Serbia offers 25-year concessions for a revamp of its highway system

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia has launched a tender for the construction and maintenance of 322 kilometers (200 miles) of highways, worth some 780 million euros ($935 million). According to the tender, made available to Reuters yesterday, the government offered 25-year concessions for a 148km road from Belgrade to the southwestern town of Pozega and a 106km stretch from Belgrade to the Horgos crossing at the border with Hungary. The cost of the Belgrade-Pozega road, running through a gorge and mountainous regions, is estimated at some 640 million euros, the Beta news agency quoted Capital Investment Deputy Minister Miodrag Jocic as saying. Bidders can also compete for the exploitation and maintenance of a 68km stretch of the Novi Sad-Belgrade highway, expiring in 2009. The first qualifying stage expires on Nov. 30. The government will short-list candidates by Dec. 20 and qualified bidders will have an April 17, 2006 deadline to submit final bids with a 40-million-euro bid bond. Final concession deals will be signed by September 2006. Serbia’s road network runs to a total of 48,073km. Only 2,750km are part of the European road network, which usually means higher-quality roads. Sanctions, wars and neglect in the 1990s left the roads crumbling. Repairs, heavily subsidized by international lenders, started after strongman Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in 2000.