Europe wasn’t built in a day but even so, at least twenty years is a long time to wait for the first north-south road in the East.
Via Carpathia – from the Baltic to the Aegean through seven countries – has so far failed to find favour with the European Commission.
‘Poland will be a massive building site from 2015-2020,’ said the delegate to the European Commission’s road charging conference in December.
The start of Poland’s second decade since joining the EU will be a push to complete a road network first sketched out in 1939.
One road not under construction however will be S19, an expressway cutting down the east of the country – through Bialystok, Lublin and Rzeszow – the Polish section of Via Carpathia.
(The latest plans suggest S19 might not even be dual carriageway if and when it is eventually built.)
Since 2006, seven eastern European nations have been jointly developing the 1,500 mile Via Carpathia, an almost direct north-south link between the Baltic and the Aegean.
The first leg, starting at the Lithuanian port Klaipeda, twists awkwardly past the Russian Federation annexe, but from then on it heads on unencumbered clipping both Slovakia (Kosice) and Hungary (Debrecen) before continuing down through Romania and Bulgaria to finish at Thessaloniki, on the shores of the Aegean.
The plans include two east-west off-shoots towards the Black Sea, in Bulgaria and Romania where it links with another ambitious project, the Black Sea Ring Highway.
Just before Christmas last year however an application to have Via Carpathia included on the Continent’s core transport network – and built by 2030 – was rejected by the European Parliament Transport Committee.
Despite enquiries, we are struggling to come up with a clear reason why, though a quote from a Commission official at a conference on the subject in October is perhaps a clue: ‘Member States and regions have to prove that they can reliably apply for and reliably spend the money acquired under the funds’. Besides this there are vague murmurs the road may be adopted in the 2030-50 plan.
The Commission has its own ideas, including major upgrades for the roads in the very south linking to Budapest. Between Timisoara and the Baltic however is a dead zone, through Europe’s poorest and most deprived region. Meanwhile there are no north-south roads planned in the east at all.
Europe wasn’t built in a day. But as the network matures in the west it increases the disparity with the east.
The seven countries involved could theoretically build Via Carpathia themselves. Bulgaria is well advanced with its east-west spur from Sofia to the Black Sea coast for example. But the lack of co-ordination on a such a big project would – at the very least – increase the costs for countries already at full stretch. Realistically it isn’t going to happen.
The last hope for Via Carpathia for the foreseeable future is to get the plan aired in a full European Parliament session. A previous attempt in February was cancelled but the backers tell us there could be an opportunity later this month.