Christmas address of the Executive Director of BDZ EAD
On the eve of the Christmas and New Year holidays I extend to the workers and staff in “Bulgarian State Railways” EAD, as well as to all our customers, wishes for health, happiness, confidence and well-being throughout 2009! I would particularly like to thank the people in all divisions and structures of the company for the professionalism, courage and responsibility, which they put into their work in the course of the current year!
The year of the Bulgarian railway anniversary was a year of challenges. We had grave accidents, but managed to initiate the long and difficult process of the rebuilding of customer trust. In the last months we undertook a series of measures to ensure transport safety, but a lot of effort should be further invested in this direction.
The safety of railway services is closely linked to the urgent need for the modernisation and renewal of rolling stock. In 2008, we put into operation 25 new “Desiro” EMUs, which already serve 130 trains in the regions of Sofia and Plovdiv. At the same time, though, we face extremely serious problems with the outdated and insufficient coach, wagon and locomotive fleet.
In recent months we have acutely felt the impact of the aggravated situation with one of our largest customers – Kremikovtsi Metallurgical Works – as well as the consequences from the global economic crisis. The drastic drop in transported freight volumes is a fact. Furthermore, we encounter the tangible competition of the new private railway operators.
“Bulgarian State Railways” EAD have no other alternative but to undertake urgent and purposeful actions to update the technology of work, to implement an aggressive commercial policy and to enhance the levels of personal responsibility and initiative of all managing and operational teams. The crisis situation imposes the need for the adoption of unpopular measures, concerning the optimisation of personnel. In an open dialogue with the trade union organisations we look for a rational balance between the social and economic aspect of this painful issue.
Tough work awaits us in 2009! We must rebuild the public trust in the reliability of passenger and freight services; make active efforts to attract customers and prove in practice that we have learned the lessons from previous mistakes, which resulted from inertia, a careless approach to work duties and passive waiting for an external solution of the problems. I believe that we shall mobilise our professionalism and overcome challenges so that the railways can continue on their way ahead with dignity and confidence!
I would also like to thank all our customers and partners for the good interaction during the year. I am convinced that our cooperation will develop even more successfully in 2009 because “Bulgarian State Railways” EAD have firmly committed themselves to improve the quality of transport services in compliance with European requirements!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, dear colleagues and customers!
The Director of the Transport Hospital, Prof. Georgi EDREV: Railway employees can rely on their hospital
In his interview Prof. Edrev points out that the hospital is equipped with modern devices for high-quality diagnostics, treatment and prophylactics to cater for the needs of people employed in the transport sector. The hospital has two expert wards for railway transport personnel (in Sofia and in Gorna Oryahovitsa) and a ward for air transport personnel at Sofia Airport. The National Multi-profile Transport Hospital “King Boris III” and its Cardiology Clinic and the Internal Disease Clinic in particular work upon international health projects. The expert ward for railway personnel and the psychological laboratory are currently being moved to newly-reconstructed and equipped premises, which will significantly improve the quality of expert treatment.
Railway employees are exposed to a number of unfavourable physical factors (such as cold, dampness, noise and vibrations), chemical damages, unhealthy diet. If we add the impact of unhealthy personal habits (nicotine and alcohol), it is evident that the health of railway personnel is exposed to serious risks. The latter are mainly related to cardio-vascular, neurological and oto-neurological diseases, inflammations of the nose and sinuses, allergic and skin damages. With regard to the high percentage of cardio-vascular diseases, the renovated expert ward for railway personnel includes a newly-opened Preventive Cardiology consulting office.
The most important thing, as regards health, is that railway employees should be convinced that National Multi-profile Transport Hospital “King Boris III” is still their hospital and that they can rely on it.
Conference on the current challenges in railway sector
The 18th international scientific conference “Transport – 2008” brought to the “Todor Kableshkov” Transport High School leading experts from Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, France, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and Turkey. One of the conference sessions was dedicated to the “Security for the mobility of people and goods in united Europe”.
The main focus in the report of the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, as well as of the presentation delivered by Peter Koning, Director of Transport Planning in Faber Maunsell/AECOM, was the future of railway transport in Bulgaria.
Minister Mutafchiev summarised the problems in the railways, concerning the infrastructure manager and the railway carrier. As regards the condition of railway infrastructure, he pointed out the low operation speeds; overdue reconstruction works; permanent-way security rating which is on the verge of risk values; depreciation of signalling and telecommunication equipment; outdated facilities along the first railway lines to be electrified; low productivity. As regards BDZ, the main focus was upon the slow and uncomfortable passenger services; insufficient and unreliable freight services; the fact that over 70% of locomotives and wagons are over 25 years old; lack of an information system for transport and cash-flow management; low labour productivity; failure on the part of the State to cover the costs for the PSO services; the fact that 80% of services are generated from only 33% of the whole railway network.
In recent years, a breakthrough in this vicious circle was achieved by means of the allocation of BGN2 billion for railway infrastructure under Operational Programme “Transport” for the period 2007-2013; more budget funding was also allocated, which results in reduced journey times by one hour along the main routes; continuation of structural reform in both railway companies; private initiatives and PPPs in the sector were stimulated. Among the most important projects are the modernisation of the railway infrastructure along the trans-European transport corridors (priority is given to Corridor IV); rehabilitation of the main railway lines; the programme of NRIC for asset management; construction of infrastructure for combined transports; modernisation of 40 main railway stations in the Intercity network; technological restructuring of passenger railway services. The expected results from the implementation of this policy, which should be achieved by 2013, are the implementation of project speeds of 160 km/h along the sections of the trans-European corridors; reduction of journey times by 45.4%; 40 million passengers.
In his presentation, Peter Koning pointed out that Bulgaria with its railways has the chance to avoid a number of mistakes, which other railway administrations have made. According to him, in spite of the advantages of railways, it still is the cars and lorries which continue to dominate as transport means at both short and long distances. This is the reason why the railways all over Europe are facing the challenge of responding to the changing needs of the customers.
Railway modernisation and security
The international seminar “Railway forum – 2008”, held on 13th-14th November in Sofia under the aegis of the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, was dedicated to the modernisation and security of Bulgarian Railways. The forum was organised by the National Association of Track Engineers (NATE) and Scientific and Technical Council for Transport (STCT) under the aegis of the Union of European Railway Engineers Association (UEEIV). The seminar was opened by the Chairman of the Managing Board of STCT and Vice-President of UEEIV, Kiril Ermenkov.
In his welcoming address to the participants in the forum, the UEEIV President, Heinrich Salzmann, recommended that the pending downsizing of personnel in BDZ should be performed with caution. Salzmann gave an example with the situation in Austria where the current shortage of locomotive drivers amounts to 200 people as a result of previous downsizing. Much effort should be put into the enhancement of comfort, as the customer should not be made to wait, Salzmann pointed out.
Among the speakers were representatives of the Ministry of transport, Executive Agency “Railway Administration” (EARA), NRIC, BDZ EAD, the State Enterprise “Transport Construction and Reconstruction”, the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy (UACEG), etc.
The report of Minister Mutafchiev, focusing upon the mid-term priorities for the modernisation of Bulgarian Railways, was delivered by his adviser Vassil Rangelov. In this report it was highlighted that the railways are a political priority for the ministry and the objective is to redirect the financial policy of the State from a railway-survival-oriented policy towards a railway-development-policy.
Director of the State Railway Inspection, Zhoro Dimitrov, presented the organisation and the functions of the safety systems in railway transport in the EU and in Bulgaria, as well as the preparation in strategic terms for the implementation of interoperable European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS). They specifically highlighted the role of the European Railway Agency (ERA) in this respect.
Undoubtedly, the key report at the forum was the presentation of the Executive Director of BDZ EAD, Hristo Monov, dedicated to the safety, security and quality of railway transport services. A particular emphasis was given to BDZ strategy for the renewal and modernisation of traction rolling stock, as well as of the company’s passenger-coach and freight-wagon fleet.
NRIC presented an analysis, read by Nikolay Kraovski, on the safety condition and issues in the context of railway infrastructure. The report indicated that a significant part of train delays are as a result of the poor condition of catenary line. The need to attract young and qualified experts to the railways was also outlined.
The forum continued with the reports of the foreign participants. Among these were the Vice-President of VDEI, Manfred Kehr, who spoke on the approach to personnel training in the German railways; the Head of the Technical Bureau within ThyssenKrupp, Gerd Stueber, and his colleagues Schlender and Ritlewski, as well as representatives of other foreign companies, who shared their experience in the sphere of modern railway technologies.
Minister Mutafchiev inspects Varna terminal
On 3rd November, the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, attended the ceremony on the occasion of the completion of Phase 1 of the construction of an intermodal terminal at Varna Zapad Port, which includes a site for the handling of containerised cargo, a control point for heavy-weight lorries, a computer system and a control centre.
EU funding for the reconstruction of Danube Bridge
The Joint Bulgarian-Romanian Technical Committee, which monitors the condition of the Danube Bridge between Rousse and Giurgiu, held its regular annual meeting at end-October. The meeting was attended by NRIC experts, headed by Ivan Gogev. Among the main topics for discussion was the possible EU-funding for bridge reconstruction and maintenance works. The meeting decided that after the reconstruction of the moving parts of the bridge is completed, the rehabilitation of the anti-corrosion covering of the steel constructions will begin.
Meeting of the Bulgarian-Albanian groups for transport
The Bulgarian-Albanian working groups for transport, headed by the Deputy Ministers of Transport Daniela Nikiforova and Stavri Ristani, met on 22-24 October in Tirana. The participants viewed a presentation on infrastructure projects, concerning Corridor VIII, and discussed the possible training of Albanian experts in the Bulgarian railways and the “Todor Kableshkov” Transport High School.
NRIC opens Call for Bids for technical assistance
NRIC has opened a Call for Bids for technical assistance in the restoration of design parameters of the Rousse-Varna railway line. The selected contractor will have to conduct a need-assessment study, a report on the environmental impact as well as an analysis of the financial efficiency of such a project. Among the assigned responsibilities of the contractor will be the elaboration of the technical projects and a strategy for the implementation of the line rehabilitation, as well as the development of documents for the selection of a contractor for the reconstruction works. The submitted bids will be opened on 8th December.
Contract between NRIC and ÖBB Infrastruktur Betrieb
During his visit to Vienna on 6th-7th November, NRIC Director General, Anton Ginev, signed a contract with the Director of ÖBB Infrastruktur Betrieb AG (the company that manages the Austrian railway infrastructure), Arnold Schiefer, for the provision of two pieces of diagnostic equipment to monitor the overheating of wagon running gear, as well as a high-precision weighing device to measure wagon loading and cargo distribution during train operation. This equipment will enable NRIC to establish a system for the automated monitoring of trains, as well as to enhance transport safety.
Additional measures for traffic safety
NRIC discussed and adopted additional measures to secure train traffic safety. The company validated a short-term programme for the modernisation of signalling systems for the funding of which NRIC would depend on additional allocations from the State budget. According to the Director General, Anton Ginev, in 2009 the company should receive at least BGN260 million from the state.
Crisis action drill
NRIC held a large-scale practical drill to train its personnel how to act in crisis situations. The drill is part of the implementation process of the Plan for rescue and emergency reconstruction works. The aim is to help personnel in its preparation for reaction to force-majeure circumstances and to enable the coordination & control staff at NRIC and Civil Protection services to improve their practical skills. The drill is under the command of a 16-member staff committee for coordination and protection in the circumstances of natural or industrial disasters, appointed by the Director General Anton Ginev.
A consortium will reconstruct Sofia-Zimnitsa section
A consortium of companies headed by “Repair–Reconstruction Enterprise Koehne” AD, signed a BGN22.6-million (before VAT) contract for the reconstruction of a stretch of the Sofia-Karlovo-Zimnitsa railway line. The reconstruction works should be implemented over the course of 22 months.
Vidin hosts a seminar on railway projects
During a seminar for the representatives of media and local authorities, the Head of the Managing body of Operational Programme “Transport” (OPT), Nelly Yordanova, reported on the progress in the implementation of the project for the modernisation of the Vidin-Sofia railway line, which will be funded with EUR320 million under OPT. After the modernisation of this section, journey times between Vidin and Sofia will be reduced to three hours and trains will operate at speeds of 160 km/h. Three possible route alignments for the modernisation of this railway line have been identified, and, according to analysts, the optimum one is Vidin-Medkovets-Montana-Botevgrad-Sofia. The tentative project costs amount to EUR2.9 billion (out of which 652.2 million are for the Vidin-Medkovets section) and the line modernisation is envisaged to begin in 2010.
Conceptual design for Plovdiv station selected
The reconstruction and modernisation of Plovdiv Station will be implemented in accordance with the conceptual design of architect Alexander Shinolov, which was ranked third in the competition for the redevelopment of the Plovdiv railway station complex held in July. The architectural bureau, the design of which was ranked first at this competition, is “Arkont - A”. The design of architect Shinolov, though, turns out to be the most economically-justifiable option in terms of costs, technical parameters and practical implementation.
International conference on logistics
An international conference on the “Improvement of freight transport logistics in South-Eastern Europe” was held on 10th-11th November at Zografski Hotel in Sofia under the aegis of the Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev. In the welcoming address on the part of the Minister, which was delivered by his Deputy, Youdjel Atilla, a particular highlight was given to the importance of the Marco Polo II Programme, which is one of the major EU initiatives in support of intermodal transport.
Varna-Kavkaz ferry link to be launched in April 2009
According to the Executive Director of EARA, Simeon Ananiev, the first trial operation of the Varna-Port Kavkaz ferry link will most probably be implemented in April 2009 (not as initially planned, at end-2008). It is common knowledge that BDZ and the Russian company which will perform ferry transport with the ferryboat “Avangard”, signed an agreement at the beginning of November. Meanwhile, a second ferry boat, “Slavyanin”, which will operate on this route, is already under construction. It is planned that the ferry link will operate three runs per week in 2010 and freight turnover will reach two million tons per year.
Street railways in Sofia and Plovdiv?
According to the Deputy Director General of NRIC, Hristo Alexiev, the establishment of street railways, similar to the German S-Bahn, in Sofia and Plovdiv, would be the best option for the facilitation of city traffic in the two largest cities in Bulgaria. The issue was discussed during a meeting between representatives of NRIC and the City Plan consortium, which developed the city territorial plan of Plovdiv. Alexiev considers that the designs for the two street railways will be prepared by end-2009.
Minister Mutafchiev received a Russian delegation
On 17th November, the Transport Mnister, Petar Mutafchiev, met in Sofia a Russian Parliamentary delegation, headed by Victor Gluhih. HE the Russian Ambassador, Jury Isakov, attended the meeting as well. The ferry link Varna-Kavkaz, Bulgarian-Russian cooperation within the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the establishment of the Black Sea highway and the Bulgarian experience in the establishment of logistic centres in Varna, Bourgas, Sofia and Plovdiv were among the widely discussed topics.
The crisis poses problems for the railways
During the Parliamentary debates over Budget 2009, the Chairman of the Transport and Communications Committee, Iordan Mirchev, forecast that as a result of the global financial crisis and the problems with Kremikovtsi, the revenues of railways could drop by 20%, and he highlighted the need for a greater share of funding for the sector in 2009. In his turn the Transport Minister, Petar Mutachiev, pointed out that the present moment is the right time for the allocation of much more budget funding for the modernisation of the railways.
Agreement with Greece on railway traffic
The Government has adopted a draft-Agreement with Greece, which would regulate cross-border railway traffic. The aim of this Agreement is to facilitate and accelerate operations at the border crossing-points between the two countries (currently, these are Koulata-Promachon and Svilengrad-Dikea). The document regulates the organisation and control of railway traffic, investigation procedures in cases of accidents, identification of responsibility for incurred damages and provision of Medical First Aid.
NRIC signs a contract with Unitranscom
On 13th November, NRIC and the private cargo railway operator Unitranscom AD signed a contract for railway infrastructure access and usage. According to the manager of the company (in which Romanian capital prevails), Oleg Petkov, after the first two locomotives from Romania arrive then Unitranscom will be able to launch transport services even before end-2008.
Joint meeting of NRIC and BDZ EAD
On 12th November, the Boards of Directors of BDZ EAD and NRIC held a joint meeting, which was attended by the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev. The participants discussed the situation with the crisis in Kremikovtsi AD and the necessity of the rapid adoption of measures to combat the consequences of the reduction in cargo volume and to compensate for the negative impact of the global economic crisis. According to Minister Mutafchiev, the railways should not become a hindrance for the economic growth of our country and the main objective should be to overcome the situation without any serious shock for railway transport. He considers that the two companies should work more successfully in accordance with market principles and participate in fair competition on the transport market with the other transport modes.
Exhibition “120 years of BDZ”
On 12th November, the Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev opened a photo exhibition dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the Bulgarian State Railways in the main waiting hall of Sofia Central Station. The film “120 years of Bulgarian State Railways” was also presented. The opening ceremony was attended by the top managers of BDZ EAD and NRIC, Hristo Monov and Anton Ginev. At the end of the ceremony, the Minister awarded former Directors General of BDZ with honorary plaques for their contribution to the development of the railways in our country.