A bullet train drives in Liuzhou City, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, July 15, 2017. China has built one of the world's most extensive high-speed rail networks in just a few years. (Xinhua/Li Xin)
by Nemanja Cabric, Wang Huijuan
SURCIN/OBRENOVAC, Serbia, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- As cranes swing and bulldozers scrape, a 1.8-km bridge is taking shape on Sava River, with foundations being laid and columns being constructed.
Stretching across the river, the bridge, which links Belgrade's municipalities of Surcin and Obrenovac, is the most crucial and challenging part of the 17.6-km Surcin-Obrenovac segment of the E763 highway.
Built from scratch in March this year with the help of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the segment, including the bridge, carries high hopes of local people and government, due to its impact on their economy and transportation network.
A KEY BRIDGE
"This place was a wilderness. It had nothing special before they started working. There was no infrastructure here," Dejan Gogic, a 36-year-old soya farmer from Surcin told Xinhua, pointing towards the camp of the CCCC.
Monitoring the construction on behalf of the Serbian Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Aleksandar Djurekovic told Xinhua that the project is progressing according to schedule.
Hailing the Surcin-Obrenovac segment as the best construction site currently in Serbia, Djurekovic, who has overlooked many foreign contractors in Serbia, spoke highly of CCCC's organization and dedication.
"The biggest part around the piles is finished, foundations have been laid and columns are being constructed," he said, who also serves as the representative of the state-owned company Roads of Serbia.
Zhao Chengli, project manager of the Surcin-Obrenovac segment, told Xinhua that due to the technical complexity, the bridge is left to CCCC, while the other 16 km of the highway is subcontracted to local companies.
With Chinese craftsmanship, the project is going on smoothly as Serbia and China "attach great importance to and have the same goal for the project," said Zhao.
"CCCC hires a professional environmental protection company, who, on a regular basis, examines water, soil and air, to ensure that construction work has no negative influence on the environment," said Zhao.
Back at the soya farm, Gogic believes that when this road gets completed "it will bring benefit to us here."
Once completed, the 233 million U.S. dollars segment will reduce the travel distance between Surcin and Obrenovac from 40 km to around 15 km only.
"I often go to Obrenovac. It will be much closer to me. To me personally this road will be a big improvement, and I think it is important," Gogic said.
The project is expected to inject fresh momentum into the local economy by boosting Serbia's construction industry and creating more jobs.
No less than 49 percent of the project is being built with Serbia's own supplies and labor force. And with 47 Chinese and 45 Serbian in the management team, the project also employs a large proportion of local workers, said Zhao.
Radosav Bozic, 59, is one of them. Working as a truck driver, he lost his job in 2011 when his state-owned company was privatized.
After working for several construction companies during the years, he decided to quit and apply at CCCC, where he started working two months ago.
"I am happy I now have a steady income; enough to raise my average income and gain the right to retire in several years and this will positively influence my pension," he told Xinhua, expressing satisfaction with his cooperation with the Chinese management and the progress of the project.
"I am more than happy with the way they treat me here and I enjoy working with Chinese because they work hard and are serious. I hope that after this project is completed, I might get a job at the construction of the Belgrade-Budapest railway and get to work for CCCC until my retirement," he said.
"Roads connect people, reduce travelling time and improve drastically the quality of life," said Djurekovic, describing the bridge as "both beautiful and useful."