STA, 13 June 2022 - The first of the seven tunnels on route of the new railway linking the port town of Koper with the Divača railway junction was broken through on Monday with officials telling the ceremony they could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The hole-through ceremony for the Mlinarji tunnel was attended by the infrastructure ministers from Slovenia and Turkey as the track is being built by the Slovenian company Kolektor CPG in cooperation with its Turkish partners Yapi Merkezi and Özaltin.
Slated for completion in 2025, with the track due to open the following year, the project is valued at little below one billion euros in total, but officials today indicated its price tag could increase by up to EUR 100 million due to rising prices.
In his address, Slovenian Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer recalled the long history of the project, expressing pleasure at being able to be present at such an important milestone.
The new track, taking a completely new route to the existing railway between Koper and Divača, is to increase the maximum throughput capacity from 94 to 212 trains daily and the transport capacity from the current 14 million to 36.9 million tonnes a year.
"The distance will be cut from 44 kilometres to 27 kilometres. Travel times and the impact on the environment and local population will be reduced," Kumer said.
Minister za infrastrukturo Bojan Kumer je poudaril, da je preboj predorske cevi Mlinarji izjemno pomemben mejnik v dolgotrajnem projektu izgradnje 2. tira žel. proge Divača – Koper. Kot je dejal minister, je tokrat res primerna prispodoba, da končno »vidimo luč na koncu predora«. pic.twitter.com/ILfmGZYrjZ— Ministrstvo za infrastrukturo (@mzi_rs) June 13, 2022
He pledged for the new government to fast-track the implementation of a double-track line, which will allow for even more traffic and let the people living along the existing railway live a safe and peaceful life.
Pavle Hevka, the CEO of 2TDK, the state-run company managing the project, said the work on the track was 43 days ahead of the schedule, and in the case of the Milinarji tunnel 10% below the budget of EUR 7 million.
Just days ago they had excavated five out of a total of 37 kilometres of tunnels. "We're still looking at many challenges and concerns ahead, from rising prices of materials to difficulties getting work permits, but I'm confident we’ll beat them off on time."
Hevka said 2TDK was facing demands for annexes to contracts due to rising prices. The proposal was for the contracting authority to cover price hikes above 10%, which would now need to be discussed by the Infrastructure Ministry.
He also announced an update of the investment plan with the rough estimate being that the cost of the project could increase by EUR 100 million. However, he also pointed to "huge savings" that had been made.
The minister said he had been assured by the Turkish contractors they had everything under control and supplies guaranteed. "It's true that prices are going up. We'll see what it means for the investment going forward."
Kumer would not talk about potential replacements at the helm of 2TDK beyond saying the state of play would be reviewed.
The ceremony also featured Alenka Bratušek, a state secretary at the ministry and a former infrastructure minister, Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoglu and representatives of the contractors.