Skopje, one of the most polluted cities in Europe, will become the first city in the Western Balkans to introduce a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, thanks to a loan of up to €70 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the bank said on April 21.
The loan under Green City Action Plan will support a major transformation towards sustainable transport and address urgent environmental needs in the capital of North Macedonia, the EBRD said.
“When the initiative for creating a green, more inclusive and sustainable economy overlaps with striving for economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the gains for our economy are multiple,” North Macedonia Finance Minister Fatmir Besimi said at the signing of the project. “This year and in years to come, we will invest in projects that will contribute towards protecting the environment, alleviating transport congestion, saving time and energy resources, enabling investments and new jobs and facilitating growth as well as improving our citizens’ quality of life. I support the green transition. Current and future generations should and must have a possibility to breathe cleaner air and travel faster and safer,” he added.
North Macedonia Transport and Communication Minister Blagoj Bocvarski noted that the ultimate goal of the project is to provide new city transport in Skopje through an efficient and economic transport network. “The introduction of environmentally friendly buses will lower air pollution and provide fast, safe and quality transport. Our role is to provide modern infrastructure and services through which this concept of rapid transport will improve our citizens’ quality of life,” he said.
The new urban transport system will see the creation of priority bus lanes to be serviced by a fleet of energy-efficient or hybrid buses delivering fast, comfortable and cost-effective public transport. Innovative components such as off-board fare collection, e-ticketing and dynamic service regulation will lift service quality to new levels. Passengers will benefit from fast and frequent operations which they will be able to follow thanks to real-time information updates, demonstrating how Skopje is using smart concepts to improve services.
Meanwhile, the new system will also lead to significant reductions in the emissions of air pollutants of which transport is the main source in Skopje, a city of more than 550,000 residents. According to plans, the new BRT system envisages a reduction in emissions of carbon monoxide by more than 95%, particulate matter by approximately 90% and both nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide by at least 25%.
Andi Aranitasi, EBRD head of North Macedonia, reminded that the project is very much part of EBRD Green Cities agenda, which the capital of North Macedonia joined in 2019.