Freight railway services generate profit
At a press conference at the beginning of March, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, announced that the Freight Service Division is able to generate sufficient revenue from its business to cover its own needs and even generate some profit, which would enable it to make investments. According to him, the Traction Rolling Stock (Locomotive) Division will probably generate no profit and no loss either, i.e. revenue will equal expenditure. He considered that resolute intervention on the part of the State will be necessary to ensure the existence of the Passenger Service Division as a separate enterprise. Oleg Petkov announced as well that BDZ EAD has concluded a contract with a Romanian private railway operator, which will provide services for Bulgarian passengers on Romanian territory. In turn, BDZ will provide services for the customers of its Romanian partner on Bulgarian territory.
Shortage of personnel in the railway industry
According to the Executive Director (and main share-holder) of Transvagon Holding, Georgi Popescu, the company has been working for a number of years with less than its full capacity due to the shortage of qualified personnel. Currently, the workshop employs 500 people, the production output reaches 600 new wagons per year and the main market is Germany (450 wagons). According to Popescu, approximately 4 000 BDZ wagons need overhauling, while the total wagon needs in the country amount to 14-15 thousand wagons.
NRIC plans to form two daughter companies
According to the Director General of NRIC, Anton Ginev, the company is planning to establish two daughter companies – for telecommunications and energy. This can be accomplished only if the relevant legislative changes are adopted.
Baku-Kars line connects Azerbaijan and Bulgaria
According to the Ambassador of Azerbaijan in our country, Elman Zeinalov, the construction of the railway line Baku-Tbilisi-Ahalkalaki-Kars will contribute to the development of Azerbaijani-Bulgarian relations. He pointed out that this line will help increase the exchange of goods between the two countries and will provide Azerbaijan with better access to the EU and the TRACECA transport corridor.
Timetable changes for some trains
With a view to the improvement of passenger services, BDZ EAD has extended the route of regional train No 20133, which, as of 10th March, operates between Vratsa and Pleven, thus providing commuting services to customers from more stations. For technological reasons there are minimum changes in the timetable of regional train No 70101 (Mezdra-Vidin), which will depart from Mezdra four minutes earlier.
Marketing studies of BDZ EAD show that in some regional trains there only are a minimum number of passengers, who take only 1% of the seating capacity of the train, i.e. the operation of these trains is economically inefficient. For this reason, the route of two regional trains, running between Mezdra and Gorna Oryahovitsa, has been shortened and they will run only between Cherven Briag and Gorna Oryahovitsa. The small passenger flow makes it necessary to cancel six regional trains in the sections Levski-Svishtov, Levski-Troyan and Vratsa-Mezdra.
Business sector demands measures for rehabilitation of the railways
According to the representatives of the Bulgarian business sector from BIA, the Branch Chamber for Ferrous and Non-ferrous Metallurgy, the Bulgarian Mine and Geology Chamber, the National Transport Chamber and the Branch Chamber of Chemical Industry, urgent measures need to be adopted for the improvement of the railway status. These should include: revision of the current ordinances and regulatory acts of the Ministry of Transport with a view to the speedy elaboration of proposals to ease administrative procedures in the decision-making process, and the undertaking of urgent actions for the acceleration of wagon overhaul in the context of the overall improvement of the freight-wagon fleet; the undertaking of urgent administrative measures for the completion of the restructuring process and the clear outlining of the core business of the new divisions of BDZ EAD; holding a meeting with the Minister of Transport to discuss the involvement of the State in the resolution of issues in freight rail services; overcoming the current delays and speedy utilisation of budget means for the procurement of new wagons and the overhaul of available wagons.
Krustets station flooded
Heavy rainfall on 23rd March flooded Krustets station (in Triavna municipality), located on the line section between Dubovo and Tsareva livada. The water level above the railway lines reached 40 cm which made it necessary to cancel train traffic for a brief period.
Minister Petar Mutafchiev receives Minister Ervin Huber
On 14th March, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, received the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology, Erwin Huber. The two Ministers discussed the current conditions and priority projects in the sphere of road and rail infrastructures, as well as the various forms of public-private partnership. They reviewed with particular attention the issues concerning the expansion of the cross-border transport network and the Trans-European Transport Corridors X, IV and VIII. They pointed out that an example of successful cooperation is the fact that the experience from Rail Expo in Munich was implemented at the organisation of the exhibition and scientific conference for transport and logistics in February this year. Minister Huber invited Minister Mutafchiev to visit Bavaria.
Bond credits to rehabilitate BDZ
According to the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, in spite of the doubling of budget support for the reconstruction of the railway network to its parameters of 1988, another BGN5 billion will be necessary. This is the reason why the Ministry has decided that the railways should draw a State-guaranteed credit of BGN70 million, which should be approved by the European commission as admissible state support for the railways. It is expected that the deal will take place in the current year.
In parallel, within the railway rehabilitation programme it is envisaged that BDZ will draw a bond credit amounting to BGN170-200 million. The aim is to cover some of the outstanding liabilities of the company and to allocate sufficient funds for the overhaul of freight wagons and passenger coaches. The Board of Directors of BDZ has taken the decision for the bond credit of BGN40 million, which guarantees that the utilisation of these funds will get started within three months.
Infrastructure projects presented at forum
The conference “Infrastructure projects in Bulgaria in 2007 – current condition and prospects”, organised by the Foundation for Local Government Reform and the newspapers “Dnevnik” and “Stroitelstvo/Gradat”, was held on 14th-15th March in the Sheraton Hotel and Inter Expo Centre in Sofia. The Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Assen Gagauzov, took part in the conference, as well as the Deputy Minister of Transport, Vessela Gospodinova, who presented to the audience the Sector operational programme “Transport 2007-2013”. Within one of the conference panels – “Infrastructure objects of national significance, funded by the Cohesion Fund and Pre-Accession Funds” – the participants discussed the “Reconstruction of Plovdiv-Svilengrad railway line”, “Intermodal terminal at Poduene Marshalling Yard” and “Danube Bridge 2” projects. Among the speakers were Neli Yordanova, Director of “Programme and project coordination” in the Ministry of Transport, and Petar Dyakov, Director of “International Project Management” in NRIC.
Bidder short-list for Plovdiv-Bourgas railway line approved
On 14th March, the short-list of bidders for the project “Technical assistance for rehabilitation of railway infrastructure in sections of Plovdiv-Bourgas line” was approved. The short-listed bidders are: the consortium of ILF Consulting Engineers, IBERINSA, INECO, Transsystem Ltd. and Geotechnoengineering Ltd.; Mott MacDonald Ltd.; the consortium of OBERMEYER Planen+Beraten GmbH, SCETAUROUTE, SEMALY and BEOM; the consortium of Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd., ST “TRAPS-Toma Yotsov” and Transgeo Ltd.; Poyry Infra GmbH and the consortium of SUDOP PRAHA a.s. and Trans El Engineering S.P.
The deadline for submission of bids is 14th May and the scope of technical assistance includes: conduction of a study to assess the needs of railway infrastructure renovation and a review of existing feasibility studies; elaboration of technical projects for rehabilitation of those line sections, which are considered as priority, and improvement of signalling and telecommunications equipment; preparation of tender documentation for the future contracts for construction works, services and procurement. The assignment should be accomplished within 12 months.
Meetings with railway personnel in Bourgas and Varna
On 17th March, the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, and the Director General of NRIC, Anton Ginev, visited Bourgas and met representatives of the railway personnel in the Bourgas region to discuss local issues. The meeting was attended by deputies and representatives of the trade unions as well.
On 19th March, the Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev visited the Ferry complex in Varna, after which he met the personnel of Varna Locomotive Depot. The meetings were also attended by the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Oleg Petkov, and the Director General of NRIC, Anton Ginev. According to Minister Mutafchiev, Bulgarian railways are in an extremely difficult situation and can hardly endure one more failure in the reform process. He considers that in order to retain professionals in the railway system it is necessary to repeal the state regulation for the existing salary ranges and to introduce a differentiated increase of the current salaries. It is expected that the differentiated salary payment will be introduced in NRIC as of 1st April and in BDZ EAD as of 1st June. The actual increase over the basic salary will depend upon individual performance, working history, education, etc. and will amount between 4 and 20%.
Varna Ferry Complex needs wagons
According to the Director of Varna Ferry Complex, Vesselin Marinov, the current freight turnover of the complex is only 200 000 tons per year, while 20 years ago it had reached 3.5 million tons. In order to restore at least the half of this turnover the Ferry Complex must commission 1 200 bogies (while currently it operates with 396), procure several dozen wagons from the Ukraine and invest BGN450 000 for the overhaul of the lifting transit bridge.
Track repair works between Yabalkovo and Krum
Repair works to the track between Yabalkovo station and Krum halt, which is a section on the Plovdiv-Svilengrad line, started on 5th March. These repair works are as per the plans of NRCI to replace the broken rib-like pads and tighten the fittings. The facility of the track control point in Krum village, located near Dimitrovgrad, is being cleaned with mechanical equipment.
Meeting of EU Ministers of Transport
The Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, took part in the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Transport, Telecommunications and Energy in the EU, held in Brussels. Under discussion were the problems of intermodal transport. The German Presidency of the Council presented a report on the contribution of the transport sector to the Lisbon Strategy in the sphere of economic development and ecology. In Brussels Minister Mutafchiev signed an Administrative Agreement for cooperation between the agencies, executing control over passenger and freight services of 12 EU member-countries (among them are Germany, France, Great Britain, Romania, Poland, Austria, Bulgaria, etc.) He supported the EC position on the development of “Galileo” satellite positioning system. As regards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, Minister Mutafchiev underlined the need for collective and coordinated efforts for the reduction of impact of transport over climate change. The Minister held a number of bilateral meetings with his counterparts and raised the issue of charges, collected by the Romanian side of the Oryahovo-Beket ferry link, with the Secretary of State Constantin Dascalu and was assured that the problem will be solved promptly.
Results from the reform will be clear in 2008
According to the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, the results of the current on-going reforms in the railway sector will be felt tangibly in 2008. He underlined the fact that the State will undertake its commitments for passenger railway services after the separate division of BDZ EAD, responsible for these services, clearly identifies the costs thereof. This will help stabilise rail passenger transport, despite the poor condition of rolling stock.
BDZ to commission ES 64U2
At the beginning of April, the Siemens locomotive ES 64U2 will be commissioned along the Sofia-Bourgas line. It is a well-known fact that the locomotive was given free of charge to BDZ EAD by the manufacturer to be operated over the course of one year and under the condition that it will not exceed 150 thousand kilometres altogether. The great delay in its commissioning is due to unclear provisions as to the insurance of the locomotive, which is among the latest Siemens-built machines.