Transport is a cornerstone of the European integration process and is firmly linked to the creation and completion of the internal market, which promotes jobs and economic growth. As one of the first common policy areas of today’s European Union, it was seen as vital for fulfilling three of the four freedoms of a common market as established in the Treaty of Rome in 1957: the free movement of individuals, services and goods.
Currently, the only available option for the transport of people and freight between Greece and Albania is via the road network and aviation. However, the need for a rail connection has already been established through European Policies and Regulations regarding the trans-European transport network. The close economic and social links of the two countries and of course, the increased economic integration of Albania with the rest of the EU sets a very promising basis for rapid growth in traffic both for people and commodities.
The aim of the “CB Railway” project is to develop a strategic investment plan for the rail connection of the two countries, through the construction of the railway section “Krystallopigi-Pogradec”, of a total length of approximately 130 km in both Greek and Albanian territory.
The project has been carefully planned so that it provides a comprehensive examination of different investment options (routes) in terms of technical and financial viability, social and environmental impact and interests of different key stakeholders in local, regional, national and European level.
However, the objective of the project is not confined to studying alternative scenarios but goes one step forward to concluding on the optimum investment strategy and elaborating a guide for follow-up actions and a management plan.
The railway connection of the two countries is expected to contribute to the increase in economic traffic between the two sides and lead to significant benefits for local regional development, in terms of boosting trade activities, creating job opportunities, enhancing tourism, and facilitating the economic and social integration of Albania with the rest of the EU.
The key factor that ensures the success of the project is the cooperation (as project beneficiaries) between the main national bodies that determine and implement rail investments in both countries: ERGA OSE and OSE form the Greek side and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure from Albania.
Furthermore, the project outputs compose a significant tool that can be used in order to claim further funding for the extensive planning and construction of the defined rail connection mainly from European funding mechanisms. The necessity of the cross-border approach for such an initiative becomes apparent due to the scope and nature of the project. Any individual or national approach of the issue could result to an investment plan that do not meet the needs of the involved parties and lack any fundamental credibility.