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EUR 1 bn for Bulgaria’s major rail infrastructure project

The major railway project estimated at EUR 1 bn and included the Operational Programme “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” 2014 – 2020 is the Modernization of Sofia – Septemvri railway section, declared Hristo Alexiev, Deputy Director of the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC).  According to him, the complexity of the project is generated by severe terrain.

The procedure for selecting a contractor for the technical design is expected to start next month. The tender for construction of the Sofia –  Septemvri is expected to be launched  in 2015. A similar schedule is foreseen for Phase 2 of Plovdiv – Burgas railway line, which includes Plovdiv – Mihaylov rail section. 

Operational Programme “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” 2014 – 2020

An agreement has already been reached on the budget and the activities to be funded under the new Operational Programme “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” 2014 – 2020. “The program budget is EUR 1.9 billion, approximately 70% of the funds are distributed equally between road and rail infrastructure – 673 million euros for each”, stated Danail Papazov, Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications .
According to him,  about EUR 400 million euros has been contracted for Sofia subway and about EUR 25 million euros are provided for the construction of intermodal terminals.

Infrastructure Projects under Implementation
  • Electrification and reconstruction of Plovdiv – Svilengrad Railway Line, stage 2: Parvomay – Svilengrad Section
  • Rehabilitation of the Railway Infrastructure along Plovdiv – Burgas Railway Line
  • Modernization of Septemvri – Plovdiv Railway Section
  • Rehabilitation of Pazardzhik Railway Station
  • Extension of the Sofia Metropolitan, Stage III, Lot 1: Tsarigradsko shose – Sofia Airport and Lot 2: Mladost 1 – Business Park in Mladost 4

Programming Period 2014 – 2020 
  • Completion of Plovdiv – Burgas Railway Line
  • Modernization of Sofia – Septemvri Railway Section
  • Modernization of Karnobat – Sindel Railway Line
  • Reconstruction of design parameters of Ruse – Varna Railway Line

Intermodality for passengers and freights
  • Construction of the Third Metro Diameter in Sofia
  • Construction of terminals in Plovdiv, Ruse and Varna

Connecting Europe Facility Projects

  • Modernization of Sofia – Dragoman Railway Line
  • Modernization of Vidin – Medkovets Railway Line

Opportunities in the railway transport sector  (Partnership Agreement Document)
Transport and communications generate 23.5% of GVA of the country and provide direct employment of more than 170 000 people. The national transport system creates relatively good conditions for all types of transport – railway, road, sea, inland-waterway, air and intermodal.
The transport network characteristics, existing capacity (physical and operational structure of the network), volumes that can be transferred depending on the demand, operational status and ability to provide reliable and safe transport services are of primary importance for the transport infrastructure. An advantage is the high level of construction and density of the existing transport infrastructure – over 19 thousand km national roads, over 6 thousand km railways, sea and river ports and airports.

In the transport model update from year 2013, developed as part of the General Transport Master Plan, the directions in the road and railway network with the expected major traffic increase were identified until 2020 and 2030, where demand forecast is near to or exceeds the existing capacity.

Railway transport is one of the main elements of the national transport system and its development is a prerequisite for overall development of the economy. Ensuring affordable railway services is an important component of the internal mobility of the population, which increases the opportunities for employment. The development of this type of transport is essential because of the overloaded road infrastructure, high fuel prices, environmental protection policy and safety. Improvement of railway infrastructure in the coming years will increase the volume of railway freight and passenger traffic along the national and international lines. Bulgaria takes 11th place among the EU-27[1] according the total length of the railway lines. Allocation of railway lines among the country’s territory is unbalanced. The railway network in the Yugozapaden Region has the highest density – 44.8 km/1000 sq. km. The railway network density in Yugoiztochen, Severoiztochen and YujenCentralen Regions is lower than the national average. Sufficient and effective links with neighbouring countries are still missing.

Electrified railway lines are 68.4% of the total railway network. Compared to other European countries, their share is unsatisfactory. A significant part of the railway lines were built more than 50 years ago and their geometry parameters, construction and structures are suitable for speeds up to 100 km/h, and in some places with almost exhausted capabilities for keeping the speed as well as to ensure security and safety. Such sections exist in main directions such as Sofia-Plovdiv (Sofia-Septemvri section), Sofia-Vidin (Vidin-Medkovets section), Plovdiv-Burgas (Plovdiv-Mihaylovo section). Railway structures (bridges and tunnels) are highly depreciated, such as Ruse-Varna direction. Most of the safety, telecommunication and energy supply systems are obsolete (commissioned in the period 1965-1985) and their technological level does not meet modern requirements for interoperability.

Rail passenger transport has a significant potential for growth, which largely depends on the modernization of the railway network, rolling stock and management of the national railway operator. In the recent years, passenger traffic in the Bulgarian railways has been gradually decreased due to multiple factors related to the general economic and demographic trends in the country as well as poor quality of the service provided due to low speed, essential reduction of the wagons in operation, access to stations, lack of modern systems for customer service and marketing strategies.

Parallel to the liberalization of railway freight in Bulgaria, new private railway companies for railway freight have gradually entered the market. An increase in the share of international freight transport has been observed, mainly along Serbian border-Turkish border direction. This share is expected to rise as a result of the freight traffic passing through the new bridge over the Danube River at Vidin-Kalafat.

In order to improve the management of the railway sector a combination of regulatory, investment and management measures are necessary:

  • reviewing the contract for public services with „BDZ-Passenger services” Ltd;
  • setting the  passenger services provided within the contract for public services in line with the market demand;
  • concentrating public funding in the sector on the most important and valuable rail services;
  • strengthening the institutional capacity for management of the sector;
  • reducing the railway network to a sustainable size.

The key measures for restructuring Holding BDZ EAD and NRIC are as follows:

  • transformation of Holding BDZ EAD and NRIC to commercially oriented structure and exemption of Holding BDZ EAD from non-operating activities;
  • “BDZ – Freight Transport” Ltd. Recovery and possible privatization of the company;
  • reassessment of rolling stock quantity of Holding BDZ EAD, including the purchase of new rolling stock for passenger transport and reorganization of maintenance activities;
  • strengthening corporate management of NRIC and Holding BDZ EAD, preparation and implementation of a Strategy for Human Resources Management and Implementation of the Staff Restructuring Programme in Holding BDZ EAD and NRIC, implementation of a training programme for railway staff at middle and high level management.

During the construction and rehabilitation of the railway infrastructure ERTMS system needs to be implemented and exempt frequencies needed to build a GSM-R network in all major railway lines in the country. For full use of the network it is necessary to provide measures for the purchase of the on-board equipment for the operators. In December 2012, the Revised national action plan for implementation of TSI “Traffic Operation and Management’ (TSI TOM) for the conventional rail in the Republic of Bulgaria” was approved. The plan requires to develop operating rules for the operation of ERTMS/ETCS and ERTMS/GSM-R. By the end of 2015 the regulatory acts, defining TSI’s requirements, associated with ERTMS/ETCS and ERTMS/GSM-R will be revised.

In the period 2007-2013 by means of targeted investments from OP Transport, IFIs and JASPERS analyses of key activities in the railway sector by developing a model for business processes, methodology for project management, including institutional arrangements for its implementation were carried out. Strategic guidelines for the development and optimization of human resources and processes associated with the implementation of new models for operation and maintenance of the track were developed.

Maintenance of track, adjacent structures, buildings, power supply systems, signalling and telecommunications is provided annually through the State Budget Act. The financial resources needed for maintenance/repair are included in the Programme for Development and Operation of the Railway Infrastructure (a 5-year programme which is an integral part of the NRIC’s contract with the State) based on approved plans for ongoing maintenance. Forthcoming is the development of a maintenance plan for the rehabilitated railway lines by 2015. Another source to cover the maintenance costs are infrastructure charges levied by the railway operators for access to rail infrastructure and services.


[1] According to Eurostat, Total length of railway lines (km)

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