World Bank to determine modal switch in Western Balkans

LONDON: August 21, 2019. Wood, a global provider in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services, has been appointed by the World Bank to assess the potential of shifting freight movements in the Western Balkans to alternate forms of transport including rail and inland waterways.

In the Western Balkans most freight is currently transported via roads that are susceptible to delays due to climate events. As well as industrial output, communities in the region are also increasingly reliant on the road network for daily living.

Wood will use specialist skills from its climate resilience, transport, economics and geographic information system (GIS) mapping teams to determine the viability of alternative transport modes. Together with local freight associations, the company will also undertake a financial and socio-economic environmental feasibility assessment of several inter-modal terminal investments.

This assignment builds on an existing study that Wood is carrying out on behalf of the World Bank that considers the impact and severity of climate change and natural disasters on the resilience of the strategic road network in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

“Across the Western Balkans region, much of the transport infrastructure is ageing and struggling to cope with population growth, weather related events, and the increased freight volumes using the network,” said Rob Brown, president of Wood’s Environment & Infrastructure Solutions business in Europe. “With budgets constrained, any investment needs to be targeted in the right areas. Wood is delighted to work with the World Bank on these studies which will ultimately help to improve trade and economic performance and make a real difference to the communities in this region.”

Economic growth in the Western Balkans accelerated from 2.6 percent in 2017 to 3.8 percent in 2018 and is projected to average 3.7 percent in 2019-20, according to the World Bank’s latest Western Balkans Regular Economic Report. However its says this outlook is vulnerable to growing external and domestic risks, including geopolitical and trade disputes and a slower-than-expected pace of structural reforms.

According to the report, countries in the region now have an opportunity to advance reforms to mitigate these risks amid growing public demand for greater economic opportunities.

World Bank Transport Lead Romain Pison commented: “Through the previous resilience study, Wood demonstrated a real understanding of the serious issues affecting the strategic regional road network and a pragmatic, robust approach to understanding pinch points on the network. We now look forward to utilising their expertise as we extend our assessment to the wider freight intermodal network.”

Wood employs 60,000 people in more than 60 countries with annual revenues of US$11 billion. The company provides performance-driven solutions throughout the asset life cycle, from concept to decommissioning across a broad range of industrial markets, including the upstream, midstream and downstream oil & gas; power & process; environment and infrastructure; clean energy; mining; nuclear and general industrial sectors.