Thursday, 18 August 2022

Croatian Architect Branko Siladjin Unimpressed by Peljesac Bridge

August the 18th, 2022 - Well known Croatian architect Branko Siladjin (86) isn't particularly impressed with the structure we've all been raving about since long before its opening late last month - Peljesac bridge.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, throughout his long and prosperous career, famous urban planner and Croatian architect Branko Siladjin (86) was at the helm of a series of projects that realised the synthesis of both historical layers and new urban design. However, when it comes to the newly opened Peljesac bridge, he has several remarks.

"I've got no objection to the bridge whatsoever, and unfortunately there are a large number of people who read things I've written as if I've got a problem and react like I'm against it. All I'm doing is simply trying to bring down the ball of artificially politically created and nurtured national euphoria to the ground. To point out the, unfortunately, almost inevitable, permanent and certainly unfavourable consequences for this God-given piece of land, the almost unbelievable potential of the continuity of the quality of life here, in a possible and appropriate relationship between Man and Space", Croatian architect Branko Siladjin told Novi list.

He commented that an English journalist working for The Sunday Times saw and felt the beauty of the untouched nature of the Peljesac peninsula "which can only be reached by macadam roads, and which offers pleasures from long-forgotten times", while "we don't see an unnecessarily and permanently destroyed landscape, destroyed by the needs of redundant roads".

"These are roads which have been interestingly and carefully nurtured into a crucial national political issue and a problem of national unity, placing the issue of borders and the unity of the Croatian territory in the foreground has been persistently nurtured for years and has become a basic national goal, and if something is fictitious and changeable, then that's borders. In my lifetime, they've been changed here four times, and if I live to see January the 1st, 2023, I will experience a fifth change of the borders. If something is changeable on this planet, then borders are what that is," the famous Croatian urban planner emphasised.

"The new road down to Dubrovnik is now longer than it was, and even today, if someone is in a particular rush to get there, they'll make it there more quickly by going through Bosnia and Herzegovina's only piece of coastline, Neum. It's all about people, and unfortunately for individuals and interest groups. It should be remembered that the Germans found an interest and a solution to access Berlin in the most intense phase of the Cold War by creating a road corridor, which I also used to reach Berlin in 1961 without running into any problems," said Siladjin.

He also commented on the real estate boom that happened in the area of the ​​Peljesac peninsula and how everything was directed by interests and capital alone.

"Everyone knows that as soon as the construction of the bridge was ever mentioned, millions of square metres of land on the Peljesac peninsula were purchased for less than 1 DM, and today those prices have increased 40 times. We know and expect a real estate boom and mindless concreting and construction, not of or for living spaces, but for the creation of dead material investment value, of houses, buildings, apartments... Everyone knows it.'' concluded Croatian architect Branko Siladjin.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Which is Quicker, Split to Dubrovnik via Peljesac Bridge or Neum Corridor?

July 29, 2022 - After the euphoria of the opening of the Peljesac Bridge subsides, an intriguing look at the quickest way from Split to Dubrovnik.

It has been quite a week with the opening of the Peljesac Bridge, and it was a true privilege to have attended the event. So much pride at Croatia finally being connected, so much pride in an excellent construction project that was reported around the world - I personally received messages about the opening from California to Malaysia. 

The bridge will certainly have an impact in a number of ways, including much-improved access to the islands of Korcula and Mljet, for example (check out my trip from Korcula to Split on the first day of the bridge being open), but how much time will it save for those wanting to make that most popular of journeys, from Split to Dubrovnik?

The answer might surprise you.

Before we delve in, there is one huge variable in the equation - the time it takes to cross the Neum Corridor in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Out of season, I generally wait under 2 minutes at either crossing, but in season, that can be 2 hours each. And on those occasions, the bridge is a true lifesaver. 

But if traffic is quite normal, how does the picture look? I checked with Google Maps a little earlier - three different routes - Neum Corridor, Peljesac Bridge, and an inland route which is my preferred route in peak season. With little traffic causing delays, this is what I found.  


Split to Dubrovnik is 236 km and takes 3 hours 13 minutes, with the very nice additional benefit of no border crossings. 


Split to Dubrovnik via the Neum Corridor is actually 7 km shorter and will get you there 12 minutes faster IF there is no traffic at the border. If it is packed, then you can add several hours to your journey - or choose the bridge. The big advantage travellers have these days is that technology can inform of delays and queues, and so you can decide which route as you get closer and assess the current situation.  

I travel from Split to Dubrovnik a lot, so which of the two would I choose? Next time, I would definitely go via the bridge (I LOVED the experience from Korcula) for the novelty factor, but I would probably choose Neum for a number of reasons (as will a number of Dubrovnik residents I chatted to on the subject). 

Firstly, the bridge will take away a lot of the traffic problems from the Neum Corridor, so waiting lines will inevitably be less. But Neum is also a good place to stop and break the journey. I almost always stop for a hearty lunch in my usual spot in Neum - the prices are ridiculous compared to their Dalmatian counterparts. Tour buses do the same, and I expect most of that trade to continue. 

But people also choose Neum for the shopping. Cigarettes, fuel, and pretty much everything else is cheaper there, so a chance to stock up on things.  

But if I was making the Split to Dubrovnik journey in peak season, I usually take a third route, which leaves the coast behind entirely and runs along a totally deserted road in Republika Srpska. It may be longer in distance and seem to take longer, but in peak season, it is the one which is the quickest and least stressful, with almost no traffic and some fantastic nature. 


Which is your preferred Split to Dubrovnik route, and why?


Have you been across the Peljesac Bridge yet? Here was my first drive on the opening day.


And how was traffic on the bridge and via Neum on the opening day - check out my video report above.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.



Thursday, 28 July 2022

Korcula to Split via Peljesac Bridge: A Heavenly, Speedy Road Trip

July 28, 2022 - While most of the Peljesac Bridge commentary has been focused on connecting Dubrovnik, access to the islands of Korcula and Mljet has just improved considerably. TCN road tests the new drive from Korcula to Split. 

One of the very few things I don't like about Korcula is its accessibility. Driving down from Zagreb is already a fairly long day, without having to either plan your trip around two ferries (Ploce to Trpanj, Orebic to Korcula) or two borders (the Neum Corridor) and then driving the length of the Peljesac Peninsula.

That all changed yesterday. 


And sitting in my favourite place in Dalmatia, the Michelin Star terrace of Lesic Dimitri Palace, thoughts of the onward journey were not as terrible as usual. Leaving such a divine spot is always a wrench, but at least this time, I would have the pleasure of trying out the new bridge and seeing just how much time I would save on my way to Split (Korcula to Split would normally take over 4 hours by car and ferry, and a painful 4 hours too - and this was assuming no border queues and the ferry schedule worked for you), starting from my favourite terrace on Korcula?


Actually I was starting from Venice, the delightful suite at Lesic Dimitri Palace, which is comprised of 9 outstanding 5-star suites in the town of Marco Polo's birthplace, under the theme Where the Silk Road Begins. Check out the latest addition, Sumatra

After bidding my reluctant farewells to the Lesic team, it was a 5-minute walk to the Brodica, the small passenger ferry that runs on the hour to Orebic, price 23 kuna. A wonderful service from the centre of Korcula Town, so no need to drive to the ferry at Domince. From landing in Orebic, a 7-minute walk to my favourite free parking in Orebic.


If I told you where it was, I would have to kill you. I don't want to publish details, but if you want to know, send me a private PM. 


And then the drive. Although the bridge is not yet appearing in my Google Maps, it does for others. According to Google, I had a 45-minute drive to the start of the bridge at Brijesta. I finally learned to drive on water... 


It was a stunning drive through hills offering ridiculous views of the Adriatic, combined with the temptations of some of Croatia's finest vineyards. For this is Plavac Mali country. There IS a bridge at the back of this photo, I promise. My legendary photo skills come to the fore again.


And, as we get closer to the bridge, new signage shows the new reality. 


And a big surprise. a tunnel as long as the bridge itself - some 2.4 km) underneath (presumably) those gorgeous vines. 


And as we edged closer to Croatia's new star connection, a smile. Just 145 kilometres to Split, and most of that motorway. Heaven. 


And then the bridge finally came into view. And what a beauty she is. I am more into Dalmatian benches than bridges, but I have to admit that this one is a beauty. 


The 2,404 metres that will change the lives of many - for the better. 


On the other side, new signs take you to Neum if you want to go, but the main direction is Split. 

A short drive to Ploce and then joining up to the motorway to Split, toll price 50 kuna. 


And after some time in what was honestly one of the most pleasant and stress-free peak season drives during my time in Croatia, the journey from Korcula to Split ended with a cold one on the riva, with clouds and a merciful gust of wind and threats of a storm. 

Total travel time from Korcula to Split, including the boat - 2 hours 50 minutes.

My favourite place in Dalmatia just got a little closer. 

So how was traffic on the bridge and also at the Neum Corridor on the first day of the new reality? Check out the TCN video report below.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Milanović: Pelješac Bridge Project of Entry to European Space for China

ZAGREB, 27 July 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that Pelješac Bridge was a project whereby China entered European space but he noted that that space would remained closed to China for some time again considering the current geopolitical relations. 

"This is not their project, this is European, our money. A Chinese company won the job in a transparent tender but I'm afraid this is the last time they have won a project considering the situation in global relations and geopolitics," Milanović said.

Pelješac Bridge was built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) which competed for the project against Austria's Strabag and an Italian-Turkish consortium of bidders.

"I assume the project was an opportunity for the Chinese to enter European space which has now been closed to them for some time, regardless of the fact that they have done a good job. They, too, will have to open up to European companies a little more," Milanović told reporters.

He added that he was surprised that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang addressed the Pelješac Bridge inauguration ceremony on Tuesday evening via video link, and that he could not say when the message was recorded.

"Had someone told me three weeks ago that we would be addressed by the prime minister of China, a country supporting Russia in its invasion of Ukraine (...), I would have said 'Let's see'. Now that I have seen it, thumbs up, but a little skewed," he said.

"What happened yesterday is interesting (...) China is not a problem to us the way it is to the USA and some other countries. The fact that we are in NATO does not mean that we blindly follow NATO members' policy. We won't rock the boat or bridge too much, but we do have our own interests," said Milanović.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

A Few Thousand Cars Expected to Drive Over Pelješac Bridge on 1st Day

ZAGREB, 27 July 2022 - According to information from the HC road operator, 2,700 cars used Pelješac Bridge in the first ten hours since its inauguration, while the local border police in Metković reported that since the opening of the bridge, traffic across the Klek border crossing has dwindled.

Slaviša Babić of the HC company told Hina on Wednesday that 8,000-12,000 vehicles are likely to cross the bridge in the first 24 hours since its inauguration.

The HC expects a rush in traffic over the bridge in the coming summer weeks.

The bridge is open to personal cars and cargo cars of up to 7.5 tonnes, while heavier cars are not permitted to use the bridge and access roads if they are in transit.

The head of the Metković border police, Jurica Volarević, told the N1 commercial broadcaster that since the opening of the bridge, traffic at the Klek border crossing has been cut by 50%.

Pelješac Bridge bypasses Bosnia and Herzegovina's access to the sea at Neum.

As Bosnia is not in the EU and Croatia is, anyone trying to go north from Dubrovnik or cross from the peninsula of Pelješac to the mainland had to go through two border checks. The bridge enables such passengers to drive straight along Croatia's Adriatic coast.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Drivers and Pedestrians Warned About Taking Pelješac Bridge Photos: It's Dangerous!

July 27, 2022 - Hrvatske Ceste has sent a warning to drivers and pedestrians taking Pelješac Bridge photos from the shoulder lane.

The Pelješac Bridge is open to traffic in both directions, reports and N1.

In an interview with N1, Slaviša Babić, head of the Hrvatske Ceste (HC) Traffic Department, says that around 1,500 vehicles had already crossed the bridge, and 500 in one hour before 9 am. According to Babić, some passengers are likely just curious and want to see the bridge. It's not too much traffic, explaining that over 15,000 vehicles drive towards Neum on the D8 state road in the summer.

"I expect about 10,000 vehicles today, but the busy weekend is ahead of us, maybe 12 to 15,000 vehicles for the weekend," Babić says.

They also sent a warning to drivers and pedestrians.

"Everything is new. People are just getting used to it, especially drivers. Some, unfortunately, also use the shoulder lane to move. I appeal to them not to use it. Some stop to take photos, and it's extremely dangerous. People use the bridge to walk. I have to say that the bridge is intended exclusively for motor vehicles, not pedestrians or cyclists," says Babić.

He also adds that part of the traffic for trucks is currently prohibited. However, all freight vehicles over 7.5 t that have deliveries to Pelješac and Korčula can travel on the bridge and access roads, but those that are only in transit cannot. Babić appealed to drivers to respect the speed limit.

Decreased traffic on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina near Neum
The head of the Metković border police station, Jurica Volarević, told N1 that the traffic through the Klek border crossing is significantly declining. "Traffic has dropped by 50 percent since the opening of the bridge. So far, about 1,200 passengers and 600 vehicles have crossed the border," says Volarević.

"Everyone knows that the bridge is open, there are signs directing traffic to the bridge, we have no questions," he says. As for trucks, he says they don't expect crowds at the border crossing. The police work as before, the traffic will undoubtedly decrease, and the border crossing will be cleared, says Volarević.

Božinović: There were up to 5,000 people at the opening of the Pelješac Bridge. Everything went without problems.
Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said that between four and five thousand people attended the opening ceremony of the Pelješac Bridge, and not a single security problem was reported.

"About 300 police officers from all branches of the police were engaged at the opening. According to the police headquarters, between 4 and 5 thousand people attended the ceremony, and not a single security problem was reported," reported Božinović on Twitter. He praised the police and thanked the citizens.

The Pelješac Bridge, one of the largest projects in the EU and the largest in Croatia financed by the European Union, was officially opened on Tuesday evening, and regular traffic in both directions across the bridge that connects southern Croatia with the rest of the country started at midnight.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Open, But What About Ston Bypass and Access Roads?

July 27, 2022 - The Pelješac Bridge is open, but what about the Ston bypass and other access roads?

A famous proverb says, "Donkeys will not cross the bridge," but Joško Antunović's donkeys from Kuna Pelješka will cross the Pelješac Bridge. They will go to competitions and exhibitions throughout Croatia after many years since driving cattle through the Neum corridor was forbidden. Thus, donkey trips became less frequent and were made exclusively by the Ploče-Trpanj ferry. 

"We can hardly wait for this bridge; they will certainly cross it," Antunović told Jutarnji List and added: "This is the last round of hay I will drive on the Ploče-Trpanj ferry. Unfortunately, hay cannot be transported via Neum; the paperwork is complicated, so we go by ferry, but it is too expensive."

Joško Antunović and many other residents in the area are thrilled about the Pelješac Bridge, and they will be even happier when the Ston bypass and the Ston bridge are completed. Those ten kilometers will complete the road connection project in southern Croatia.

The Pelješac Bridge stole the glory from the access roads, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels on which no less significant construction works with three bridges, two viaducts, and four tunnels were carried out and are still ongoing. In addition, two viewpoints and crossings for agricultural machines for the local population were also built. Twenty-five kilometers of access roads have been completed, and another smaller section of 7.5 kilometers from Prapratno to Ston, the so-called Ston bypass, built by the Greek company Avax, remains unfinished. On the other hand, the section constructed by Strabag is nearing completion.

The endlessly long public procurement procedure, bureaucratic entanglements, and numerous appeals slowed down the access road project.

"In addition, the Brijesta junction has been completed, which includes a viaduct of some two hundred meters, where the connecting road descends to the local road in Brijesta," engineer Davor Perić explained.

On the mainland, Strabag built an underpass at the Duboka junction and an underpass on the D8, and on the peninsula, among other things, the Kamenice Tunnel, the Doli Viaduct, the Dumanja Jaruga Bridge 1, the Dumanja Jaruga Bridge 2, the Debeli Brijeg Tunnel, and the Zaradeže underpass.

According to the contract, Strabag Hrvatska is in charge of a route with a total length of more than ten kilometers, of which 1,300 meters on the mainland and 9,220 meters on Pelješac, the value of which is HRK 478.3 million.

The longest among the tunnels is the 2.4 km Debeli Brijek, which first broke ground in December 2020. However, while Strabag was successfully working on its sections, Avax ran into problems on the Ston bypass. First, there was a problem with bringing machinery and equipment from Greece, then the pandemic and labor shortage came, and then financial problems at Avax followed. So the construction of the "Prapratno" viaduct, the "Polakovica" tunnel, the "Supava" tunnel, and the "Ston" bridge, with a total value of HRK 511 million, was delayed. Still, they should be finished by the end of this calendar year.

Avax was also affected by the escalation of material prices, especially concrete and steel, which made adjusting the already agreed prices necessary. According to information from Croatian Roads, there will be no price corrections on the Pelješac Bridge because the material was purchased before inflation and disturbances in the world markets, and modifications could occur for access roads. However, such an increase should not exceed 10 to 15 percent of the currently contracted price of the works.

Until the Ston bypass is completed, heavy trucks and trucks transporting dangerous goods will not be able to travel over the Pelješac Bridge so as not to congest Ston and possibly endanger the environment. They will continue to operate the old way via Neum.

The maximum permitted driving speed on the Pelješac Bridge will be 90 kilometers per hour, which, as on the access roads, will be regulated by dynamic traffic signals, which will be managed from Zaradeže.

The Pelješac Bridge, with part of the access roads, shortens the journey from Zagreb to Dubrovnik by two hours. Kilometer-long queues and hours-long waits at the Klek and Bistrina border crossings are no more. 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.


Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Inaugurated, Ensuring Croatia's Territorial Continuity in South

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022  - The passage of the first cars over Pelješac Bridge on Tuesday marked the opening of this structure to traffic at a ceremony that included a firework display, torches on boats sailing near the bridge and the ringing of church bells.

After 304 years, the bridge put an end to Croatia's territorial discontinuity which was created by a 1699 peace treaty under which the Dubrovnik Republic, or the Republic of Ragusa, ceded the stretch of the coast around Neum to the Ottoman Empire.

The ceremony of its inauguration started at 2015 hours at the Komarna rest area and on that occasion a special composition by pianist Matej Mestrović was performed.

The programme also included a performance of the Anthem of Europe and Croatia's national anthem, and the screening of a video showing the construction of the bridge over the past few years.

Speeches were delivered by Croatia's top officials President Zoran Milanović, Sabor Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković after the Croatian road operator (HC) management board chairman, Josip Škorić, and Transport Minister Oleg Butković as well as representatives of the local authorities addressed the event.

On behalf of the European Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen and EC Vice President Dubravka Šuica addressed the ceremony, and a video message by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was shown.

The programme featured the sailing of traditional vessels, local "Dubrovački Trombunjeri" men clad in historical uniforms, and motorbike associations of Homeland War veterans.

The ceremony ended with a fireworks display around 10pm when two Croatian-made cars, a Nevera from Rimac Automobili and one built by Croatian racing driver Niko Pulić, drove across the bridge

Regular passenger car traffic starts on the bridge at midnight Tuesday.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Inauguration Ceremony Kicks Off

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - The ceremony of the formal opening of Pelješac Bridge began on Tuesday evening at the Komarna rest area where numerous office-holders, guests and citizens came to attend this event.

The importance of Pelješac Bridge for Croatia is multiple. In the economic sense, it improves road connectivity with the southernmost parts of the country and thus facilitates the local economy. The improved connectivity enables better access to healthcare services and education for local residents.

The EU-funded project has enabled Croatia to restore its territorial continuity after 304 years. The territorial discontinuity was caused by a 1699 peace treaty under which the Dubrovnik Republic, or the Republic of Ragusa, ceded the stretch of the coast around Neum to the Ottoman Empire.

The bridge provides 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.

Work on the bridge officially started on 31 July 2018 and the bridge was fully joined together at a ceremony on 29 July 2021.

The entire project, including access roads, cost €525 million, of which €357 million was secured as a grant from the European Union.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Raises China-Croatia Cooperation to New Level, Ambassador Says

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Pelješac Bridge is a prominent project for promoting Chinese equipment, technology and know-how in the construction industry in Croatia and globally, and it will deepen mutually beneficial relations between China and Croatia and the EU, China's ambassador to Croatia has told Xinhua News Agency.

The project has been supported and followed with great interest and appreciation by the leaders of both China and Croatia, Qi Qianjin told Xinhua, as reported by China Daily on Tuesday.

He praised Chinese enterprises that have overcome the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and completed the project on schedule.

The diplomat called Pelješac Bridge a symbol of the fruitful cooperation between China and Croatia within the framework of a broader cooperation scheme between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC Cooperation). 

Qi was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the bridge, the largest infrastructure project undertaken so far by China in Croatia, was a symbol of good cooperation between China and Europe.

The project greatly contributed to economic growth in Croatia and more broadly in Europe, as it employed over 250 local people, while it also helped to cultivate engineering, technical and management skills, thus effectively driving the development of local enterprises and promoting Croatia's economic and social development, Qi said

A total of 18 design and consulting enterprises and 45 construction companies in the EU, as well as 112 global equipment and material suppliers, participated in the project, he said.

Chinese enterprises strictly followed relevant environmental protection regulations of the EU and Croatia to minimize the impact of the project on the surrounding environment, he added.

Qi said he had been aware of the worries of local oyster producers concerning the possible negative impact of the construction project on the quality and volume of oyster production at the nearby Ston Bay.

However, thanks to the highest environmental protection standards observed throughout the project, no negative impact has been observed. On the contrary, the bridge has opened up new sales routes, Qi added.

The opening of the new bridge is expected to further deepen the mutual political trust between China and Croatia, strengthen the alignment of the development strategies of the two sides, and expand cooperation in various fields such as economy and trade, Qi said.

In summary, it will take the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Croatia to a new level, he added.

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