The Hungarian government has announced it is issuing a public tender for the Hungarian stretch of the Budapest-Belgrade rail line, reports index.hu. The announcement was made Monday morning by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during the Central and Eastern European Countries and China (China-CEEC 16+1) summit hosted in Budapest. (The 16 other countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.)
The 152-kilometer Hungarian section of the rail line, which will run between Soroksár and Kelebia, will be carried about by Kínai-Magyar Vasúti Nonprofit Zrt., a joint Hungarian and Chinese nonprofit closed-stock corporation.
Currently, a train ride from Budapest to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, takes around eight hours. This investment hopes to decrease the trip to three and a half hours.
China is the main financier of the project, a fact that its critics warn will increase Chinese influence in the economic and political environment of Central and Eastern Europe.
“Europe must not close up,” Orbán said Monday morning. “If it does, it will lose the opportunity to develop. We 16 countries have always been open and have seen the great opportunities afforded to us by cooperating with China. We modestly, but bravely, state that this cooperation will be a defining factor in China’s cooperation with Europe.”
The Chinese and Hungarian governments agreed to move forward with the Belgrade-Budapest rail line investment project in 2015.
Originally, the project was estimated to cost HUF 472 billion but has since risen to HUF 750 billion; HUF 949 billion (USD 3.6 billion) with interest. Numerous Hungarian media outlets have reported that even the most optimistic projections estimate it would take some 2,400 years to break even.