The Executive Director of “Metropoliten” EAD, Stoyan Bratoev: Sofia Underground is the cheapest in Europe
According to eng. Bratoev, Executive Director of “Metropoliten” EAD, Sofia Underground transports about 80,000 passengers per day and there is a tendency for this traffic to grow. The interval between trains is 6 minutes and the objective is to reduce it to 5.30-5.45 minutes. There have been no technical problems hitherto as the underground facilities are at a better-than-average level. Most of the equipment has been built by companies such as Ericsson and Siemens, which have become household names. The software, on the other hand, is Bulgarian.
The rolling stock fleet operated by Sofia Underground includes 48 trains, which are grouped into 12 compositions. Three of these are brand new, in operation since just last year. A second similar batch of rakes will be delivered by the end of the year. Sofia Municipality opened a tender, where Russian, Chinese and some well-known Western companies, such as Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom, placed their bids. They also exhibited some attractive products at Innotrans 2006, but the Sofia Municipality cannot afford them yet. At the end of the last phase, some additional requirements had to be complied with – for example, the body of the passenger coach should be made of stainless steel. This was the reason why only Siemens, one Chinese and two Russian companies were short listed. The bid evaluation committee, a member of which was one of the Deputy Ministers of Finance, decided that the most cost-effective option was to select the larger, Russian-type coaches, made of stainless steel, and cheaper than the others. They are equipped with asynchronous Hitachi engines. Their doors and all mechanical parts are of Irish origin, while the compressors are German.
By the end of 2008, the Underground system will reach the Mladost residential area, which will generate the most traffic. Between 35 and 38 thousand passengers per hour can be transported. The three-year programme includes several phases. The funding for the line section between Interpred and Mladost amounts to BGN68 million and has been allocated by the local authorities. Compared to practices in Europe and elsewhere, such an amount is extremely modest. It would not be an overstatement to say that Sofia Underground is the cheapest in Europe. In Athens, for example, one kilometre of construction works costs between EUR80 and 100 million. In Budapest and Prague, where bidding procedures with EU funding are under way, the costs of one kilometre of construction works amount to EUR80 million. In Bulgaria, these costs amount to about EUR21 million.
The assignment of construction works is carried out in compliance with the Public Procurement Law. The tender committees are established jointly by “Metropoliten” and the Sofia Municipality. Contractors are mostly Bulgarian companies and during bid evaluation the most important criterion is the price, and in most cases the lowest price offer is preferred.
The projections show that when the Underground line to Mladost is completed in 2008, the passenger flow will amount to over 250,000 passengers per day. With a view to the provision of an efficient transport service for Mladost and Druzhba residential areas and their connections with the airport, some other line routes have been developed and approved as well. These are the lines from Mladost 1 to the Business Park in Mladost 4, Mladost 1--the airport, as well as the portion of the second diameter across the city from the Central Station to the Hemus Hotel. Thus, the underground system will cover the most heavily-used routes of passenger traffic. By 2020, the first diameter across the city and the second diameter will be completed: Obelia-Central Station-Hemus Hotel-Hladilnika residential area, including the branch line to the Iliyantsi residential complex. The above are part of one project, which has already been submitted to the Ministries of Transport and Finance with a view to the application for EU funding. The construction of line sections Mladost-Druzhba-the airport and Central Station-Sveta Nedelia Square-Hemus Hotel is included in the first phase of the Underground system expansion and the EU funding, still to be applied for, amounts to EUR283 million. These are the directions of the heaviest traffic in the city. It is envisaged that the construction of the line from Mladost 1 to the Business Park in Mladost 4 be implemented in the second phase.
We have also elaborated the design of the so-called transfer stations, which shall be located at the current Serdika station. These transfer stations will provide the link to the railway station via the line at Maria Louisa Street. Passengers travelling to the airport will also transfer at Serdika station. The objective is to cover by 2012 not only the main passenger traffic routes, but to connect the principal transport junctions in the city, such as the airport, the railway station, the central bus station and the major incoming and outgoing highways. It is important to ensure rapid and smooth transport services along the most intensively-used routes. To this end, we have planned the construction of a buffer car park at Tsarigradsko shosse Blvd with a capacity for about 2,000 cars. A similar car park will be built at the ring-road for the needs of motorised visitors to Sofia. The completion of Program 2012 will result in a daily passenger flow of about 580,000 passengers per day, which accounts for 40% of overall urban trips in Sofia.