China and Serbia agree deal to build $1.1bn Belgrade-Budapest high speed rail link
A new high speed rail link between Serbian capital Belgrade and Hungarian capital Budapest will be built after China agreed with Serbia over the financing of the $1.1bn project.
Spanning 350km, the new line is expected to cut journey times down from eight hours to just three, and forms part of the Chinese government’s plan to expand its Belt and Road strategy across Europe.
Earlier this week the two countries' prime ministers discussed the cooperation in the field of energy and infrastructure, as well as road and rail infrastructure projects implemented with Chinese assistance.
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Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic commented: “Regional infrastructure projects are the most important for Serbia and they will contribute to linking and stimulating the economic progress of the region.”
The Balkans represents a key corridor for China, linking mainland Europe to the increasingly influential Greek port of Piraeus, which has recently been taken over by Chinese company Cosco.
Work has already began on a Serbian stretch of the rail line, a 75km stretch from Belgrade to Novi Sad. Around 184km will run through Serbia with the remaining 166km in Hungary, with trains able to travel at approximately 160km/h.
Other areas of cooperation between Serbia and China agreed recently include an agreement to build an industrial park for food production and reconstruct another rail line heading in and out of Belgrade.
217,000 extra workers needed to meet COVID-19 recovery
As the construction industry’s recovery progresses, the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecasts have led the organisation to believe the industry will reach 2019 levels of output in 2022.
The CSN says there will be an increase in the number of construction workers in “most English regions” by 2025, with demands forecasted at a 1.7% rise for the East Midlands, and a 1.4% rise for the West Midlands.
Scotland and Wales are also predicted to see a surge in demand for construction workers with a total increase of 1.4% and 0.7% respectively. The North East is the only region to see a slight decline in workforce demand at -0.1%.
Wood and interior fit-out trades among the most desirable during COVID-19
According to CSN’s forecast, the trades that are the most wanted are those of wood and interior fit-outs, with both requiring around 5,500 workers per year. Other in-demand trades include technical staff and other construction professionals, requiring 5,150 workers each year, construction managers at 3,600, and the electrical installation trade, which requires 3,400 staff per year.
There is also expected to be demand for 7,850 non-construction, office-based professionals and technical and IT support staff each year. Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, said: “It’s great to see construction coming back so strongly and creating lots of job opportunities.
“We need to adopt new approaches to meet these growing skills needs and deliver these quickly. We are working closely with the government and FE to build better bridges between FE and work and make apprenticeships more flexible. We are also making significant investments in supporting work experience that make it easier for employers to bring in new blood.
“We must also make sure that we invest in the skills that will drive change and meet new and growing needs such as Net Zero emissions and Building Safety. We will be announcing plans soon to tackle specific skills and occupations such as leadership and management, digital skills, and skills related to energy efficiency”, he said.