The peace conference and the signing of the Dayton agreement aimed to ensure peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1994, a new map reflecting the state of political relations in this former Yugoslav republic was created. The State was divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. Both are coordinated by a tripartite presidency and the Council of Ministers, a structure that represents the new pillars of the state.
A quite complicated political map and the terrible traces of the just ended war made a very unstable political scene. The international military units and the Office of High Representative appointed by the European Union were the only guarantors of a very fragile peace. The Spanish peacekeepers were stationed in Medjugorije, overseeing the Mostar area and its surrounding areas.
In spite of this situation, Transmadrid launched the initiative to establish cooperative “ties” between the Spanish companies and the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and propose the creation of a consortium of Spanish companies which had already worked in Croatia and were specialists in the fields of infrastructure, energy and telecommunications. Those companies came into the conclusion that in the Mostar area there were several viable business opportunities. This was because of the positive environment that was consolidated in this region thanks to the presence of Spanish peacekeepers and also because of the fact that many public sector enterprises in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina had already made plans and projects on priorities for the region and country.
In 1996, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade took the initiative and organized a trip to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. At the head of the Spanish delegation was Carlos Westendorp, Spanish Foreign Minister and Apolonio Ruiz Ligero, Secretary of the Minister of Commerce. Many Spanish companies were part of the delegation and Aleksandar Hajduka, Transmadrid CEO, was honored to participate.
The reconstructions of the infrastructure, the energy supply, as well as the public and social works were the main subjects treated during the trip. The importance of renewing and improving telecommunications services such as cabling infrastructure and public telephones were specially stressed. In addition to being leaders in their respective sectors, the Spanish companies participating provided their many experience in the region, particularly by their entrepreneurial achievements in Croatia. The participants were: Amper, main supplier of smart phones HPT, with around 10,000 units installed, offered the possibility of giving value-added services (credit card, fax, electronic purse, etc.); Alcatel Cable and Iberian, one of the main suppliers of telecommunication copper and optical fiber cables in Croatia, with 7,000 km of cable already installed, in addition to having started the delivery of 300 km of fiber optic cable in PTT Mostar; Abengoa, group of companies operating on five continents, specialized in the field of electric power, sewage treatment and air and rail control systems, who leads a consortium with Elecnor and Isolux with the aim of providing quality service to the Region (ISINEL). The representatives of the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, acknowledging the help and support work done by the contingent of Spanish armed forces stationed in Medjugorje, expressed their interest in exploiting the level of sympathy and understanding reached between both countries and implement it in the business and technology industry. The project from Elektroprivreda Herceg Bosne (power company situated in an area mostly populated by Croatians), which provided the reconstruction of the Mostar hydro power plant (destroyed and flooded during the war) and the construction of a new high-voltage grid, also unused in the contest. Only a bit time after this visit to Mostar, thanks to the coordination offered by Transmadrid the negotiations between Isinel and Elektroprivreda HB began.
The project represented then the largest contract that the European Community had offered to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to a FAD credit and a commercial loan package conceded to Elektroprivreda and the participation of local investors a total of nearly 100 million convertible marks (approximately 50 million euros) was reached with which it was possible to reconstruct the Mostar hydro power plant and the entire network of the high power lines system.
This established another bond of cooperation between the Spanish and Bosnia y Herzegovina companies.
New projects in the fields of water treatment, telecommunications and infrastructure, both in the territory of the Federation of BiH and in the Republic of Srpska, were subsequently carried out successfully, despite the complex administrative problems which require necessary government guarantees.
As well as being a priority in a country devastated by war, the project of rebuilding the power grid and telecommunications system also represented union links for a better understanding and coexistence, so necessary and yet so marked by the war traumas. In 1996, the contract to supply telephone between Amper and HPT Mostar was signed. This was the same type of public phone implanted in Croatia and combined a coins and chip card system. The introduction of this method of payment also allowed the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre Española (Spanish National Mint and Stamp company) to participate with the supply of chip cards.
In 1997, a joint operation between Amper and Alcatel Cable Ibérica was proposed. It consisted on the supply of phones and equipment CLL (hardware-based fixed network mobile) and fiber optic cables. It was complex project because of the simultaneous involvement of two Spanish suppliers and two different systems of funding.
Based on the same management philosophy, a new Transmadrid project was born. In 1996, the international financial institutions set their priorities to modernize the rail infrastructure of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The railway infrastructure of Bosnia and Herzegovina was before the war one of the most modern in the region and suffered as a result of it an enormous destruction. The existing rail park also got worse because of the war and the lack of maintenance.
Under such circumstances, Transmadrid promoted the idea of a tilting train, Talgo type, for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Knowing, for its proven experience in the railway sector in Yugoslavia in the 70s and 80s, the operation was based on a clear premise: the need of renewing the passenger’s trains, which would also mean an undeniable step forward in quality, comfort and adaptability. However, it was also important to create a project without a complex and costly investment, which would also allow a country devastated by war to quickly retrieve a European status joining the European network of rail traffic by fulfilling its requirements and standards with the same living conditions and quality of services than its neighbors.
Talgo is not just a product defined as an articulated tilting train, which today represents the outstanding Spanish technology, over the years, it has become an institution in this sector, synonymous to passenger’s train in Spain.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina railways were in such a bad situation that special actions to achieve a more effectively connected transport with its regional environment needed to be taken. The improvement of the political situation in the region made the restoration of rail links between Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighboring countries possible.
The dissolution of the former Yugoslavia along with the disintegration of the former Yugoslav Railways Corporation, produced significant changes in the flow of travelers between the new countries, adding the tragic events of the war that caused the total disruption of the flow of travelers.
In the lines between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia the rail traffic disappeared for almost a decade, except for a few freight trains that covered the Sarajevo-Ploce line. The volume of passengers after the war was almost nonexistent compared to previous times, the most obvious reasons were: the harsh consequences of war on relations between nations and the massive destruction of the railway infrastructure and rolling stock.
The implementation of the Talgo train, not only will solve the problem in the short term, but it will also make a long-term policy of development in the passenger transport sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it will allow the Talgo train to circulate at the highest speeds. From 90 to 120 km/h. In the future it will reach the 220/250 Km/h.
The purpose to deliver the Talgo system at the Railways of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010 seemed at first utopian, romantic and non-viable. Transmadrid wanted a railway that would not only link the main traffic routes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the international trafficking of Bosnia and Herzegovina with its western and eastern neighbors and with the rest of countries of the European Union.
Accepting suggestions given by Transmadrid, Talgo took a key decision sending a train with measuring instruments to test the route on the railway from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the route Ploce to Mostar participated, along with representatives of the Spanish Embassy, Emilio Gonzalez, Commercial Attache to Bosnia and Herzegovina, members of the Croatian Railways and Railway directors of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation, Talgo and Transmadrid representatives, in addition to the peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is remarkable that this trip was the first passenger train journey in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war. We refer to this fact with satisfaction and pride, because we even won a nickname, “the Spanish cowboys” by crossing the country on a rail practically out of service.
After many years of tireless work between Transmadrid, the direction of Talgo and BiH Railways, signed the contract. As a result, in 2011, all Talgo trains covered by the agreement will be delivered in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Despite the difficulties that often seemed insurmountable, the project was successfully carried out and will allow the link between the cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The passenger traffic will be modernized and the country will be joined with the European Union countries too.
Transmadrid confirmed, once again, his perseverance in building bridges of cooperation.
We have new challenges ahead and we are convinced that the Republika Srpska Railways will also join the project. It would mean a symbolic value as a Spanish-tech product, synonymous for years to the passenger traffic, would link all the states of Southeastern Europe and mitigate the traces of war and mistrust.
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