In Brief

 

Pomorie-Bourgas line to be closed?

The Municipality of Borgas is waiting for the written position of the Ministry of Transport on the proposal for the closure of the Pomorie-Bourgas railway line. According to the Municipality, the line is not cost-effective and is in fact a barrier to the development of the zone through which it laid into a resort area. The owner of the Bourgas-based “Transvagon” workshop, George Popescu, also voiced his support for the closure of this line.

 

BDZ EAD and NRIC to sell immovable assets

BDZ EAD intends to sell 11 of its immovable assets for at least BGN15 million, while NRIC plans to sell 19 such assets for about BGN80 million. The sale revenues will be allocated to covering BDZ’s debts to the NEC, the overhaul of wagons and improvements in the railway infrastructure.

 

Land lots along PlovdivSvilengrad line to be appropriated

The reconstruction and electrification of the Plovdiv-Svilengrad line will affect over 3 000 privately-owned land lots in the vicinity. During a meeting between NRIC experts and immovable asset experts from the municipalities of Svilengrad, Harmanli, Dimitrovgrad, Haskovo, Simeonovgrad and Liubimets it was decided that the procedure of land appropriation should be accomplished as soon as possible.

 

Rousse railway unit to be a separate structure within NRIC

The Board of Directors of NRIC decided to restore the status of the Rousse railway unit as a separate structure within the company. The railway lines in the area are over 140 km long; there are 19 stations, 151 station tracks, 36 platforms and 16 ramps. Rousse station is of key strategic importance for the implementation of combined services along international transport corridors VII and IX.

 

Minister Mutafchiev meets Minister Tiefensee

On 10th December, the Transport Minister, Petar Mutafchiev, met in Sofia the German Federal Minister of Transport, Construction and Urban Development, Wolfgang Tiefensee, who presented the priorities of the German EU Presidency as of 1st of January 2007. Minister Tiefensee underlined the will of the EU to develop railway transport, the volume of which is ever-growing, and to establish a common, harmonised, European transport space. According to him, the main focus will be put upon transport safety and security, and in June 2007, Germany will initiate the holding of a special forum dedicated to these issues. During the meeting the two ministers paid particular attention to the collaboration between Bulgarian and German railways in the sphere of passenger services and the possible concrete aid for the final integration of our railways into the European railway system.

 

Bulgarian-Iranian transport cooperation

At the beginning of December 2006, the Minister of Transport, Peter Mutafchiev, received the Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Saeed Jalili. During the talks they discussed aspects of the bilateral cooperation in the sphere of transport and Minister Mutafchiev proposed that the first meeting of the Common Bulgarian-Iranian Transport Committee be held in the beginning of 2007 – a proposal which was agreed to by the Iranian party.

 

Government reduces infrastructure charges

The licenced railway operators will pay lower charges for access to the national railway infrastructure. The government adopted this decision in order to facilitate BDZ financially and to promote the growth of freight services by rail. The path reservation charges for the 1st category railway lines were reduced to 26 stotinki per train-kilometre in comparison with the former charge of 38 stotinki, while for 2nd category lines these charges were cut down from 19 to 13 stotinki. The infrastructure usage charge has also been reduced from 0.224 stotinki to 0.16 stotinki per gross ton-kilometre.

 

EA under ISPA gets accreditation

The Directorate “Coordination of Programmes and Projects”, which is the Executive Agency under the ISPA Programme in the Ministry of Transport, got accreditation for an expanded, decentralised system for project management. Thus, the Transport Ministry will undertake the preliminary control functions, which have been hitherto executed by the Delegation of the European Commission in our country. The activity range will include the validation of Call for Bids and tender dossiers, the composition of bid-evaluation committees and evaluation reports, as well as of contract dossiers for the conclusion of contracts. On 20th December, the directorate opened eight new bidding procedures, among which are the Technical aid for the rehabilitation of railway infrastructure in line sections along the route Plovdiv-Bourgas (the deadline for submission of bids is 5th February 2007), Technical aid for the rehabilitation of railway infrastructure in line sections along the route Mezdra-Gorna Oryahovitsa (the deadline for submission of bids is 21st January 2007), Construction and supervision of adjacent infrastructure to the bridge over the Danube at Vidin-Kalafat (the deadlines are the 21st May and 19th February 2007, respectively), Works related to the establishment of signalling, telecommunication and SCADA systems along the Plovdiv-Svilengrad railway line (11th April 2007) and the Construction of permanent way and the electrification of Phase II: Parvomai-Svilengrad-Turkish/Greek border (25th April 2007).

 

Honoured Customer of BDZ EAD” award for 2006

On 21st December, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, presented the award <Honoured Customer of BDZ EAD> to Zoya Tsoneva, a teacher from Pernik. The award is constituted by the Board of Directors of the company and is given to the passenger who has accumulated the greatest number of bonus points under the Bonus Programme for company customers. After the ceremony, the Executive Director of BDZ gave a press conference, at which he announced that the company has proposed to the Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev that, as of 2007, the fines for passengers without tickets, as well as passenger fares in suburban areas, should be increased. According to Petkov, the losses incurred by BDZ EAD in 2006 amount to BGN34 million (i.e. BGN8 million less than in 2005). In 2006, the company transported 21.25 million tons of freight (growth of +4.7%), thus increasing its revenues by almost BGN5 million. Further to that, the company transported 35 million passengers,one million more than in 2005. At the same time, the company invested BGN31.4 million in overhaul and modernisation works. The plans of BDZ for 2007 envisage the overhaul and modernisation of 63 locomotives for BGN36.7 million. Furthermore, 1 850 freight wagons and 693 passenger coaches will be overhauled and the costs thereof will amount to BGN68 million.

 

Cabinet allocates BGN10.2 million more to BDZ

In the beginning of December, the Council of Ministers validated an amendment to a previous act, according to which BDZ EAD will be allocated further BGN10.2 million to cover losses incurred by passenger services. The amount will be taken from the budget surplus.

 

Gorna Oryahovitsa station will be rebuilt

The plans of Gorna Oryahovitsa municipality for 2007 include a project for a major overhaul and reconstruction of the railway station in the town, as well as a project for the reconstruction and construction works of the station square.

 

Russian coaches for Sofia Underground

In December, the Russian company “Transmashholding” completed the implementation of the contract for the procurement of six three-coach trainsets for the Sofia Underground. The contract between “Transmashholding” and the Bulgarian “Metropoliten” EAD was concluded in October 2004.

 

Bulgarian transport minister visits Macedonia

In December, the Minister of Transport, Peter Mutafchiev, visited Macedonia and met his Macedonian counterpart Mile Janakieski. The two ministers discussed joint actions concerning the construction of the road infrastructure of Corridor VIII, the opening up of three new border control points, the completion of the railway line between the two countries, the opening up of an airline service and the resolving of issues related to the debt of the Macedonian railways to BDZ. They agreed upon the establishment of four working parties, which shall design joint projects in the sphere of Euro-integration, road infrastructure and rail and air transport services. Later, Minister Mutafchiev was received by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski.

 

Passenger bridge over the railway lines in Shoumen

In 2007 in Shoumen the construction will begin of a new, modern bridge which will connect the two industrial zones in the town. The bridge will be constructed over the railway lines. Funding has been provided by the Ministry of Transport and the bridge design was prepared by a Varna-based company. The design has been approved by the expert committee of Shoumen municipality.

 

Urban railway to connect Elin Pelin and Pernik?

According to the Deputy Mayor responsible for transport, Velizar Stoilov, Sofia Municipality is considering the possibility of constructing and urban railway to connect Elin Pelin and Pernik via Sofia. The tracks will be laid upon the existing railway bed. In 2007, construction of the line section between Novi Iskar and Obelya will begin. The municipality has decided upon the construction of a tramway connection between the Krasna polyana and Ovcha kupel II residential areas. In 2007, 19 new tramcars, which will be procured from the Czech Republic, will begin running on Sofia’s streets.

 

Belene Nuclear Power Plant will promote railway transport

According to the Governor of Belene Nuclear Power Plant, eng. Vasil Bandov, the construction of the new nuclear power plant will provide employment to five thousand people, which in itself will bring forth the need for the restoration of passenger services on the line section between Belene and Oresh. Currently, this line is operated for freight services only.

 

Railways need State support

According to the Transport Minister, Petar Mutafchiev, in spite of the substantial effort for the rehabilitation of BDZ, the company’s situation continues to be grave. Its improvement will require a much more serious support on the part of the State and this support should follow some clear-cut principles. The Minister pointed out that the losses incurred by the national railway carrier are not exceedingly large but its degree of indebtedness is significant. He considers that the restructuring of BDZ EAD and NRIC will help the two companies overcome their current problems.

 

Bids for the infrastructure of Danube Bridge 2

21st May 2007 is the deadline for the submission of bids for the construction and supervision works under the bidding procedure for the railway infrastructure adjacent to Danube Bridge 2. The project includes the construction of 15 km of railway tracks, lighting system, remote control, signalling and communication systems, an international freight yard, as well the rehabilitation of the passenger railway station in Vidin. It is also envisaged to construct 8 km of double railway track, four stations for train dispatching and eight bridges. The bidding procedure will be conducted at two stages.

 

Transvagon will apply for a railway operator licence?

According to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Transvagon Commerce Holding” AD - Bourgas, George Popescu, there is much hope that the company will be licensed as a private railway operator. Hitherto, such licences have been given to Bulmarket and the Bulgarian Railway Company. Popescu noted that currently “Transvagon” produces wagons only for export abroad, mainly for Romania and Germany.

 

BRC to buy new rolling stock

According to the Executive Director of the Bulgarian Railway Company (BRC), Vladimir Dountchev, in 2007 the company will invest EUR10 million in the procurement of new locomotives and wagons. Last year it invested EUR3 million in the procurement of eight Romanian and three British electric locomotives, which will be delivered at the beginning of this year. BRC, which was licensed as a private railway operator in 2005, transported 500 000 tons of cargo last year and is planning to take a significant share from the railway traffic between Western Europe and the Near East.

 

EUR55 million for border control points

In January 2007, the Government decided that EUR54.5 million will be invested in the modernisation of the border control points at the borders with Serbia, Turkey, Macedonia and those located along the Black Sea coast. Of this amount, EUR40.9 million is a credit from the World Bank. The Government also approved the project for financial agreement under the EU PHARE programme, through which our country will receive a grant of EUR140.5 million, as well as the financial memorandum under the ISPA programme for the allocation of EUR12.2 million for projects in the sphere of railway transport and roads.

 

EUR320 million for the Vidin-Sofia railway line

According to the Minister of Finance, Plamen Oresharski, our country plans to acquire EUR6.853 billion from the EU structure and Cohesion funds in the course of the next seven years. Of this amount, EUR1.624 billion will be allocated for projects in the transport sphere. Within the National strategic reference framework it is envisaged to implement projects in the railway sector as well. In particular, EUR320 million will be invested in the modernisation and reconstruction of the Vidin-Sofia railway line, which is part of the Trans-European Corridor IV.

 

119 years of SE “TCR”

On 14th February 2007, the State-owned enterprise “Transport Construction and Reconstruction” celebrated the 119th anniversary of the establishment of the first military railway enterprise and the 5th anniversary of the transformation of the former Construction Work Military Forces into SE “TCR”. Today the company is staffed with highly-qualified engineers, technical experts and workers and is equipped with highly productive and modern machines to guarantee high quality and security levels in railway and road construction and other construction and assembly works.

 

Bids for consultancy services

It is expected that the Ministry of Transport will open a Call for Bids for the selection of a consultant on the concessioning of Sofia and Plovdiv railways stations. The state requirement to the bidders will be to develop business activities related to parcel, luggage and ticketing services. The Transport Ministry has had talks with Sofia Municipality on the potential inclusion of the area in front of the railway station in the concession. It is a well-known fact that the Government Strategy for Infrastructure Development by 2015 envisages that the concessionaire of Sofia Central Station shall invest BGN20 million and pay BGN1.5 million per year, while the investment in Plovdiv station will amount to BGN15 million.

 

Land appropriation procedures, related to Danube Bridge 2

According to the Ministry of Transport, the inadequate actions of Vidin Municipality related to the alienation of land lots upon which construction works of Danube Bridge 2 should commence, put at risk the overall implementation of this project of key national importance. The municipal authorities have sold to third parties some land lots due to be appropriated, thus breaching the provisions of the Territory Regulation Law. Furthermore, the Municipality has taken the liberty of changing the status of some land lots by splitting up a land lot due to be appropriated, into several new plots.

 

BDZ EAD and NRIC enhance service quality

Following an order of the Transport Minister, Petar Mutafchiev, BDZ EAD and NRIC have elaborated programmes for regular check-ups of service quality, cleaning the areas around administrative buildings, railway stations and adjacent zones and improvement of train operation speeds.

 

In this context, BDZ has initiated mass check-ups of passenger services in the regions of Sofia, Plovdiv and Gorna Oryahovitsa.

 

The company has designed a programme for regular service quality checks and has begun to develop projects for interior equipment and information services in the different categories of trains.

 

In its turn, NRIC has elaborated a time-schedule for the cleaning of the areas around administrative buildings, railway stations and adjacent zones. The company has taken measures for the improvement of train operation speeds and better synchronisation with the operational dispatching services in BDZ. 

 

Discussion on “Transport 2007-2008”

On 22nd January, the Ministry of Transport hosted a working meeting on the operational programme “Transport 2007-2008” and the possible involvement of private companies in its implementation. The meeting was jointly organised by the Ministry of Transport and the Bulgarian Industrial Association. Participants in the meeting considered the Government’s investment programme in the sphere of road and rail infrastructure, as well as the possible ways for an active involvement of Bulgarian companies in the implementation of projects within this programme. According to Minister Mutafchiev, the “Transport” programme will be submitted for discussion in the Council of Ministers by the end of February.

 

2007 – the year of railway reforms

On 24th January, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, held a special press-conference to present the annual report of the ministry for 2006 and announced that 2007 will be the year of reforms in railway transport. He said that the main efforts will be directed to the improvement of service quality in order to comply with EU requirements and make railways competitive in the context of a pending liberalisation of railway transport. Among the tasks successfully accomplished by BDZ, the minister highlighted the initiated development of a passenger information and reservation system for domestic train services, the commissioning of all 25 diesel Desiros, improvements in services for disabled passengers and the adoption of a new organisational and management structure. As yet, salary and wage levels have remained unchanged, service quality has not been sufficiently enhanced and the financial rehabilitation of BDZ has not been accomplished. As regards NRIC, the minister pointed out as achievements the adoption of a new organisation and management structure, the accelerated implementation of Pre-Cohesion funds projects, the reconstruction of facilities which were damaged by the floods, and the opening of common border stations with Turkey and Serbia. Still, the unfulfilled tasks concern the increase of salaries and wages and the failure of the state to ensure adequate state compensation to cover the reduced infrastructure access charges, which in itself can pose significant difficulties for the maintenance and operation of railway infrastructure.

 

Changes in train timetables

As of 25th January 2007, Bulgarian State Railways EAD introduced some changes in its train timetable, which aim to improve passenger transport services. These changes affect seven fast trains, which will stop additionally at Elin Pelin station. These are: fast train 8611 (Sofia-Varna/Bourgas); fast train 8614 (Varna-Sofia); fast train  8615 (Sofia-Bourgas); fast train 1620 (Plovdiv-Sofia); fast train 1621 (Sofia-Plovdiv); fast train 1622 (Plovdiv-Sofia) and fast train 1651 (Sofia-Dimitrovgrad).

 

European licences for Bulgarian rail operators

The three Bulgarian railway operators - BDZ EAD, BRC S.A. and Bulmarket Ltd. - received European licences for the performance of railway services. These licences were re-issued to the three companies by the Transport Minister, Petar Mutafchiev.


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