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Oct 19, 2007 17:26 EEST
October 19 (SeeNews) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) on Friday said it has lent Serbia 60 million euro ($85.7 million) for the construction of Belgrade's beltway, situated on a major pan-European highway linking Asia with central Europe.
"The loan will help to increase transport safety and capacity in Serbia, which is on the crossroads of the crucial trans-European corridors in the Western Balkans," the bank said in a statement.
The EIB loan will be allocated for the construction of 47 km of two-lane bypass roads and four-lane motorways, located west and south of the Serbian capital, it added.
The four-lane motorway, with a total length of 27 kilometres, will have a total capacity of some 60,000 vehicles per day and the 20-kilometre two-lane stretch is designed for 20,000 vehicles daily. The project also includes 48 new bridges and five interchanges.
The loan is the first tranche of a 180 million euro facility, approved by the EIB, the bank said.
Under the agreement, signed between the EIB and Serbian state-run road operator Putevi Srbije on Friday in Belgrade, the first tranche will be repaid within up to 25 years with a possible grace period of up to 6 years.
The loan contracts relating to the remaining funds are expected to be signed within the next three years and will match the project implementation schedule, the EIB said.
Putevi Srbije is expected to sign another 55 million euro loan for the same purpose with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on November 15.
The beltway is divided into three major sections. The longest of them, from Dobanovci to Bubanj Potok, lies directly on pan-European transport corridor X.
At present traffic from Asia to central Europe passes through Belgrade and crosses its biggest bridge, the Gazela bridge over the Sava River, turning the city of two million people into a bottleneck on the route of corridor X.
Corridor X has an 800-kilometre section that passes through Serbia which was badly damaged during the 1999 NATO air strikes against the former Yugoslavia.
The completion of the beltway, parts of which have already been built, are expected to bring the total value of the project to over 450 million euro.
Serbian minister without portfolio Dragan Djilas said on Friday that investments in Corridor X l in the next three years will be some three billion euro.
"It is possible that construction work on Corridor X is completed in the three years," he said.
The EIB has lent Serbia 1.2 billion euro for various projects since 2001, including the current loan, and half went to finance Serbia's transport sector.
($= 0.7002 euro)
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