In Brief

New design for Sofia Central Station zone

During his visit to Sofia Central Station in the beginning of December, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, announced that a new design for the general outlook of the station zone will be developed. The project implementation will be assigned after a bidding procedure and will cost BGN15 million. The aim is to render the station zone compliant to European requirements – on other words, to provide the necessary communication links of the station with the public transport system, to streamline the passenger flows and ensure easier access to railway passengers (particularly to disabled persons) and to provide the necessary parking lots.

BRC launched its transport

In the beginning of December 2005, the Bulgarian Railway Company launched its railway services. The first train composition ran from Pirdop to Varna and included 14 tank wagons with sulphuric acid, hauled by a modernised Romanian electric locomotive of class 46. BRC is managed by the ex-Director General of BDZ, Vladimir Dountchev, and among its stock holders are “Grup Ferroviar Roman” SA, “Astarta 21”, “Transwagon”, “Traction”, “Freight Services -1” and “Agropolychim” Devnia.

The new train timetable entered into force

On 11th December 2005, the new train timetable entered into force and will be valid by December 2006. All trains, which have been running hitherto, continue functioning and 16 additional trains are included along the line sections where the new diesel trainsets will operate. Thus, the overall number of daily trains becomes 589, of which 24 are international, 15 are express trains, 72 are fast trains, 343 are suburban and 135 trains are regional. The timetable, transport scheme and operational periods of the trains are compliant with the volume and structure of the passenger flow.

Development of Bulgarian-Greek transport links

During his visit to Greece on 7th-8th December 2005, the Bulgarian transport minister, Petar Mutafchiev, and his Greek colleague Michalis Liapis signed a declaration on the development of transport links between the two countries. With this declaration they support the construction of a high-speed railway network, which will connect the main cities and the capitals of South-Eastern Europe. The two parties confirmed their common plans and terms for the improvement of infrastructure of the railway line along Corridor 4 by 2011, the construction of a highway Thessaloniki-Sofia-Vidin/Lom by 2013 and the development of the railway connection to the port of Lom.

During the visit of the Bulgarian delegation, among the members of which was the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov M.Eng.Sc., the railway company signed a contract with the Greek railways (OSE) for the leasing of locomotives, in compliance with which BDZ will provide OSE with up to four diesel and six shunting locomotives, which will operate along various routes in Northern and Central Greece. Bulgarian engine drivers will accompany the locomotives.

The High-Level Group – II has completed its assignment

In December 2005, the High Level Group – II, dealing with the connection of the Trans-European transport network with neighbouring countries and regions, completed its work. This Group was established by the European Commission at the end of 2004 and is presided over by Mrs Loyola de Palacio. The aim was to identify the main Trans-European axes to regions and countries which are neighbours to the EU, as well as to define the priority directions for their development. The activity of this group was in a way a continuation of the activity of the Van Miert Group, which dealt with the updating of the directions for development of the Trans-European transport network. In the list of priority projects, elaborated by this Group, is the modernisation of the railway line Vidin-Sofia-Koulata, the enhancement of navigation along the Danube and the construction of the Struma highway.

The High Level Group – II included representatives of 26 countries, neighbours to the EU, the 25 member countries plus Bulgaria and Romania, and three banks (EIB, EBRD and the WB). The Group validated five main trans-national axes, out of which via Bulgaria goes the South-Eastern main axis, connecting the EU with Turkey, Caucasus and the Caspian region, as well as with the Near East. The major multimodal links via Bulgaria are: Corridor 10, which connects Belgrade with Sofia and after that along Corridor 4 – Istanbul – TRACECA; Corridor 8 and the Rivers Danube and Sava. Among the main sea highways are those in the Black Sea, including the connections between the ports of Varna and Bourgas with other Black Sea ports. Among the short-term priority projects, proposed by the Group are the modernisation of the railway lines Istanbul-Bulgarian border and the Hungarian border-Belgrade-Bulgarian border, the construction of the missing railway link between Bulgaria and Macedonia and the modernisation of the highway from Skopje to the Bulgarian border. The first discussion on the report of the Group activity was held on 14th-15th December 2005 in Marrakech, Morocco.

Traffic along the Septemvri-Dobrinishte line has been restored

On 15th September 2005, traffic along the railway line between Septemvri and Dobrinishte in the section between Cherna mesta, Avramovo and Tsvetino was restored. Traffic was suspended in August due to flood damage. For the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure in this section were erected 50 metres of concrete support panelling, water drainage facilities were cleaned and further 150 metres of concrete support panelling were reinforced. Thirteen trains in both directions will operate daily along the line.

The electrified railway section between Dragoman and Kalotina was opened

On 18th December, the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria and Serbia & Montenegro, Sergei Stanishev and Voislav Kostunica opened the electrified railway section Dragoman-Kalotina West and on to the border which lies along Trans-European Corridor 10. The opening ceremony was attended by the Bulgarian transport minister, Petar Mutafchiev, and his Serbian colleague Velimir Ilich, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, and the Director General of NRIC, Dimitar Gaydarov. According to Minister Mutafchiev, along the newly opened section 20 passenger and 30 freight trains will operate daily, the journey times will be reduced by 20% and transport costs will be cut to a third of present rates. In his turn, Minister Ilich promised that the Serbian section near Dimitrovgrad will be electrified in 2006.

The electrification of the railway section Dragoman-Kalotina West to the border is the last phase of the project “Electrification of the railway line Voluyak-Kalotina West-border-Dimitrovgrad JZ”, the implementation of which started in 2004. The overall length of the electrified section is 19.33 kilometres. The investor for this project is NRIC.

Railways will be certified in compliance with ISO

By order of the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, a working group has been established which will prepare the companies within the ministry for certification in compliance with BSS (Bulgarian State Standard) EN ISO 9001: 2000 and BSS EN ISO 1401. The group will begin its work in January 2006. Among the companies pending certification are BDZ EAD and NRIC. Certification is a well-established practice in the common European market and its introduction will improve internal efficiency and the control over production and services and will reduce the risks and improve management. It will contribute to the efficient implementation of regulatory requirements, make it possible for the holders of the certificate to operate on the international market where customers demand in advance to check the possession of such a certificate and will enhance the added value of the companies themselves.

Concession for the railway line Septemvri-Dobrinishte?

At the end of December 2005, the mayors of towns along the narrow-gauge railway line Septemvri-Dobrinishte submitted a letter to the Ministry of Transport, in which they proposed to take the line under concession and organise tourist-attraction journeys along it. The mayors have already held talks with German and British travel agencies on the operation of such journeys along the line, which is 119 kilometres long and goes via exceedingly picturesque places, located in three mountains – Rila, Pirin and the Rhodopes.

In 2006, BDZ plan to put one of the new Siemens Desiro train-sets into trial operation between Plovdiv and Pazardjik on an hourly basis. The passenger fare will be 30% lower than the bus ticket for the same route.

The new commercial policy of BDZ

On 30th December in Plovdiv, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, presented the new commercial policy of the company, which will be based upon three main principles – market orientation, respect for the customers and the financial benefits for the company. To this end, in 2006 the company will launch the introduction of zonal pricing in the region of Plovdiv after such pricing was introduced for trains along two line sections in the region of Sofia. With a view to the enhancement of passenger comfort, BDZ will procure 30 new sleeping-cars and will commission further four Desiros (currently, there are 13 such trainsets in the country). In 2006, the company hopes to conclude contracts for 500,000 more tons of cargo than in 2005. BDZ plan to procure a new type of freight wagon, which can be handled easily and are more resistant to wear-and-tear at loading and unloading.

The company starts its activity this year with a voted budget deficit of BGN21 million and in order to compensate for this deficit it will try to accumulate revenue from the sales of non-operational surplus assets – mainly land lots and buildings.

Transport infrastructure in 2006-2015

At the discussion on “Concept for the development of the transport infrastructure in the period 2006-2015”, presented by the Bulgarian economic chamber, the Bulgarian entrepreneurs insisted on dropping VAT on the cost of the construction of railway lines, tunnels, roads, port terminals and other concession objects which are public-state property. This issue was presented to the Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and the ministers Petar Mutafchiev, Asen Gagauzov, Plamen Oresharski and Rumen Ovcharov.

Some transport laws, including the Railway Transport Act, call for amendments, as suggested by Kiril Ermenkov, Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council. In reply, Minister Mutafchiev announced that the Railway Transport Act will be discussed by the Council of Ministers by this summer. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Transport Committee, Iordan Mirchev, underlined the necessity of long-term definition of the parameters of national transport policy.

The most urgent steps are the introduction of complete technological interoperability as regards operations along the Trans-European transport network. Another measure is the introduction of technical interoperability as regards train driving and control, which will break the monopoly and boost the establishment of joint ventures in the sector.

Just as necessary is the rapid introduction of intelligent management, control and, above all, safety systems in transport. The key to this end is to join Galileo GPRS. BDZ is already prepared to join its analogue Marco Polo. The Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev, announced that at the end of last year a Council was established for the coordination and control over the implementation of infrastructure projects, which is directly responsible to the Government. This will facilitate the assessment of funding options for each priority.

.:: Home ::.