In Brief

 

Macedonian section of  Corridor VIII to be concessioned

At his meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Policy, Solomon Passy, the Macedonian Minister of Transport and Communications, Mile Janakievski, stated that funding for the infrastructure construction of Corridor VIII will be accumulated through the concessioning of the section. According to the Minister, such a concession would be the best solution for the rapid construction of the Kumanovo-Gueshevo railway line.

 

Pazardzhik station to be rebuilt

Pazardzhik station, which was built more than 30 years ago and has never been thoroughly overhauled since, is to be rebuilt. The reconstruction works will be implemented in two phases, the first of which will cost about BGN1 million for modernisation and reconstruction of the building and adjacent area. Information displays and the water supply and drainage system as well as electrical installations will be modernised. Under the second phase, the access ways to the station, the technical facilities and signalling systems, as well as all the catering facilities, will be overhauled. The total cost of the project is BGN3 million.

 

Moststroi” launches railway production

In September, “Moststroi” officially established a daughter company – Rels Remont Ltd. – which will produce and repair rails and rail units and will also trade in spare parts for railway rolling stock.

 

The accident at Kazichene explained

According to the Director of the Railway Inspection Directorate within the Ministry of Transport, Anton Burov, the reasons for the accident at Kazichene station in August were the different levels of the two rails, as well as the ill-distributed load in the derailed freight wagon. The difference between the levels of the two rails was three times higher than the admissible norm. The damages from the accident amount to BGN100,000.

 

More attention to the private sector

At a press conference held in mid-September, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, underlined that until now there has been no long-term approach to the elaboration of infrastructure development programmes. He said that henceforth it would be necessary to establish conditions for the strengthening of the private sector role, including by means of airport, port, railway station and highway concessions. A serious opportunity to attract still greater transit traffic will be the planned construction of intermodal terminals in eight regions of the country.

 

Cooperation agreement between BDZ and DB

On 18th September 2006 in Berlin, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, and the Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of the German Railways (DB AG), Hartmut Mehdorn, signed a Strategic Cooperation Agreement. The document envisages that DB AG will assist the Bulgarian Railways in the implementation of the necessary organisational, technical and operational reforms. As part of their cooperation, the two railway companies will exchange experience in the sphere of business management. The aim of this consultancy to be provided by German experts to their Bulgarian counterparts is the implementation of efficient reforms in Bulgarian State Railways EAD, which will transform the company into a commercially-oriented railway. The Strategic Cooperation Agreement between the two railways was signed during the international trade fair Innotrans 2006.

 

A pilot Ro-La train via Bulgaria

On 19th September, the pilot Ro-La train, operating along the route from Wels (Austria) to Halkali (Turkey), ran through Bulgaria. This is the first time that combined Ro-La services have been operated over such a long distance (1 979 km) with a journey time of only three days. The train operator is ÖKOMBI, and BDZ actively participated in the development of the train timetable and the technical, commercial and technological conditions for its operation. The Ro-La train composition included 20 specialised low-floor wagons. The promotional operation of the Ro-La train was officially launched on 21st September 2006 in Istanbul. The ceremony was attended by the Turkish Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, the Director General of TCDD, Suleyman Karaman, and the Director of Freight Services in BDZ EAD, Pencho Popov.

 

Railways get BGN20 million more from the Government

The Government has allocated an additional amount of BGN20 million from the yearly budget for the needs of the railways. A portion of this funding will cover the VAT of the nine diesel train-sets, which Siemens has delivered to BDZ, and which have been waiting for customs clearance because of the lack of finance. According to the Ministry of Transport, by 2020 a credit of BGN2.6 billion will be earmarked for the reconstruction of railway infrastructure; in 2007 this credit will amount to BGN200 million.

 

Varna-to-Sofia coaches derailed

On 29th September, at the exit switches of Vlado Trichkov station six coaches of the fast train No 2626 from Varna to Sofia derailed. No passengers or railway employees were hurt. Train traffic on the line section was temporarily halted and BDZ organised the transport of passengers by bus.

 

At a press conference on the occasion, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, stated that this accident is one more example of the grave situation in the railways. The restoration of the permanent way will cost over half a million leva. According to Minister Mutafchiev, the topmost problems of Bulgarian railways are the poor condition of the permanent way and the rolling stock, as any solution of these problems has been postponed for fifteen years. In his turn, the Deputy Director General of NRIC, Vesselin Kozhuharov, underlined that BGN120 million are necessary for the eradication of dangerous tracks. The Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, announced that the company now needs at least 600 more freight wagons, and in 2007 this number will grow to 2,000. Every day BDZ operates with 91 passenger coaches too few.

 

Siemens invests in a transformer production facility

In September, the Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev, and the Vice President of the German concern Siemens, Christian Urbanke, opened the new Siemens production facility in Botevgrad, which will produce components for high-voltage equipment and in which the company invested over BGN4 million. This production facility will produce and assemble parts for measuring transformers for a plant in France. This is the third Siemens facility of its kind worldwide. It is well-known that the company has made its presence felt in our country for over 150 years and has recently demonstrated a growing interest in railways (the delivery of Desiro train-sets, the joint venture for their maintenance in Varna, as well as involvement in the electrification and procurement of telecommunication equipment for Blagoevgrad-Kulata railway line).

 

Increased NRIC losses from theft

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the losses incurred by NRIC as a result of theft and other offences against signalling and telecommunication equipment, power supply systems and catenary line, rails, switches, fastening elements, etc. In 2004, the total number of thefts was 1 152, the losses from which amounted to BGN1,102,218, while in 2005 there were 987 thefts, causing losses of BGN1,068,379. In the first seven months of 2006, there were 940 thefts, the losses from which amount to BGN1,976,074. These thefts threaten the safety of train traffic; they can cause an accident and are an actual threat to the life of the passengers. The monthly losses incurred by NRIC amount to BGN200,000. In this connection, the company proposes that a number of measures should be taken, including the withdrawal of licences of scrap-metal dealers who breach the law, and the adoption of legislative changes, by virtue of which any offence against railway infrastructure should be treated as life-threatening.

 

A common “umbrella” is necessary for railway carriers

Talking to Darik Radio, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, stated that there should be some common “umbrella” for all railway carriers, including the private operators, and the infrastructure manager. He also announced that since the beginning of 2006, BDZ has transported 385 thousand passengers more than in the same period in 2005, i.e. there is a 2 % growth.

 

In an interview for the same radio station, the Deputy Director General of NRIC, Vesselin Kozhuharov, underlined that at least BGN90 million are necessary for the railway lines in order to improve the permanent way condition. According to him, the funding, which would guarantee a fully reliable and safe permanent way, should amount to BGN2.5 billion.

 

Hessen state interested in Bulgarian railway projects

On 10th October, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, met in Sofia with Dr. Alois Rhiel, Minister of Economy, Transport and Regional Development of the German state of Hessen. The two ministers discussed options for strengthening mutual collaboration and outlined new opportunities for cooperation in the transport sphere. According to Minister Rhiel, the cooperation with German partners for the construction and reconstruction of railway line sections in our country would be particularly advantageous. The two ministers consider that Germany can assist Bulgaria in the sphere of the use of European funds. Afterwards, Minister Rhiel was received by the Chairman of the National Assembly, Georgi Pirinski.

 

Meeting of the European transport ministers

The Transport Minister, Petar Mutafchiev, took part in the meeting of the EU Council of Transport Ministers, held on 12th October in Luxembourg. The participants discussed the EC mid-term review of the White Paper on transport, the conditions for sustainable development of the sector, as well as the progress of the GALILEO programme. Before the meeting, Minister Mutafchiev had talks in Brussels with the EU Commissioner for Transport, Jacques Barrot.

 

Discussion on freight services by rail

On 11th October, the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) organised a meeting between the largest Bulgarian freight customers and the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov. According to him the interests of BDZ and Bulgarian business fully coincide, and both parties suffer to an equal degree from the poor condition of the railway infrastructure. He announced that the company achieved a 5% growth of freight services in the first seven months of 2006, which is insufficient, though, in the context of the growth of industrial production volumes. He said that BDZ will need at least 1,500 new wagons in 2007. The participants in the meeting stated that the company will need at least BGN200 million for the rehabilitation of its main assets. Most of the participants consider that one of the mechanisms for the solution of this problem would be the restructuring of BDZ into a holding company, i.e. the splitting up of freight and passenger services. The meeting decided to establish a joint working group, which will elaborate the necessary urgent measures to be implemented in the railway sphere and will present them to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Transport, Finance and Economy.

 

The final tender out for Danube Bridge 2

On 2nd October, the final phase was launched of the tender procedure for design and construction works for the new combined (road and rail) bridge over the Danube at Vidin and Calafat. The tender procedure will take about a month-and-a-half and is conducted in accordance with the rules of the European Commission for a limited tender. The short-listed bidders are: a consortium of Bouygues (France), Transstroi Varna and Rizzani de Eccher (Italy); FCC (Spain); a consortium of Zublin (Germany) and Eiffel (France); as well as a consortium of VINCI (France), Glavbolgarstroi and Moststroi.


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