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Ambassadors take train tour,
see SFOR projects

By Maj. Ladislav Ruzicka
and 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg

First published in
SFOR Informer #98, October 11, 2000

Sarajevo - The Commander of the Stabilisation Force SFOR (COMSFOR) in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) invited local ambassadors for a train tour from Sarajevo to Mostar Sept. 28.
The purpose of the ride was to give members of the International Community an overview on railway reconstruction projects in BiH with the aim of stimulating further funding and development.
"This is a good way of getting many parties together. We achieve two things at the same time; An opportunity to talk together, and to demonstrate the importance of working side by side on a project to get the economy on track in BiH," said Lt. Gen. Michael Dodson, COMSFOR. "The roads and railways are the arteries of this country, and designed to carry the lifeblood. Now these arteries are nearly opened, and will be essential for the economy of BiH."
The North-South-Line (Bosanski Samac-Capljina-Ploce) is a critical link from SFOR loading facilities in Zenica, Doboj, and Sarajevo to Adriatic coast. The line is also, quite simply, an impressive work of construction and engineering.
At present there are 29 SFOR projects for a total of 5.7 million DM funded by the Infrastructure Committee, SHAPE. Currently, four projects are ongoing on the Sarajevo to Mostar line.
These projects involve the repair of overhead contact lines in tunnels, telecommunication systems, the signals and safety equipment of seven railway stations and the replacement of broken sleepers.
Distinguished SFOR and civilian guests partook of the train laid on by the Railway Company of the Federation of BiH (ZBH). Among them, the Ambassadors of Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Charge d'Affairs of the Czech Republic, First Secretary of Embassy of the Austria and USA and Third Secretary of Embassy of Turkey.
This event started with a briefing by Mr. Hidajet Serbo, the General Manager of the ZBH and German Capt. Michael Müller, HQ SFOR Engineer Staff Officer (Railway), who was responsible for organising the train trip. He gave an overview of current re- projects and acquainted the visitors with the history of the line, current and pre-war status, and financial details.
Three 25-minute stops at Parazic, Ovcari and Dreznica gave Müller the opportunity to show participants the most important aspects of the current projects. Swedish Ambassador Nils Eliasson and Ambassador of Egypt DR Salah ElAshry showed a particular interest in the details of the projects, and their probing questions gave Müller opportunity to go into detail on the subject.
"This is a critical sector because of the climate and the geography. It is also politically critical to the economical unification of BiH", said Ambassador Dr. Salah El Ashry. "Egypt was the first country in Africa which built a railway system, and it is a very important part of our peoples lives, and Egypt's economy."
"This trip makes it possible for me to see with my own two eyes what Sweden is doing to rebuild the railway here. Among other things, we help them to restore the signalling system, which is made of Swedish technology. But the main challenge, as I see it, is to make ZBH understand the importance of marketing the railway to the people", said Swedish Ambassador Nils Eliasson.
"On the 128-km line from Sarajevo to Mostar, there are 92 tunnels and 45 bridges. Therefore the local people call this line 'half in the dark and half in the air.' I had a good opportunity to show all the different deficiencies that are still limiting railway traffic in BiH," said Möller, who had also briefing on the future funding requirements needed to assure the continued improvement of the system.

Related link:
Engineering - Railways