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Ponta: Romania, China Governments considering Bucharest - Iasi - Chisinau high-speed rail project

Premier Victor Ponta said on Tuesday that the Governments of Romania and China are looking into plans to build a high-speed rail on the route Bucharest-Iasi-Chisinau which is an alternative to a previously considered project envisaging the Bucharest-Constanta route.

'The plan to have such a railway line, because it's not just about the train, but mainly about the railway that allows such speeds, is a plan the Chinese Government is highly particular about. Prime Minister Li Keqiang presented it last year when he visited Bucharest and it refers not just to Romania, but to all countries in Central and Eastern Europe. And now Mr. [Transports] Minister Rus is having more advanced talks because this pilot project cannot be implemented on the Bucharest-Constanta line, because this is on a European corridor and the European Commission objects to a new project. But with what we proposed and with the feasibility studies that will soon be available there would be a line linking Bucharest to Iasi and farther on to Chisinau. Of course, the costs are quite high, but as a pilot project for Central and Eastern Europe I'd like Romania to be the first to have such a line, and the technology developed by China in recent years has proven to be extremely performing and safe,' the Romanian Prime Minister said in Beijing, after visiting Tianjin city this Tuesday.

As for the costs of the high-speed rail with an upper speed limit of 350 km/h, Ponta said that they run into 20 million US dollars per kilometer on average.

'But I think that since Romania does not have such long distances, it needs technology for hourly speeds of 200-250 km. You saw how the speed of 160 km/h fundamentally changed the state of play for the better on the Bucharest-Constanta stretch,' said the Premier.

Victor Ponta explained that this would be an integrated project.

'The main issue is with financing, because we definitely do not have such high allocations and for 2014 - 2020 we have seven billion euros in all in EU funding for the entire infrastructure, road, naval and air transport infrastructure included. So the problem is primarily with financing, and if financing comes from China, the project will be integrated in this respect,' said the Prime Minister when asked if the project also includes the purchase of high-speed trains from China.

Victor Ponta explained that he discussed with Premier Li Keqiang and with representatives of major Chinese companies about the current stage of the energy projects 'Cernavoda power Units 3 and 4, the Tarnita [hydroelectric power station], the Rovinari power plant and the Hunedoara Energy Complex.'

'And let's see how we can move as fast as possible towards the execution phase. From my point of view these projects ensure Romania's energy independence and our capability to produce enough power not only for our country, for the Republic of Moldova, but also allow us to export to countries in the region. This is a strategic project and currently the only partners with the financial capacity and, apart from this, the necessary technology, are in China,' he added.

The Prime Minister made a point in stating that the Chinese company tapped for building Cernavoda Units 3 and 4 holds the CANNDU technology.

'The Chinese company wherewith we are in advanced talks for Units 3 and 4 holds the Candu technology, the Canadian technology the first two [Cernavoda reactors] operate with. So, for those who are a little behind with the events,' the Premier said, alluding to certain concerns expressed by President Basescu, 'whatever technology we will use in these projects will be a top-notch technology approved by the EU,' said Victor Ponta.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta, his wife, Social Democrat MEP Daciana Sarbu, and members of the Romanian official delegation traveled on Tuesday to Tianjin where they visited the local technology park and had an official meeting with city mayor Huang Xing Guo.

The visit continued with a presentation at the Tianjin Technology Park where 300 of the world's 500 most powerful companies in IT, automotive, bio products, construction machines etc are running production units. The Romanian Prime Minister toured the automobile stamping plant that also exports to Romania.

In the second part of the day the Prime Minister will be received by President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping and will also meet with Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee.