Bosnia’s Peace Train,
The Bosna Ekspres,
Rolls to the Sea
‘I feel like crying. During the war I thought I would never see the train leave again. I lost all hope.’
—Railway worker Hasnija Mukanovic
By Sabina Cosic
SARAJEVO, July 30 (Reuters) - The first train out of Sarajevo's shell-pocked railway station since 1992 departed three minutes late on Tuesday morning, but no one complained. Instead, there was enthusiastic applause from some 300 spectators.
The rail service is the first to run between Sarajevo and the port of Ploce on Croatia's Dalmatian coast since May 1992. The train's destination was initially to have been Mostar, in the south-west of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, but Croatian authorities on Tuesday morning gave permission for it to continue to Ploce.
Dubbed the "Bosna Ekspres" and bound for the Croatian Adriatic port of Ploce, the service opened up Bosnia south and seawards and gave residents a further taste of the normality that the Dayton peace accord set in motion last year. "Today Bosnia reaches the (Adriatic) coast and the wide world," Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said in an emotional speech before getting on board.
The five-carriage train, packed with other high-ranking Bosnian officials and about 250 passengers was in sharp contrast to the last train to leave the already beseiged Bosnian capital on May 2, 1992, when the city experienced its first serious shelling by separatist Bosnian Serb forces. That train was a grim sight crammed with fearful refugees fleeing the fighting they had hoped would be brief. Peace came to the Bosnian capital only last December when the Dayton peace accord was signed in Paris.
Tuesday's train, also carrying Vice-President Ejup Ganic and Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic when it left at 10:03 a.m. (0803 GMT), drew loud cheers and applause from about 300 Sarajevan onlookers when it sounded its whistle. "I feel like crying. During the war I thought I would never see the train leave again. I lost all hope," railway worker Hasnija Mukanovic said on the platform of the devasted station.
"This kind of thing was pure science fiction even a year ago. I still can't believe it," 70 year-old Rasim Sejfija said. Separatist Serbs maintained a fierce stranglehold over the city throughout most of the war hoping to starve the besieged population into submission. The 193 km (120 mile) line between Sarajevo and Ploce passes south through former combat zones and was restored by the Bosnian government with the help of the European Union's programme to revive the country's economy.
EU member states contributed more than 6.6 million ECU ($8.4 million) for the repairs of the line and its stations and Germany funded the reconstruction of two railway bridges near Mostar damaged in fighting.
The train's destination was initially to have been Mostar, in the southwest of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, but Croatian authorities on Tuesday morning gave permission for it to go on to Ploce. It was not immediately clear how frequent the service would be or whether it would carry both freight and passengers. Although Bosnia's territory includes a short stretch of coastline at the resort town of Neum, it has no serviceable port and relies on Ploce for its maritime trade.
($1=.7885 Ecu at today’s exchange rate)
ONASA News Wire, November 28 · Destroyed Bridges Preventing
Opening of Sarajevo-Ploce Railway
National Railway Company of Bosnia-Herzegovina: ZBH Railway Information
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