China agrees railway deals with Hungary, Serbia

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China signed separate deals with Hungary and Serbia to construct and revamp a rail link between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals on Tuesday.

Details of the two deals, made on the sidelines of an annual summit meeting between Chinese and Central and Eastern European (CEE) leaders, were not immediately available, but Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged earlier in the day that construction of the railway would be underway by the end of this year and be finished within two years.

Earlier reports said the high-speed rail link could cut travel time between Budapest and Belgrade by more than half.

The project for the modernization of the Belgrade-Budapest railway was initially agreed on in 2013 at the China-Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries leaders' meeting that took place in Bucharest, while at last year's summit held in Belgrade, China, Hungary and Serbia signed a memorandum of understanding.

At that point, Macedonia and Greece both expressed their willingness to partake in the project, which plans to turn Piraeus, the main port of Greece, into a Chinese hub for trade with Europe.

The cooperation plan for the construction of the railway was signed at the beginning of this year in Belgrade at a meeting for the Trilateral Group of China, Hungary and Serbia for Traffic and Infrastructure Cooperation. The plan set dates for certain phases of the project.

According to the plan, the construction of the railway should begin by the end of 2015, after a feasibility study and financial model are agreed upon, with the railway scheduled to be fully completed in 2017.

Once completed, the railway will help create a fast lane for import and export of products between China and Europe.

"The railway not only connects Serbia with Hungary, it also links up to the rail network in southern Europe," Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters later on Tuesday.

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