The work is expected to create about 10,000 jobs during construction, including 4,000 at peak.
The road in the West Morava river valley will be Serbia’s second major transport artery. It will connect communities and businesses from Pojate in the east to Preljina in the west and link the country’s North-South motorway to the Hungarian and North Macedonian borders. The Bechtel Enka team will also build a major flood defence system to protect the areas around the motorway from flooding, erosion and subsequent water pollution.
The mountainous terrain of the area means that the route will include about 40 bridges, the longest measuring about 600m.
A telecommunication corridor will also be built beneath the side of the motorway to allow for future 5G fibre and tower installations.
Serbia’s deputy prime minister and minister of construction, transport and infrastructure, Professor Zorana Mihajlovic, said: “Construction of Moravian Corridor is in Serbia's economic interest not only because it will connect more than half a million citizens living in the area, but because it will be the link for more than 20,000 small and medium-sized enterprises with the largest traffic corridors: Corridor X, which connects us with Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and Highway Milos the Great towards Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
The government has previously put the construction cost at about €800m (£675m).
Mike Wilkinson, Bechtel’s general manager for Europe, said: “We are delighted and honoured to have been chosen by the Serbian government to build this transformational motorway, our first in the country. It is thanks to their vision that we will be delivering much more than a road – the motorway will create a vital economic corridor as well as solve the challenge of flood protection and provide digital connectivity. The Bechtel Enka team now looks forward to breaking ground, marking the start of a long-term partnership with Serbia to support world-class infrastructure that creates jobs, connects communities and grows the local economy.”
The long-term partnership between Bechtel and Enka has delivered major infrastructure projects in the Balkans since the 1990s, including motorways in Albania, Croatia, Turkey and Romania. The partnership has built more than 28,000km of highways and roads, 100 tunnels and 26 major bridges. During the JV’s most recent motorway project in the Balkans, 80% of the workforce and 70% of the subcontracted work was awarded to local firms. The partnership said that it will again prioritise local people and local suppliers on the new project.
Construction of the motorway will start next year.