In Brief

Growth of railway transport

The 2004 trend for sustainable growth of railway transport also continued during the first quarter of 2005. Experts consider that such a revival of railway services is related to the reduction in prices due to greater volumes of transported freight. Restrictions to road transport in Western Europe and the introduction of new road access charges in Germany resulted in a customer shift to railways.

Last year BDZ EAD transported 4.89 million tons of freight and the projections for this year envisage volumes of 4.95 million tons. According to the company’s CEO, Nasko Tsanev, if there is a sufficient fleet of wagons, the growth could reach 8%. Statistics show that in 2004 there was a particular growth of transported volumes of construction and heat-insulation materials due to the general boom of construction works in the country, as well as the development of energy-efficient services. The 2004 economic growth of 5% and the larger volumes of Bulgarian export goods have also contributed to the growth of freight services by rail.

Ferry link between Varna and Port Kavkaz

In a year’s time, a new ferry link can be put into operation between the port of Varna and the Russian Port Kavkaz, as was announced in the beginning of May by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of transport and communications, Nikolay Vassilev, after his meeting with the General Consul of the Russian Federation in Varna, Aslan Djarimov. The Deputy Prime Minister also stated that he intends to discuss this matter with his Russian colleague, Igor Levitin at the annual meeting of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport at the end of May. The main problem is the insufficient depth of Port Kavkaz, which makes ferry operations impossible at the moment and necessitates additional dredging works. Currently, there is a direct ferry link from Varna only to the Ukrainian port of Ilichevsk. The new ferry line is in the interests of some of the Caucasus countries, in particular Armenia.

German Railways will provide consultancy to BDZ

The German railways (DB) will assist BDZ in the training of railway experts. The training contract was approved by the Board of directors of the company and will be in force by the end of the year. DB expressed its readiness to undertake the analysis of BDZ restructuring into a holding structure (a concept, initiated some time ago by the Chairman of the Parliamentary transport committee, Prof. Iordan Mirchev), but the Deputy Minister of transport, Anelia Krushkova, considers this issue as irrelevant at the moment, and says that it will be discussed after the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, BDZ are having preliminary talks with DB for a potential procurement of 19 second-hand business trains. These trains have run over 40 000 km and can operate at speeds of up to 160 km/h. The passengers will be offered on-board Internet and phone services.

Czech participation in Bulgarian Railway industry

The 19th May saw the official opening of the factory for the manufacture of concrete sleepers in the village of Ezerovo in Beloslav region. The Czech company ‘Industrial construction for railways’ (ZPSV) has invested over EUR3 million in the factory, which will produce sleepers for high-speed (130-200-km/h) railway lines. Annually, 120 000 sleepers will be produced. The annual turnover of the Czech investor amounts to about EUR 33 million. The Uhersky ostroh-based investor owns six factories making sleepers and 17 quarries in the Czech Republic. Its main customers are the Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Bulgarian railways and the company is planning to expand its markets in Croatia and Turkey. Meanwhile, at the presentation of Czech companies at the 24th Plovdiv Fair the Czech Ambassador, Petr Dokladal, announced that a company for the production of railway transport control boards will be opened in Sofia with Czech participation.

Ruse will make mini-locomotives for Germany

The Ruse-based company ‘Express Serviz’ is developing a new model for a small locomotive, which can be operated by remote control. The locomotive was requested by a German lathe manufacturer and is designed for indoor operations. After the prototype is approved in June, five machines will be produced per year. As was seen at Innotrans 2004 in Berlin ‘Express Serviz’ presented an improved, but slightly larger, model of a locomotive, for which it received a European patent. Three of these locomotives are already in operation in different factories. They are operated by remote control at a distance of up to 500 m. The locos have two engines, each of 52 kW, with hauling capacity of up to 1 500 tons. ‘Express Serviz’ are having negotiations with the BDZ for the provision of a site, where the manufacturer can extend his production processes.

The Danube Bridge - ready by 2008?

According to the national coordinator of the Stability Pact, Milen Keremedchiev, the second Danube bridge can be completed in 2008 if the European Commission announces in sufficiently short terms its choice from among the short-listed bidders for the assignment of bridge construction works. Among the bidders, approved by the Ministry of transport, are the German company Hochtief (in combination with a Spanish company), as well as the consortium between the German company Bilfinger and the Belgium company Besix. According to the already approved design, a single-track railway line will be laid on the bridge.

The European Conference of Ministers of Transport

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of transport and communications, Nikolay Vassilev, took part in the 89th session of the ECMT, opened in Moscow on 24th May. The ECMT was established in 1953 after the initiative of a group of Western European transport ministers. Today its members are 43 countries. Bulgaria became a full member in 1992.

During the Conference Minister Vassilev met the Russian Minister of Finance, Alexei Kudrin, the Chairman of the Russian Chamber for Commerce and Industry, Evgeni Primakov, the Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, the Chairman of the Unified Energy System, Anatoly Chubais, as well as his colleagues, the Russian Minister of Transport, Igor Levitin, and the Turkish Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim.

The participants in the session discussed priority transport links between Europe and Asia and the establishment of a common Eurasian transport infrastructure. According to Minister Vassilev, it would be a good idea to offer some of the Bulgarian railway lines for concessioning. He expressed concerns about the fact that 6 000 km of the national railway lines are in excessively poor condition, because no investment has been made in their maintenance for more than 20 years and stated that EUR2.4 billion would be necessary. The Minister also raised the question about the 700 wagons of BDZ (the value of which is EUR3.58 million), which disappeared after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

It is expected that Bulgaria will host the 91st session of the ECMT in 2007.

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