Varna, Bulgaria (PortSEurope) June 11,2021 – The reconstruction works in Bulgaria for the key railway element of Pan-European corridor VIII that started in 2007 has achieved only symbolic progress until today. Less than 20 km of railway in this corridor was rehabilitated in the past seven years. It will most probably not be finished until 2027, despite securing finance and the fact that 2021 was
declared by the European Commission (EC) as “the year of rail transport”. Pan-European Corridor VIII is a multi‐modal transport system along the East‐West axis comprising sea and river ports, roads and railways, airports, multi‐modal ports, including some 1,270 km of railways and 960 km of roads. The main alignment of Corridor VIII runs from the southern Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi, with a ferry crossing the Adriatic Sea to the Albanian ports of Durres and Vlora, then through the capital cities of Albania – Tirana, North Macedonia – Skopje, Bulgaria – Sofia, via Bulgaria’s second largest town of Plovdiv, to the Bulgarian Black Sea ports of Burgas and Varna. Corridor VIII connects the Italian Adriatic Transport Corridor, the Adriatic branch of Motorway of the Sea and the Mediterranean Transport Area to the Black Sea Pan‐European Transport Areas. In Skopje next week, there will be a meeting between the management of the railway infrastructure companies of North Macedonia and Bulgaria. It will discuss project progress and the construction of the border tunnel. It will be designed and built on the Macedonian side. The railway line in Albania is not even designed yet. The route from Sofia to the border with Northern Macedonia is also progressing slowly and painfully. There have been disputes with local citizens, technical mistakes and mismanagement in a country plagued by corruption and inefficiency. The 72-km railway from the city of Radomir to the border with North Macedonia will be the real challenge. It passes through a mountainous area with protected zones. The construction of 13 tunnels is planned, the longest of which is 15 km (the longest operating railway tunnel in Bulgaria today is 5.8 km). The cost for these 72 km is estimated at BGN 900 million (€460 million). But it is not clear when the construction of this section will begin. On the North Macedonia’s site, a public tender for the selection of contractors for the 34 km section between Belyakovtse and Kriva Palanka is to be launched. Its cost estimate is €145 million and includes the construction of 50 bridges and 24 tunnels. The most expensive and difficult is the last shortest 24 km section from Kriva Palanka to the Bulgarian border with 100 bridges and 40 tunnels. The expectations of the local experts are that the ports on the Adriatic and Black Seas will not be connected with a modern railway line along Corridor VIII for at least 30 more years. Bulgaria is estimated to be losing some €500 million of business a year due to the absence of this railway line. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2021.
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