BR Analysis. Romania’s motorway network exceeds 800 km at end-2018 but remains a puzzle with many missing pieces

Ioana Erdei 27/12/2018 | 12:10

Romania’s motorway network has extended to around 807 kilometers following the opening of three small sections at the end of this year but looks like a puzzle with many missing pieces and will remain in this state for the most part of the next decade.

One of the main reason for the slow advancement of major motorway projects in Romania is the poor management of the state-owned road company (CNAIR) and the politically unstable position of minister of Transports.

In 2018, the management for all major Infrastructure state-owned companies has been changed, and at the end of the year the ministry has no minister, after president Klaus Iohannis refused to sign Mircea Draghici’ nomination as minister of Transports.

During the last 2 years, 3 persons occupied the position of minister of Transports but no one in Romania remembers their name or some noticeable result.

But despite these poor results, there are still many promises. Romania will have 1,000 km of motorway by 2020, compared to 807 km now, state-owned road company (CNAIR) manager Narcis Neaga recently told reporters, just days after the prime minister asked him to resign if Romania will not reach 100 km of new motorway-threshold this year.

Romania has currently around 807 km of motorways, compared to 747 km at the end of 2017, after the opening of six motorway sections this year: Gilau-Nadaselu near Cluj, two sections of Sebes-Turda motorway, two sections of Campia Turzii-Targu Mures motorway (all located in Transylvania) and a small urban motorway section in northern Bucharest.

“All the time I hear we do not have 1,000 kilometers of motorway. Well, in 2020 we’ll have 1,024 kilometers,” Neaga said, cited by Economica.net.

Neaga’s promises came just days after he was threatened by Romania’s prime minister, Viorica Dancila, that he will lose his job if Romania will not have at least 100 km of new motorway completed this year.

Despite the fact that CNAIR’s manager missed the target, he was maintained at the head of the company by the main ruling party.

According to main ruling party’s governing programme, Romania should have reach more than 1,000 km of motorway by 2018.

One of the motorways included in the governing programme, Targu Mures – Iasi, was completely abandoned by the current government.

The region of Moldova, the poorest in Romania, needs good infrastructure connections with Transylvania and Western Europe and with Bucharest to escape its historical isolation, but the government’s priorities for the next decade don’t include Moldova.

Puzzle wit missing links

But even the small Romanian motorway network, which looks like a nonsensical puzzle to the unaccustomed eye, is split in two and the country has little chance to connect the two sides within the next decade.

Romania – which in 2018 has celebrated the centennial of its union with Transylvania and other smaller provinces – is building two separate motorway networks, and the fracture line lies exactly on the ancient border between the Romanian Kingdom and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included Transylvania and the western province of Banat until 1918.

In fact, the border between motorways, like the ancient border between separate states, is a natural one: the Carpathians, a long mountain range separating Transylvania from all other Romanian provinces.

At this moment, the Western province of Banat, with its rich city of Timisoara, is the only Romanian region fully connected to the Western European motorway network, through the Nadlac/Csanádpalota border motorway crossing point.

But the situation is about to change. By 2020, a new motorway (A10) will connect southern Transylvania with northern Transylvania, and the missing link between Banat and Transylvania could be finished by 2023, so Transylvania and Banat will be connected to Hungary and the other Western European countries.

That means that within five years, it will become much easier to travel from Transylvania to Budapest, the former Capital city of the province until 1918, than from Transylvania to Bucharest, the present-day Capital city, which decides which motorways are built in Romania, and where.

But the missing link between Transylvania and Wallachia, the Pitesti-Sibiu motorway section, has little chance to be done within the next decade, and the main reason is incompetence, experts say.

“Some sections of the Sibiu-Pitesti motorway could be completed within eight years, but the entire project could take at least 15 years,” Pro Infrastructura Vice-President Ionut Ciurea told Business Review.

Pro Infrastructura, an NGO that monitors infrastructure projects in Romania, constantly criticizes the government’s administrators of motorway projects.

“There is a lot of incompetence on the auction side, there are weak task books. It takes a year just to launch an auction in Romania. Generally speaking, there is a lack of administrative capacity to manage large infrastructure projects”, Ciurea said.

Worse yet, the motorway network built around Bucharest is not connected to any other motorway network and there is no connection project other than Pitesti-Sibiu, so there are three motorways (Bucharest-Pitesti, Bucharest-Ploiesti and Bucharest-Constanta) used only to connect the Capital city with (some) other areas of the country.

In fact, only one motorway project – Bacau ring road – in Moldova is advanced enough to be completed within the next few years, but this motorway section doesn’t solve any of the region’s main problems.

The region needs good infrastructure connections with Transylvania and Western Europe and with Bucharest to escape its historical isolation, but the government’s priorities for the next decade don’t include Moldova.

The A8 motorway – projected to connect Iasi, Moldova’s main city and former Capital, to Targu-Mures and the Transylvanian motorway system – is frozen and no money are available for its construction.

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