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ZAGREB (Croatia), October 21 (SeeNews) - Croatia needs to invest 2 billion kuna ($300 million/269 million euro) to raise the safety of its road tunnels network, bringing it in line with EU standards, local media reported on Monday, citing transport ministry information.
Croatia has received a letter of formal notice from the European Commission, notifying the Adriatic state it is in breach of the EU Directive on minimum safety conditions for tunnels longer than 500 metres, daily Vecernji List reported, quoting unnamed sources from the transport ministry.
The Commission's notice, which represents the first formal step of an infringement procedure, concerns 34 tunnels on motorways and fast roads managed by Hrvatske Autoceste, Autocesta Rijeka-Zagreb, Autoceste Zagreb Macelj and Hrvatske Ceste, the report said.
The majority of the estimated investment, some 1.48 billion kuna, needs to go for the construction of a second pipe at the 5.1-kilometre Ucka tunnel, the third largest tunnel in Croatia, located on the A8 toll motorway on the Istrian peninsula in the north.
A further 500 million kuna are projected to go for building second pipes at the 1.7-kilometre Sveta Tri Kralja tunnel and the Brezovica tunnel, with a length of 0.5 km, located in the very north of the country. Just over 60 million kuna will be allocated to the remaining tunnels, which need only minor upgrades.
The transport ministry has already prepared a detailed response to the EC, stating the measures it plans to take in order to resolve the non-compliance with the Directive, the report said.
According to Vecernji List, Croatia has already issued construction permits for the second pipe at Ucka, which now needs the Commisison's approval. The concessionaire, Bina Istra, is expected to launch the long-awaited project next year.
Bina Istra is a joint venture company of France's Bouygues, Hrvatske Autoceste, Istarska Autocesta local energy firm INA and Antin Infrastructure Partners. It manages the 145 km Istrian Y motorway, which comprises the A8 and A9 motorways and links the Istrian region with the rest of Croatia. The motorway is operated under a concession deal awarded to Bina Istra in 1995 and expiring in 2027.
(1 euro = 7.4365 kuna)