Rail expansion one step closer as referendum motion defeated
Ljubljana, 5 December - There was some headway regarding the expansion of a 27-km section of rail between Divača and the port of Koper, a project more than two decades in the making, as a government bill governing the project narrowly survived a referendum vote in September. A narrow majority endorsed the project, but turnout was too low to reach the required quorum anyway. Seen as a keystone project for the government, it threatened the cabinet's very existence due to serious objections regarding the proposed financing structure and the necessity of the project itself. The legislation requires that the project be completed in a public-public partnership with a mix of budget funds, EU funding and financial participation from landlocked countries such as Hungary that use the Koper port. The project is far from shovel-ready, though, and construction is not expected to start in earnest before 2019. Moreover, even though Slovenia has secured a portion of the funds, including a EUR 109m grant from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility, the legislation is bogged down in courts due to an appeal against the referendum result by Vili Kovačič, a pensioner who lead the referendum campaign.