Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Romania's road network 'a shambles'

Published: Tuesday 28 April 2009   

Romania has not built a single kilometre of new road since its January 2007 EU accession, EurActiv Romania writes today. The total length of the country's motorway network, which has a reputation for poor surfaces, is only 53 km. In contrast, Belgium has 1,763 km of motorways.


Romania is ranked second last in the EU for the length of its motorways. At one extreme, Germany has 12,531 kilometres, Spain 12,073 km, France 10,842 km, Italy 6,554 km, the UK 3,670 km, Portugal 2,545 km, the Netherlands 2,604 km and Austria 1,678 km. 

The other extreme features mostly Central and Eastern European countries: Latvia has none, Estonia has 99 km, Lithuania 309 km, Bulgaria 394 km, Poland 583 km, the Czech Republic 633 km and Hungary 785 km. 

All the ministers who have been responsible for transport during Romania's transition from communism have pointed out the need to focus on road transport infrastructure projects. 

But in spite of this and the inclusion of road projects among national priorities, construction has stagnated, EurActiv Romania writes. Romanian President Traian Basescu served as his country's transport minister in the period 1996-2000. 

The Romanian national road network of 81,693 km has only 22,865 km of modernised roads. However, even the half of these modernised roads already need rehabilitation, according to a joint report by the Romanian Ministry of Transport and the National Statistical Institute. 

Moreover, a large proportion of the national road network is tarmac – 12,000 km, or 15% of the entire network. A further 25,000 km, or more than 30%, consists of paved roads, the report shows. 

Big ambitions 

Romanian Transport Minister Radu Berceanu said earlier this month that 160 million euros had been spent in 2008 on infrastructure feasibility studies. However, little work had been done to follow up since, he admitted. 

The Ministry of Transport has huge ambitions for highway construction. By 2013, it plans to have almost 2,000 km of motorway, and expects to build the first 400 km in 2009 followed by another 400 in 2010. 

There is European money available for infrastructure, but the authorities are doing little to absorb this. Former Transport Minister Ludovic Orban (April 2007-December 2008) had promised to absorb 100% of these funds. Nowadays, it is clear that very little of this amount has been used, the Romanian press writes. 

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