By 1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informerr#127, November 28, 2001
German Capt. Joachim Metzner, SFOR rail operations
staff officer, carried out one of his last field visits with managers
of Republika Srpska Railways ("Zeljeznice Republika Srpska,"
ZRS) in the Doboj area.
Doboj - The town of Doboj is situated about 100
kilometres north of Sarajevo as the crow flies and about 40 kilometres
south of the Croatian border, where the Bosna River valley opens.
This region, which is on the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL),
went through violent fights during the war. Numerous destroyed
houses and mines testify to this. The Nordic Polish Battle Group
(NP BG) and ZRS headquarters are settled in the city.
22, Metzner carried out one of his last rounds in the area. American
Maj. Scott Voelkel, engineers operations chief, accompanied the
German officer. After a short briefing in a ZRS building, they
went to check on the completion of two projects with Dimso Todorovic,
chief electric engineer, and his colleagues, Zoran Milicevic,
mine engineer, and Miodrag Stojnic, civil engineer.
The first project consisted of 20 kilometres of railway telecommunications
cable rehabilitation on the Doboj-IEBL line section, mostly in
the south. This was in order to restore contact with Maglaj (Federation,
Fed) station, immediately on the other side of the IEBL.
project cost 75,675 KM (38,692 ) and was funded by SFOR. On its
side, ZRS had to invest 17,500 KM (8,947) in de-mining along
the tracks. The line between Maglaj and Doboj closely follows
the IEBL. The area is heavily mined, which make the work long
and dangerous. To enter this zone by car or by foot is too risky.
So, to do their inspection, the group had to take a track motorcar
from Doboj Station. The group had to climb up on to the specialised
motorcar, which was not built for passenger travel. Scaling his
way to the top, Metzner was in for a surprise - a buffet was waiting
for him. The ZRS managers took this opportunity to thank him for
the work they did together. The officer specified later: "I
always have been welcomed as a friend  and Mr. Todorovic never
called me 'Captain,' but 'Mr. Joachim.'"
the last calling box level before the IEBL, the railway motorcar
stopped. Everybody got out. Telecommunications technicians, Radic
Zeljko and Damjanic Bosko tested the line. To be sure of the interconnection
with the telephone network, Metzner called Gabriele Brunhilde,
Todorovic's German secretary. It works. So the project is complete.
Moreover, it's not impossible that in few years that the line
could be used for civil communications.
little inspection team got back into the automotive railcar to
return to Doboj. From there, the team travelled by car to visit
the second project: a concrete culvert to restore the drainage,
near Sockovac Station on the Doboj-Petrovo Novo line. Here, SFOR's
investment was 179,041 KM (91,542).
Back to ZRS headquarters in Doboj, Metzner signed documents certifying
that the works have been completed.
Projects in the cap
stated, "Most of ZRS projects would have never been done
without SFOR's support. It has invested 15 million KM (7,67 millions
) over the past six years." Many other building sites are
ongoing or planned: rehabilitation of level crossings, bridges,
tunnels Another thing that is being replaced is the sleeper.
Some are from the 1960's. Their life expectancy is 30 years. They
should have been changed by the beginning of the 1990's, but war
hampered it. An important and highly symbolic event is the opening,
next December, of a combined bridge (car-train) over the Sava
River. This will allow a connection with Croatian railways and,
from there, to Budapest and the whole European network, to which
Todorovic hopes to be integrated within the next 10 years.
is optimistic: "ZRS accommodated an average of 1.5 millions
passengers over the past four years and in 2001 the number of
passengers is going to increase. The first objective was to start
the trains again and to assure interconnections with foreign countries
(Croatia, Serbia). It's done. The next step is to improve the
service. Today, the train speed is 70 km/h, in three years they
will travel at 100 km/h." In 2002, SFOR's funding will reach
3 million KM (1,53 M ) in BiH. At the same time the European
Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will fund projects
for 120 million KM (61,36 M ).
a larger point of view and following Military Minimum Requirement
(MMR), SFOR sappers must allow total freedom of movement to troops
by road, but also by rail. Metzner is in charge of the maintenance
of the network used by SFOR within the theatre: the North-South
line, from Brcko (Brcko District) to Ploce (Croatia), through
Sarajevo and Mostar, 870 kilometres in length; and the East-West
line from Doboj to Bosanski Novi (RS, Croatian Border). The engineer
branch rail operations has two companies as interlocutors: ZRS
and, in Fed, "Zeljeznice Bosnia i Herzegovina" (ZBH).
In addition, the Railway Directorate of Mostar has a specific
status. Finally, Todorovic hopes that all will be gathered at
a state-level Public Railway Corporation.
Joachim" was also moved by this last visit, but he didn't
hide his satisfaction in having participated in this programme.
In Germany, he teaches logistics at an Air Force Technical Engineering
School. He volunteered for this first tour: "I didn't want
to spend six months in an office," he said. "This job
allowed me to meet the people and discover the country, in an
always friendly atmosphere. It seems to me that I was an SFOR
ambassador and that I participated a bit in improving BiH's infrastructure."
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