Happy: A Kosovo boy, happy to see the Italian Railway Engineers
passing by in a train.
When the trains started puffing back out on the railway lines
again in war-torn Kosovo, it was a sign that everyday life too,
is getting back on track towards normality.
On 26 October,
the first train in one and a half year moved from Kosovo Polje
to Pec. People living along the railway were visibly surprised
and happy to see it, waving to the driver and the other Italian
railway engineers in the crew.
"This is a big
day. I am full of feelings, almost about to cry," said the station
master, Muharrem Ukaj, when the train arrived at the train station
in Pec, carrying lumber for winterization material for about 450
houses in the villages around Pec.
The railway system
in Kosovo was damaged during the conflict, but has also suffered
from neglect over a long period of time. The restoration of the
railway system is crucial for the delivery of humanitarian aid
throughout Kosovo this winter. It is also of vital importance
for the reconstruction of Kosovo.
The railway track
between Pristina and Pec was repaired by the Italian Railway Engineer
Regiment, which is based at Teretna Rail Yard outside Pristina.
When the Italians took over from 69 Railway Regiment of the UK
Army, only the line between Kosovo Polje and Volkova in the Former
Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (1) was
operative. The work of the Italian engineers has resulted in the
opening of the Kosovo Polje-Pec line and, on November 21, the
line from Klina to Prizren.
Lt Col Rossi at HQ Main, who is working with Railway Infrastructure,
the line between Kosovo Polje and Mitrovica is currently not fully
operative because of damage in the metallic structure of the railway
bridge in Doljak, after the NATO bombing. KFOR is looking for
a contractor to carry out the complicated repair work, which should
be finished before Christmas.
The work to open
the Kosovo Polje-Podujevo line is also due to start soon. On this
line, there is a 1,574 metres long tunnel which is blocked by
large amounts of rocks and rubbel after two hits during the air
strikes. The Italian Railway Engineers are currently also working
on the line between Kosovo Polje and Pristina Airport, and this
stretch will open shortly.
The Italian Railway
Regiment is the only regiment of its kind in NATO. It contributes
to KFOR with about 120 people, especially trained for missions
like this and for repairing, managing and running railways. Before
Kosovo, the Italian Railway Regiment was working in Bosnia, where
the extent of damage to the railway system was much larger than
Going from Italy
via Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and FYROM (1),
the Italian Railway Engineer Regiment arrived in Kosovo on October
17 in its very own Rapid Reaction Train, which is totally self-supplied
and accommodates 90 people. As Maj Fran scesco Bindi, Commander
of the Italian Railway Engineer detachment in Kosovo, puts it:
"This is not a Rapid Reaction Train, it is the Rapid Reaction
For the time
being, UNMIK has employed a civilian railway manager, who has
a goal an step-by-step plan to transfer railway operations over
to civilian control. Some of the locals work, but not regularly,
and many of them work for free, because they want to keep their
Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional