“Western Balkans Rail Summit” on 13 September 2021 in Belgrade gathered the entire region – all Ministers in charge of transport of Southeast European Parties of Transport Community Treaty, European international financing institutions, European institutions, rail infrastructure managers, directors of rail companies and many other rail professionals. For the first time, under the auspice of Ministry of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure of Serbia, the entire rail world of the Western Balkans got together with a united message: the time has come to invest in rail and to develop a strong and competitive rail transport industry, with open and competitive rail transport market, to improve the interoperability and safety of rail networks and to develop rail transport infrastructure in the Western Balkans. The governments committed to a number of priorities including to rebuild direct intercity train links connecting the region and the EU, enhancing digitalisation of the railway systems to interconnect and exchange data for cross border passenger and freight transport.

Building a modern, digitalised rail network, with direct express train connections between capitals will help establish better connectivity and provide safer and environmentally sustainable mode of transport for people and businesses in the Western Balkans. This was recognised as key priority of the Dedication to Rail signed by six ministers in charge of transport in the region. Furthermore, railway infrastructure managers from the region signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will pave the way for the implementation of intelligent transport systems for rail and for the development and maintenance of the rail TEN-T network infrastructure.

The summit was organised to coincide with the arrival of Connecting Europe Express train. As part of the European Year of Rail, the train, which is crossing 26 countries of the continent, arrived in Belgrade on 12 September and continued to Skopje the next day. Prime Minister of Serbia HE Ana Brnabic delivered opening remarks at the Central Railway Station in Belgrade and demonstrated highest level political support to “put the rail back on track” in the Western Balkans. This Summit will be just a beginning towards establishing solid foundation for further development of the regional railway systems.