STA, 28 June 2019 - The Koper-Divača rail track, a crucial transport link for the Koper port, is expected to be reopened at midnight today and not at noon as initially planned, railway operator Slovenske železnice has announced. The reason is the decision to remove more of the material potentially affected by Tuesday's massive kerosene spill.
"We removed the contaminated rocks during the night, conducted probes in collaboration with the Environment Agency (ARSO) and planned to reopen the track at noon. Upon consulting with the Geological Survey and ARSO this morning we then decided to dig out additional material that could contain kerosene," Slovenske železnice director general Dušan Mes told the press.
"Thus the track will be reopened with a 12-hour delay," he announced.
Mes explained the need to remove another layer of the material was established after the removal of the first. The initial plan had been to do the second step within a period of 14 days, but security concerns prevailed.
"It would have made no sense to expose everybody to risk to save 12 hours," Mes said, while speaking of enormous pressure to reopen as soon as possible coming from everybody at home and abroad who are using the track for freight transport.
Tuesday's spill of an estimated 10,000 litres of kerosene caused by a derailed freight train near Hrastovlje in SW Slovenia has been causing serious water supply concerns as the oil is expected to reach the groundwater eventually.
The emergency efforts have been conducted under the watchful eye of the Koper municipal authorities, which is not happy with the work done so far and expects explanations.
A press release by the municipality says that the kerosene must not reach the spring of the Rižana river, which is a water source not only for the Koper municipality but for the entire Slovenian coast. A failure in this respect would have human as well as economic consequences.
Another major issue has been transport, as the rail link needed to be closed, including for freight transport to and from the country's commercial port of Koper.
To address the backlog and also direct the rail cargo to roads, the Infrastructure Ministry announced today it would allow heavy goods vehicles to also use roads from and to the Koper port during the upcoming weekend.
Heavier traffic is thus expected during the weekend, with roads already being busier than usually because of the tourist season.
The weekend permit was urged by port operator Luka Koper and the transport department of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS).
Mes said it was too early to estimate the damage caused by the suspended rail transport. However, he expects it will be possible to make up for a lot of the backlog in July when there is usually less freight transport. Some of the cargo has meanwhile already been transported via road or through other ports.