Type
   
Published:
13-Mar-2007

No. 03/99 - November 1999 - Page 14

Back on Track
(Text: Maj Grethe Oestern - Photo: SSgt Vanessa Klutsch)



Happy: A Kosovo boy, happy to see the Italian Railway Engineers passing by in a train.

Pristina: 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.

Neglect

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.

Damage

According to 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.

Rapid Reaction Train

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 in Kosovo.

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 Train."

Civilians

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 jobs.

(1) Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.


Hot Music
(Text: Lt Col Colin Mason - Photo: Cpl Jon Molyneux)

Pristina: Within weeks after it started up, Galaxia Radio became a hit among Albanian and Serbian youngsters, and with KFOR troops who love the music even if they cannot understand the words.

Less than 24 hours after the broadcasting equipment arrived in Theatre on August 13, Galaxia Radio went on-air on 103 MHz FM. 

The radio station broadcasts a service of popular music and news in Albanian and Serbian 24 hours a day. It is operated by 15 (UK) Information Support Group, based at Chicksands, Bedfordshire; a unit comprised of both Regular and TA personnel. But the station employs local broadcasters, both Serbs and Albanians, to present the music programmes and to read the news.

News bulletins

Galaxia 103 currently has the most powerful signal in Kosovo and covers most of the province. The station broadcasts a Contemporary Hit Music format around the clock with two news bulletins an hour.

Campaigns and music

Todays Hottest Music is Galaxias proud claim and a great deal of effort is made to ensure that the radio station is ahead of the other radio stations in the music game. It operates and sounds like a commercial radio station back home. Galaxias advertisers are KFOR, 19 Mech Bde, the UN, UNMIK Police, BRITFOR and other agencies. Campaigns running on the station include recruitment, advertisements for the new Kosovo Protection Corps, employment opportunities, and mine awareness, arms amnesty and police "neighbourhood watch" schemes.

Even-handed

A lifelong TA officer, Lt Col Colin Mason from The Royal Regiment of Wales is the boss of the station. In the civilian life he runs commercial radio stations in the United Kingdom. He has established Galaxias even-handed policy toward Albanians and Serbs.


A Heartbreaker for the Finns
(Photo: SSgt Vanessa Klutsch)

Lipljan: Exhausted puppy saved by the dentist!

Weak, exhausted and skinny this little puppy one day in early October strayed into the Finnish Battalion's Camp Ville outside of Lipljan. She showed a particular liking for the Battalion's dentist, Cpt Marju Aho, and followed him to the field hospital on camp. The sad and innocent look in her eyes melted the Finnish soldiers hearts. They decided to adopt her, and named her Sohlo. She was fed and kept warm, and after a few days she started to play around again. Cpt Aho ordered Sohlo a collar, a chewing bone and proper dog food from Finland, and he is going to build a dog house for her outside the field hospital.

Does your unit have a pet? Send a picture and some words to the KFOR Chronicle.