. This system is similar to the existing ENC, but DSRC works without vehicles having to slow down. The consultants’ plan is for the DSRC system to be required in commercial vehicles, while it would be optional for passenger vehicles, which would also be able to opt for ALPR. However, the new toll system will primarily be based on DSRC, while the Croatian authorities still have to decide whether ALPR is even needed.

The transponders will be purchased or rented, and their price is about 10 euro each. It is anticipated that the sales points for these transponders will be located at all border crossings, at seaports, on strategic locations on motorways, and in major Croatian cities. Also, the devices will also be distributed through shops, gas stations and mail.

The Croatian DSRC system will be compatible with similar systems in other countries, so for example, Italian drivers, who have been using this system for years, will be able to use their transponders to pay for tolls in Croatia. The transponder will sound a signal warning the driver about the transaction, and will also have a built-in sensor that will detect whether it has been removed from the holder. It is expected that the transponder battery will last for more than six years.

DSRC users will be able to sign for the so-called "prepaid contracts,” while those who wish to pay tolls after driving will have to register, i.e. they will have to provide information about their credit cards or bank accounts.

In the first year of implementation of the new system, it is expected that 60 per cent of transactions will be made through DSRC. Over time, more and more drivers will use the transponders. According to experience from other EU countries, the maximum average use of transponders in transactions is about 80 per cent. In Portugal, for example, 78 per cent of transactions are done with transponders. Hungary has reached the share of 83 per cent in 2017, and it started with 24.5 per cent in 2013.

The future system will be installed at the locations of current toll stations. These sites will also include control points. The toll collection sites and control points will have portals above the motorways with DSRC antennas and cameras that will automatically detect and classify vehicles. Also, toll collection controls will be performed by mobile units, vehicles equipped with DSRC antennas, each of which will cover 80 kilometres of highway.

According to unofficial estimates, the introduction of the new system would cost about 500 million kuna, and the annual maintenance costs would amount to approximately 60 million kuna. The start of the introduction of the new toll collection system is expected in January 2021. For the first year, the new system will coexist with the existing system, which means that the next to the toll booths there will be the so-called “free flow” lanes.

More news on the Croatian motorways can be found in our Travel section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Josip Bohutinski).

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Construction of Pelješac Bridge Proceeding According to Schedule

ZAGREB, January 10, 2019 - Works on the Pelješac Bridge and its access roads is going according to schedule, Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković told reporters before a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"We will build everything as planned," he said, adding that the European Union had approved funding for 85 percent of the cost of the entire project. Butković recalled that the project would be carried out in four stages and that work on the first stage was under way.

Asked why contractors had still not been selected for the construction of access roads, he replied: "They will be, don't worry."

The Večernji List newspaper said on Thursday that the state-owned road construction and management company Hrvatske Ceste (HC) had still not selected contractors for access roads to the bridge even though a deadline had expired and that the bridge, being built by a Chinese consortium, might be finished before the access roads.

The contract for the construction of a bridge between the mainland and the southern Pelješac peninsula with access roads was signed on 23 April 2018 between HC and the China Road and Bridge Corporation. The project is worth 2.08 billion kuna (280 million euro), exclusive of VAT, and 85 percent of eligible costs will be covered by the EU. The total length of the access roads is 30 kilometres.

The bridge will ensure a direct road link between the southernmost part of Croatia and the rest of the country which is currently cut off at Neum where Bosnia and Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea.

More news on the Pelješac Bridge construction can be found in our Business section.

Monday, 7 January 2019

High-Ranking Ministry Official Arrested for Sexual Harassment

A high-ranking official from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure has been arrested for sexual harassment committed at work. According to unofficial information, the person in question was until recently the head of one of the departments in the ministry. On December 20, he allegedly assaulted a low-ranking employee of the Ministry and began to touch her inappropriately, reports Jutarnji List on January 7, 2019.

The shocked woman quickly informed the Zagreb police department, who arrested him and charged him with intimidating behaviour, threats and sexual harassment. Police officers allegedly came to pick him up at the ministry building and took him to a police station for questioning.

“We can only confirm that, on 20 December, one male person with the described allegations was taken to the detention centre,” said the Zagreb Police Administration. The suspect was later questioned at the Municipal State Attorney's Office.

When asked about the event, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure issued the following reply: “According to the information we have, one of the heads of services of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure was taken to remand prison. As a result of the information we have received, we have sent to the Municipal State Attorney's Office a request for their statement, a question whether an investigation procedure has been launched against a civil servant so that we can proceed further in accordance with the Civil Servants Act and initiate appropriate procedures. Due to the personal data protection rules, we are not able to provide more detailed information except that the person has been an employee of the Ministry for the past 9-10 years.”

The abuser is expected to be removed from his duties if it is determined that he has actually committed what is being alleged.

It is interesting that the Official Code of Civil Servants, issued by the government on March 25, 2011, is highlighted prominently on the official webpage of the Ministry, stating: “Civil servants have the right to be protected against sexual harassment or behaviour that represents verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, which is intended to be a violation of the dignity of officials and employees and cause fear, hostility, humiliation or offence.”

The crime in question can be punished with up to one year in prison.

More news on the ministry can be found in our Politics section.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Krešimir Žabec, Marin Dešković, Dijana Puhalo).

Thursday, 3 January 2019

EU Investment Boom in Croatian Transport Infrastructure

So far, the Croatian transport sector has contracted 76 projects from EU funds, totalling almost 25.5 billion kuna. Last year was marked by a massive investment boom in the Croatian transport infrastructure, and many key projects were agreed, co-financed mainly from EU funds, reports Večernji List on January 3, 2019.

The most important among them is Pelješac Bridge. A Chinese contractor will complete the 2.08 billion kuna project, and the start of visible works on the bridge is expected soon. Works at the Brajdica container terminal at the Rijeka port worth 270 million kuna have started, as well as the 614 million kuna works on the Zaprešić-Zabok railway line. Last year, Croatia also received EU grants for the construction of the Vinkovci-Vukovar railway line, a project worth 677 million kuna.

In late 2018, 1.23 billion kuna construction works started for the completion of the Istrian motorway system. Last year, the Čiovo Bridge was finally completed and a EU contract to co-finance the DC 403 road from Škurinje to Rijeka port worth 520 million kuna was signed. So far, six projects with a total value of 169 million kuna have been contracted to finance the construction of county ports from EU funds. Last year, the Transport Ministry also announced a 315 million kuna tender for the procurement of public transportation vehicles.

It is expected that Croatia will sign several significant contracts this year as well. The most important among them is the signing of a grant agreement for the reconstruction and construction of the second track of a 44.25-kilometre long section of the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railroad line. The estimated value of these works is about 2.6 billion kuna, which is more than Pelješac Bridge.

This will continue the reconstruction and modernization of the railway line from Rijeka to the Hungarian border, after the reconstruction of the part of the line from Zagreb to the Hungarian border has already begun. Works on the section of the railway from Dugo Selo to Križevci are already well underway, and this year a contract will be signed, and works will begin on the construction of the second track on the Križevci-state border section. The value of these works is 283.9 million euro, and 85 percent of the cost is co-financed from EU funds.

The railways will again be one of the largest investors in the country this year. It is expected that a contract for works on the upgrade and electrification of the Vinkovci-Vukovar railway line will be signed later this year. The section is 18.71 kilometres long, and the value of works is almost 680 million kuna.

In addition to the railway lines, investments in trains are also expected. The Ministry has announced that it is launching a train project for Croatian Railways Passenger Transport, which plans to purchase a total of 21 trains. These trains would be used for regional and urban-suburban traffic, and the estimated value of the project is 1.3 billion kuna.

This year, works will be completed on the newly-constructed Gradec-Sv. Ivan Žabno section, worth 30.1 million euro, and contracts will be signed for works to upgrade infrastructure at the Rijeka port (Container Terminal Zagreb), worth 31 million euro.

In late 2018, a tender for works on the construction of the first phase of the road project Stobreč-Dugi Rat-Omiš was announced, and the start of these works worth 250 million kuna is expected this year. The construction of the Sava bridge at Gradiška will also start, with an estimated value of 221 million kuna. This year, the construction of the access roads to the Pelješac Bridge will begin. The Croatian Motorways will complete the construction of the Svilaj Bridge and will start the works on the Beli Manastir-Halasica Bridge section of the Beli Manastir-Osijek motorway.

More news on Croatia and the EU funds can be found in our Business section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Josip Bohutinski).

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Large Infrastructure Projects in Croatia Being Implemented, Claims Minister

ZAGREB, November 28, 2018 – Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković presented on Tuesday a summary of large infrastructure projects in Croatia that are underway and or are nearing completion, in response to several objections in parliament to his claim that the 2019 budget was geared toward investments in transport infrastructure.

This ministry has launched 14 billion kuna investments that will be implemented with assistance of Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme, the EU-funding instrument Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), he said.

"At the moment, we have signed a little more than 70% of the agreements pertaining to Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme, and more than 90% of those pertaining the EU-funding instrument Connecting Europe Facility," Butković explained.

Now, large infrastructure projects in Croatia are underway – Pelješac Bridge, the D403 motorway for which a grant agreement will be signed in Rijeka in the next few days.

He boasted of large railway projects too: Dugo Selo–Križevci which is currently underway, Zaprešić-Zabok, Vinkovci-Vukovar for which a grant has been secured.

A tender will be advertised in the next few days for a large railway project that will connect Zagreb with the Hungarian border and that is the Koprivnica-Križevci-Hungary route with total value of more than 300 million kuna, he added.

Two weeks ago, he continued, works were commenced on the extension of the Y-motorway in Istria valued at about 160 million euro and talks are underway for the second B2 phase. A tender will also be advertised this year for the continuation of the 5C corridor and the decision to finance that project will be put to the government in February next year, which is currently being negotiated with large European institutions, he said.

He announced the procurement of new trains and noted that investments would be made in railway crossings too, the railway through the Lika mountainous area, and so on.

For more on the infrastructure projects in Croatia, click here.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Transport Minister Relieved Croatia Airlines Will Not Strike

ZAGREB, August 10, 2018 - Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković said on Thursday he was glad there would be no strike in Croatia Airlines as it would have been fatal for the company, reiterating that he had not influenced a court decision banning the strike.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Demands for Abolition of Krk Bridge and Učka Tunnel Tolls Grow Louder

Citizens of Krk and Istria want the tolls to be discontinued.

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