The government inaugurated the Vlora Bypass last summer, although 15% of the work remained unfinished. One year after the inauguration ceremony, verifications show that the road has deteriorated. The Vlora Bypass lacks signage, the final asphalt layer, protection for slopes and retaining walls against falling rocks, as well as environmental rehabilitation. ARRSH (Albanian Road Authority) says that the completion of works in this segment will end in March 2024, but it does not provide reasons for the delay.
On the 7th of July last year, the government inaugurated for the first time the completion of the Vlora Bypass, a project co-financed by the European Union and the Albanian government.
“”We are at the Vlora Bypass, today is July 7th, and the entire road section has been completed,” declared Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku during the inaugural ceremony of the Vlora Bypass last July.
After a detailed speech about the progress of the project, beside Prime Minister Edi Rama, the director of the Albanian Road Authority, Evis Berberi, and several representatives of the Socialist Party in the Vlora region, Balluku teased the head of the government:
‘We are ready now to hear your remarks, Prime Minister, what should we be concerned about?’
“Well, why isn’t there a divider here?” replied Rama, pointing out the absence of side barriers in a part of the Vlora Bypass.
Inauguration after inauguration…
One week later, the Prime Minister, together with the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Olivér Várhelyi, and other officials, revisited the Vlora Bypass for another inauguration, this time celebrating the completion of a panoramic segment at sunset.
“We are back here because today it was possible for a dear friend, in addition to being the European Commissioner for Enlargement, to come here, unable to be with us on the scheduled day of the Bypass opening, on July 7th, which was related to the need to release the flow of vehicles, especially during weekends, “said Rama.
The main construction of the Vlora Bypass was completed on June 30, 2022. Although it was inaugurated twice, the truth is that the road was unfinished.
“This is a road where only a few works remain, which will not interfere with road traffic. We mainly deal with slope works,” emphasized the director of ARRSH, Evis Berberi, last summer.
However, contrary to what Z. Berberi claims, an official document from the Western Balkans Investment Fund shows that the Vlora Bypass was opened to traffic without completing 15% of the works. And the slope works are just one of several essential elements of the infrastructure project.
One year later
One year after the inauguration, the road remains unfinished and shows no signs of construction. The delay in completion has degraded the 29 km-long stretch.
Vlora Bypass, June 2023
On-site verifications show that the road has deteriorated and experienced landslides, making it appear much older than a one-year-old project.
In the Vlora Bypass, signage is missing, and more than half of the segment still lacks the planned asphalt layers. On the other hand, one of the viaducts still has raised piles, and the ceiling has not yet been built.
Under these circumstances, Faktoje made a request for information to the Albanian Road Authority. The institution admits that there are still unfinished works on the Vlora Bypass, listing them as follows:
“Construction of intersections with the village of Kanina at km 9+100 and 12+100
Completion of asphalt layers
Slope protection and retaining walls against falling rocks
This is what ARRSH states in its response, noting that the works are expected to be completed by March 2024.
The same deadline is also found on the list of public investments with foreign financing, detailed by the Ministry of Finances for the years 2023-2025.
Who is the ARRSH lying to?
But the deadline for project completion has been given differently to international partners. In a response to Faktoje, the Office of the EU Delegation in Tirana states that ARRSH has informed them that the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
‘The latest information we have from the Albanian Road Authority (ARRSH), the implementing authority, is that the project is expected to be completed in December 2023,” the EU Delegation’s response reads, emphasizing that the remaining work’s bill belongs to the Albanian government.
In total, the funds provided by the European Union for this project amount to 56.16 million euros, of which 20.16 million are grants, and the rest is credit from the European Investment Bank and EBRD.
The co-financiers have requested that ARRSH informs them in a timely manner, before the complete completion of the project, in order to conduct a final inspection of the construction site.