STA, 18 August 2022 - A 1,530-metre tunnel that will make part of on an upgraded rail track connecting Maribor and Šentilj on the border with Austria was broken through on Thursday with the first train to run through it by the end of next year. The old tunnel will make part of a new cycling path.
The Maribor-Šentilj rail upgrade is valued at almost EUR 300 million, which makes it the biggest rail project in the country at the moment apart from the construction of a new rail track between Koper and Divača on the other side of the country.
The cost of the construction of the Pekel tunnel and a 900-metre-long Pesnica viaduct is valued at EUR 101 million.
The Pekel tunnel is located north of Maribor, to the east of the existing rail track, which is running through the Počehova tunnel. The new tunnel also includes a rescue tunnel.
"The new tunnel will make traffic faster and above all much safer, and the old one will be used more sustainably for cycling," Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Alenka Bratušek said.
"The tunnel is being built using the so-called new Austrian method," Dejan Jurkovič of the Infrastructure Agency said.
The contractor is the Slovenian company Kolektor. "Our workers have proved that we perform work professionally, at high-quality, fast and efficiently," the company's representative Andrej Košir said.
One of the major challenges was the construction of the section below the expressway running through Maribor. "The tunnel is about seven metres below the motorway. Here, the daily progress was between one and one and a half metres, while on the north side it was about four metres," said Jurkovič.
The tunnel's construction is slated for completion by March 2023 after which it needs to be fitted with a track and other equipment. It is to open to traffic by the end of next year. "Traffic is expected to be moved from the old tunnel to the new one in late 2023," said Jurkovič.
Danes smo bili priča preboju predora Pekel, ki je del nadgradnje žel. proge Maribor-Šentilj-d.m.— Ministrstvo za infrastrukturo (@mzi_rs) August 18, 2022
Predor dolg 1530 m bodo v celoti zgradila slovenska podjetja. Gre za pomemben dogodek, saj dobesedno odpiramo nove poti in povezave in s tem omogočamo gospodarski in družbeni razvoj. pic.twitter.com/poz6vwI0R6
The EU-subsidised upgrade of the 18-kilometre Maribor-Šentilj railway also includes what Jurkovič said would be the longest rail tunnel in Slovenia. The Pesnica tunnel is to be completed in spring next year and will wrap up the rail upgrade project.
Following the upgrade, trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 120 km/h, up from the current top speed of 80 km/h. The number of trains the track can handle will increase from 63 to 84 a day, and cargo capacity from 6.3 to 9.9 million tonnes a year.