The minister of transport, Petar Mutafchiev: State participation in railway development will expand


The co-publisher of the magazine, Tsvetina Rouseva, talked to Minister Petar Mutafchiev about key issues in the new transport strategy of Bulgaria, problems and perspectives for the development of Bulgarian railways in the eve of our country’s accession to the EU


According to Minister Mutafchiev, by end-April this year the draft transport strategy of the country will be accomplished. With a view to the successful conclusion of the restructuring reform in the sector, it is envisaged that the major priority till end-2006 will be the elaboration of amendments and additions to the Railway Transport Act and the related regulatory documents, thus some issues, which call for urgent changes, will be resolved. The amendments and additions will cover issues related to: full harmonisation with European legislation, the terms and procedures for the concessioning of railway infrastructure projects; the mechanism for infrastructure charging in concessioned railway sections; the establishment of preconditions and the promotion of public-private partnership in railway transport; the regulation of the ratio between public and private state ownership over NRIC-managed railway infrastructure; the ensuring of permit regime for the activities related to the implementation of interoperability with the European railway transport system; extension of rights of the regulatory body to coordinate and regulate the technological interaction between the Infrastructure Manager, the concessionaires and the operators; the establishment of funds for railway infrastructure development and ensuring the necessary preconditions for the implementation of modern safety management systems. In future, it is envisaged that state participation in railway transport development will expand.

In geo-strategic terms, the favourable geographic location of Bulgaria provides great opportunities for its establishment as a transport bridge between countries from Western and Central Europe, the Near East, Western and Central Asia, as well as along the North-South axis. Major priorities are the line sections Vidin-Sofia-Koulata (Corridor IV) and the Danube (Corridor VII), which are the most important axes for the development of the Pan-European transport network. The second most important priorities are Branch C of Corridor X, which connects Belgrade-Nish and Sofia and from there onwards along the route of Corridor IV: Plovdiv-Svilengrad-Istanbul-TRACECA; Corridor VIII and the sea highways – in other words the links of Bourgas and Varna ports to the ports of the Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Turkey. As a third priority, comes the Balkan section of Corridor IX (Bucharest-Rousse-Dimitrovgrad-Alexandroupolis). The last but not least priority are the additional links to the TINA network: the railway lines Mezdra-Pleven-Gorna Oryahovitsa and Rousse-Kaspichan-Sindel- (Varna) and the road links Botevgrad-Pleven-Byala and Svilengrad-Bourgas. A financial Memorandum under ISPA was signed for the provision of technical assistance for the modernisation of the Vidin-Sofia railway line. A memorandum for the funding of the Sofia-Plovdiv line section is being drafted. It is proposed that the preparation of the project for the enhancement of navigation along the Danube be funded under JASPERS, which is the new instrument for technical assistance of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The overall condition of the national railway infrastructure is not good. The hitherto conducted policy on railway infrastructure aimed at the renovation and/or reconstruction of some sections, which does not change significantly the traffic capacity of the Bulgarian railways. On the other hand, the perpetual lack of financial means for the reconstruction of track and facilities in the last ten years has resulted in over-extension of the periods between reconstruction works and in consequence thereof to a reduction of admissible speeds, critical operational conditions and limitations of the railway network capacity.

As regards the priority infrastructure projects, it should be pointed out that two of them are already being implemented: the construction of the second bridge over the Danube at Vidin-Calafat (total price USD226 million, commissioning date – 2009) and the reconstruction and electrification of the Plovdiv-Svilengrad railway line (total price EUR345.2 million, commissioning date – 2010). There are plans for: the modernisation of the railway lines Vidin-Sofia, Sofia-Plovdiv, Sofia-Pernik-Radomir, Sofia-Dragoman, Rousse-Gorna Oryahovitsa, Rousse-Varna, Gorna Oryahovitsa-Kaspichan, Sofia-Karlovo-Bourgas and Radomir-Gueshevo, as well as the electrification and reconstruction of the line sections Parvomai-Yabalkovo and Plovdiv-Bourgas. For the period till 2010, the Operational programme for the transport sector envisages the allocation of funding under the European cohesion and regional development structural funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 668 km of track and the construction of 36 km of new track for the total amount of EUR1,160 million. Funding from the state budget and other financial sources will be allocated.

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