STA, 23 August 2019 - The Hungarian government has reportedly decided that the country will stop importing sewage sludge, a move that could spell serious trouble for Slovenia which exports around 70,000 tonnes of sludge from its municipal wastewater treatment plants to Hungary.
According to the Slovenian Chamber of Public Utilities, the Hungarian government - facing media criticism the country was serving as the public toilet of Europe - decided this month to stop extending permits for sewage sludge imports.
The chamber's director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA that the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry was trying to obtain more information on the issue through the Slovenian Embassy in Budapest.
He added Slovenia would find itself in serious trouble if Hungary closed its border to sewage sludge. From September onwards, Slovenia could be left with 120 to 140 tonnes of it a day, while an alternative solution would definitely need to be found by the end of the year, as all existing permits will expire by then.
Slovenia presently incinerates around 10,000 tonnes of municipal sewage sludge at home, at the plants in Celje and Anhovo.
Some wastewater treatment plants make use of it themselves, however Slovenia does not have sufficient capacities to use what remains for energy, with all that is exported going to Hungary. Croatia is in the same situation.
Other European incineration plants are full, which means Slovenia is very vulnerable in this field, Zupanc stressed.
Sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants is not hazardous waste, but it is very specific, since it involves excrements coming from toilets.
"We cannot store it, since this is a semi-fluid affair that reeks strongly and is produced in great quantities," Zupanc pointed out, noting it needed to be removed on a daily basis.
The Chamber of Public Utilities is part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), which said it was working hard on the issue and cooperating with the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.
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STA, 22 August 2019 - The EU Cohesion Fund is to contribute EUR 101 million for the renovation of the 16-kilometre rail section between Maribor and Šentilj on the border without Austria, the European Commission confirmed on Thursday. The entire upgrade is valued at EUR 254 million.
The Commission wrote it had taken into account the projected increase in traffic on the Baltic-Adriatic corridor that the section is a part of. The upgrade, which will also have positive economic effects, will increase the daily capacity of the section from 67 to 84 trains.
The renovation will also increase safety and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc expressed the "hope this will convince people to leave their car home an opt for a greener transport option".
Contractors for some of segments of the project have already been picked and some of the works are already nearing completion, while the deadlines for the renovation of two rail stations on the route and for the construction of noise barriers are set in 2020 and the end of 2021 respectively.
The Maribor-Šentilj rail link runs across the hilly terrain of Slovenske Gorice and through two tunnels. It was already built in 1846 as part of the Southern Railway between Vienna and Trieste.
The link however only has one set of rails and plans exist for a second one. The Slovenian Infrastructure Agency has told the STA the decision on this will be taken depending on the transport needs and will also have to taken in Austria, where one segment also only allows for a single train. The agency expects another set of rails will be needed by 2039 at the latest.
STA, 21 August 2019 - Telecommunications operators have announced they will provide around 47,500 more households in rural areas with access to broadband in the coming three years. This leaves around 50,000 more households in so-called white areas, where funding of infrastructure will have to be provided by the state.
Ten operators - Elta, KTV Dravograd, KTV Ravne, RUNE-SI, Sanmix, Dostop Komunikacije, Studio Proteus, Telekom Slovenije, Telemach, and Milan Trnovec - responded to a Public Administration Ministry query about plans for broadband infrastructure investment sent out last autumn.
Allowing the state to determine where it will need to fund broadband infrastructure on its own due to a lack of market interest, the operators committed to financing the construction of access points for 46,000 households within three years.
Another operator, whose name will be disclosed after the contract is signed, responded to a second call that closed this August, announcing it would build 1,500 access points.
The state meanwhile plans to fund the infrastructure in some of the areas for which commercial operators have not expressed interest. The call for bids is expected to be published this autumn.
The ministry wrote that these households are located in sparsely populated and unfavourably positioned areas where building infrastructure is very demanding, which makes them problematic in terms of business model sustainability.
The state has around EUR 38 million in EU funds available for broadband infrastructure projects. The ministry expects that the call to be published in the autumn will allow it to cover roughly half of the 50,000 households located in white areas.
STA, 7 August 2019 - The company managing construction of the new Divača-Koper rail track has annulled a public tender for the first of several bridges on the new track after weeks of very public controversy that has renewed concern about the mega project going off the rails financially.
"It has turned out that the cheapest bidder was not the best," Dušan Zorko, the head of 2TDK, told the press on Wednesday after the company determined the selected bidder had apparently forged its prior experience with the construction of such infrastructure.
A consortium led by Markomark Nival was initially selected to build a 170-metre bridge over Glinščica Valley. Its price, EUR 8 million, was significantly lower than rival bids by consortia led by Kolektor CGP (EUR 13.5 million) and Godina (EUR 14.3 million), but both have now been ruled as invalid because of excessive price.
Zorko said the tender would now be repeated as soon as possible. It will not be changed much, but 2TDK plans to impose a price cap. It also expects more builders to bid. "We had expected more offers, domestic and international. Unfortunately, there were only three."
The winning bid for the Glinščica bridge had originally been selected in mid-June, but it quickly became apparent things would not run smoothly.
One of the failed bidders reported noticing that an Excel spreadsheet form used to submit the bids had errors resulting in an incorrect final price, and then unofficial sources started questioning whether Markomark Nival, a little known builder, had in fact sufficient prior experience to build the bridge.
In general, Slovenian public tenders for construction projects tend to get bogged down in appeals and accusations that can significantly delay the start of construction works. The Karavanke tunnel expansion, for example, has been delayed by more than a year already as bidders fight it out among each other.
The popular perception is that the biggest construction industry players are adept at turning tenders in their favour, especially when they are up against foreign bidders.
In recent years two subsidiaries of industrial conglomerate Kolektor and the Murska Sobota builder Pomgrad in particular have been in the spotlight, having grown from mid-sized company into market leaders after the financial crisis bankrupted almost all major industry players.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, a staunch advocate of the EUR 1 billion-plus rail project, said today she supported the decision of 2TDK to annul the tender.
"I stand firmly behind their decision not to succumb to the construction lobby," she said, adding: "I will not permit old practices of siphoning [taxpayer] funds."
Referring to the bid headlined by Kolektor CPG, Bratušek said three of the largest Slovenian builders had joined forces for the bid, which is "an indication of the creation of a monopoly and the desire to overcharge for construction services."
"Despite attacks targeting me, I will not let builders rig the system and offer prices up to 40% higher in public tenders. If necessary, tenders will be repeated."
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Update: The railway is expected to reopen at 17:00 today (Tuesday, 06 August, 2019)
Two or three (reports differ) passenger train cars derailed at the Rimske Toplice train station at around 10:00 Tuesday morning, closing the railway line between Zidani Most and Maribor, a major transport link for both international passenger and cargo traffic. Around 200 people are said to have been on the international train, which was traveling towards Celje, although no injuries have been reported. A shuttle bus service is now being offered to replace the scheduled trains.
Updates to this story may be posted on the railway operator’s twitter account.
STA, 2 August 2019 - The operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port of Koper is hosting on Friday a delegation from Nagoya, the largest Japanese port in terms of transshipment, for talks on how to expand cooperation. Koper has no direct commercial maritime link with Japan, while it does cooperate with the Japanese Ocean Network Express (ONE).
The delegation featuring more than 30 representatives of the public and private sectors, the port of Nagoya and the chamber of commerce and industry from the city is in Slovenia before making stops in Italy and Croatia.
Representatives of Luka Koper presented the Japanese with the advantages of the port of Koper and the Adriatic Sea in general.
Japan is a major trade partner to Luka Koper, with last year's transshipment reaching almost half a million tonnes. The bulk of the transshipment are containers and cars, with Japan being one of the largest car producers in the world.
The port of Nagoya is the largest and busiest trading port in Japan, with an annual transshipment of 197 million tonnes, including 2.7 million container units and 1.4 million cars.
Luka Koper chairman Dimitrij Zadel told the press on the sidelines of the visit that efforts were being made to establish a direct link with Japan, noting that the port had been cooperating with ONE as of last year.
Today's presentation was also attended by representatives of Japanese companies which are already present in the region.
Tamas Tanarki of the Hungarian subsidiary of Yusen Logistics said that in the last decade, Japanese investors had started taking the Adriatic route into account and perceiving it as a good solution for their cargo transport.
He sees no much room for the Adriatic ports to compete with the North Sea ports in the near future, but he said it was realistic to expect that trade with these ports could increase by between 10% and 15%.
Tanarki thinks that what is important for the ports in north Adriatic is to agree on cooperation, as Trieste, Koper and Rijeka are only 70 kilometres apart, which is considered as one sole port on the global scale.
STA, 28 July 2019 - After a number of Slovenian cities have successfully launched bike-sharing networks, Nova Gorica is the latest to join the sustainable bike-sharing trend. The local authorities and development agency are planning to launch the city's bike-sharing network Go-kolo by March 2020.
The network planned by the Nova Gorica municipality and the Regional Development Agency of Northern Primorska will initially include 28 standard bikes and 13 e-bikes located at eight stations.
This is not the first attempt to bring bike sharing to Nova Gorica. Previous plans to establish a joint network with neighbouring Gorizia in Italy were abandoned after the selected Italian service provider failed to meet the requirements for the service's launch.
While the Go-kolo network will not be connected to the one in Gorizia, the plan is to expand it to the neighbouring Šempeter-Vrtojba municipality and build additional stations.
The partners have released a public call for bids to find the service provider, which will be chosen in September. The deadline for the start of operations is March 2020.
STA, 27 July 2019 - The value of construction works in Slovenia carried out last year amounted to EUR 2.57 billion, which is 29% more than in the year before, the Statistics Office has reported. It was the second time in a row that the value increased on the annual basis, and it was also 1% above the amount from 2010.
The works that construction companies carried out on buildings last year are valued at EUR 1.35 billion, which is 35% more than in 2017.
The value of works on engineering structures was meanwhile up by 23% to EUR 1.22 billion, show the final data from the Statistics Office.
The growth in value was the most prominent in non-residential buildings, being up by 38% to EUR 906 million.
The value of works on residential and non-residential buildings combined was up by 35% compared to 2017. It was up by 28% for the former and by 38% for the latter.
When it comes to non-residential buildings, the value of construction works was up the most in the industrial and warehouse buildings segment (up by 59% to EUR 318 million).
This segment was followed by office and administrative buildings, and by commercial and service buildings, up by 42% to EUR 165 million and by 23% to EUR 160 million, respectively.
The value of works on transport infrastructure was up by 38% to EUR 770 million.
The value was meanwhile down for works on pipelines, communication networks and electricity transmission networks (-0.3% to EUR 333 million) and for works on industrial complexed (-9% to EUR 46 million).
STA, 25 July 2019 - DARS, the national motorway company, has received five fresh bids in what is the latest chapter in the construction of Slovenia's half of the second tube of the Karavanke tunnel to Austria. Turkish builder Cengiz, already picked in a procedure last year that was subsequently quashed, is the cheapest bidder again.
Cengiz Insaat, which had promised to execute the project for EUR 89.3 million in 2018, now issued a bid worth EUR 99.6 million, DARS announced after opening the bids on Thursday.
Cengiz is followed by Greek J&P Avax with EUR 115 million, and Slovenia's Kolektor CGP, which has partnered with Slovenian engineering company Riko and Turkish company Yapi Merkezi to offer to build the tube for EUR 121 million.
The fourth lowest bid, worth EUR 121.5 million, was submitted by Implenia Österreich in partnership with Implenia Switzerland and Slovenia's CGP Novo Mesto, and the fifth, worth EUR 122.2 million by Slovenia's Gorenjska Gradbena Družba in cooperation with Czech builder Metrostav, which had been the second lowest among nine bidders in 2018.
Bosnia's Euroasfalt and its Slovenian partner Cestno Podjetje Ptujm, which had been among the six bidders invited by DARS into the new round of talks and bids, has not submitted a bid this time.
The bids are now to be examined and the procedure is continuing after the National Review Commission - which annulled the original awarding of the deal to Cengiz with the argument the Turkish company had made subsequent changes to their offer - rejected the call by Kolektor CPG, Yapi Merkezi and Riko to halt the new stage of the procedure.
While Austria is already in the midst of building its portion of the 8-kilometre tunnel, the project has been stuck in the tender stage in Slovenia since it began in 2017, having seen a number of appeals processed by DARS as well as the National Review Commission.
STA, 18 July 2019 - Contractors have completed works on a major logistics centre adjacent to Ljubljana Airport that will be operated by Austrian logistics giant Cargo Partner. Spanning over almost 30,000 square metres, the new facility is expected to help turn the airport area in a major logistics hub.
Engineering company Protim Ržišnik Perc, which oversaw the project, said on Thursday the new facility would have 25,000 square metres of warehousing areas capable of storing 20,000 palettes, plus 4,000 square metres of office space.
It is located right next to a major centre run by Kuehne + Nagel which serves as the biggest logistics facility for Swiss drug maker Novartis in Europe.
When Cargo Partner broke ground on the project at the end of August 2018, the company said it opted for the airport area because of its excellent location and proximity to the seaports in Koper and Trieste.
Several other smaller logistics projects are also in development around the airport, Zmago Skobir, the head of airport operator Fraport Slovenija, said today as work started on a new passenger terminal at the airport
"It all started with the new bypass road. Since then development around the airport has been very fast," he said.
STASTA, 18 July 2019 - A cornerstone ceremony marked the start of construction of a passenger terminal extension at the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport on Thursday. The expansion will boost the terminal's capacities considerably and improve the airport's services. The works are expected to take two years, with the total cost of investment exceeding EUR 21 million.
Steps in preparing construction site have already been taken by builders GIC Gradnje and Elcom with whom airport operator Fraport Slovenija signed a EUR 17.3 million construction contract at the end of June.
At the ceremony, Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir said that the journey towards modernising the passenger terminal was a long one, but the German company had started delivering on the promises it gave when it became the airport's operator in 2015.
The terminal extension is necessary due to an increase in the number of passengers in the recent years. The trend is expected to continue in the future - in the next 20 years, the Ljubljana airport is expected to register a 3-4% increase of annual traffic growth.
The airport welcomed a record number of 1.8 million passengers last year and has been struggling with lack of space for a while.
Skobir said he was not concerned over the future of Slovenian air carrier Adria Airways since he was sure that it would adapt to growing passenger traffic rates, which are increasing in line with the Slovenian economy and tourism.
The current capacities of the terminal provide service to 500 passengers per hour, while the new terminal will cater to 1,250 passengers per hour. This will prevent bottle neck at the terminal, including during rush hours in peak summer season.
The terminal will thus get 10,000 square metres of new space, including new retail and restaurant facilities as well as additional 14 check-in desks, two security control points and a new departure lounge.
The extension will delight passengers and ensure long-term development and competitiveness for Fraport Slovenija, said Skobir.
Apart from the expansion, the operator also plans to modernise airport logistics and IT. According to Skobir, Fraport Slovenija is currently in a long-term investment cycle that amounts to more than EUR 40 million.
The German-owned operator will supervise and manage the investment with a team of ten engineers. According to engineering manager Andrej Tominec, the operator aims to open the new terminal in summer 2021 before Slovenia takes the EU Council presidency in July 2021.
The airport will stay open during the whole construction process. The new facility will be a separate unit connected to the existing terminal, located on the site of a former car park.
The building will be a spacious fusion of concrete, wood and glass, reflecting the nearby Kamnik-Savinja Alps, getting a lot of natural light and blending in with its environment, said the Plan B architecture firm, which has designed blueprints.
There will also be a park outside the new facility, envisaged as a refreshing shelter for passengers. A vision of turning the airport into a small airport city is thus coming to fruition, said Skobir.
Fraport Slovenija also plans to renovate the old terminal after completing the extension project.