Bulgaria and Turkey to facilitate cross border rail traffic

Svilengrad – Kapakule cross border railThe TCDD Chairman of the Board Hasan Pezük, the Director General of Bulgarian rail infrastructure manager (NRIC) Angelov Krumov and Bulgarian Minister of Transport and Communications Hristo Aleksiev led a Turkish – Bulgarian working group aiming at the facilitation of rail traffic at Svilengrad – Kapakule cross border rail connection.

The working group discussed specific future actions on the project for the construction of a second railway border crossing between Turkey and Bulgaria along the line Yambol – Elhovo – Lesovo – Turkish border, which would meet the needs of the market and ease the traffic through the existing Svilengrad – Kapakule rail cross border line. Currently, Bulgaria is actively working on the modernisation of the railway infrastructure in the direction Serbian border – Sofia – Plovdiv – Turkish border.

“With joint efforts, we will achieve the goals we set for ourselves in this constructive and productive dialogue, and I believe that their implementation will be sustainable and upgraded”, the director of NRIC said.

The two countries intend to reduce the passing time of trains through border crossing points, to eliminate some of the customs procedures and to start the construction work to build a second track along the Kapikule – Svilengrad line.

Svilengrad – Kapakule line is the only one cross border rail connection along the 374 km Plovdiv – Istanbul route. An agreement to modernise the railway connection between Plovdiv and Istanbul was signed in 2020.

In the framework of the discussion, the two sides expressed a common opinion that it was essential to increase the turnover of goods, which would lead to the development of the economies of Bulgaria and Turkey.

Using the available capacity, the two administrations will work to increase the number of intermodal trains from an average of 16 per day to 24 per day. The status of the railway infrastructure projects on both sides of the border was presented, and the project for the doubling of the Krumovo – Svilengrad – Turkey railway line was reported to be completed on time. The technical assistance for the project is expected to be completed in 2024.

The Deputy Minister of Transport Krasimir Papukchiyski emphasized that it was necessary to prioritise intermodal trains, which will allow profitability in terms of deliveries. Bulgaria intends to accelerate the activities in the Cross-Border Cooperation project and the East – West transport corridor. “Currently, the railway administrations of Bulgaria and Turkey are working to increase to 24 trains a day passing through the border crossing points”, Papukchiyski said.

The delegation included rail operators from both countries visited the Intermodal Terminal in Plovdiv and a construction site along the Elin Pelin – Kostenets rail line which is currently under modernisation works which also includes the construction of the larges twin-tube rail tunnel in Balkans.

Currently, Turkey is constructing the 229 km Halkali – Kapikule line which will provide connection from Istanbul towards Turkish-Bulgarian border. EUR 1 billion is the value of the project. In June 2022, a “First Rail Welding” ceremony was held for the Çerkezköy – Kapıkule section which has a EUR 553 million budget of which the European Union provided EUR 275 million. The 153 km Çerkezköy – Kapıkule (ÇE-KA) project is being built as a double-track line which will reach a capacity of 10 million passengers and 3.6 million tonnes of freight.

The project is expected to be completed in June 2023 when will provide high quality reliable railway infrastructure with sufficient capacity to meet both passenger and freight demand in the region. The line will allow trains to run at a speed of 200 km/h connecting Bulgaria, Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdağ and Istanbul. The passenger journey time will be reduced with three hours 4 hours to only 1 hour and 30 minutes while the freight services will cover the distance in 3 hours and 30 minutes, from currently around 7 hours.

The plans to increase the traffic and capacity on the cross-border line will boost bilateral trade bringing benefits to Bulgaria and Turkey which also want to accelerate logistics activities. During the official visit, TCDD and NRIC signed a protocol to increase the cooperation between the two countries.

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