Bulgaria celebrated the completion of the first 1 km twin-bore tunnel on the Elin Pelin – Kostenets railway built for the first time in the last 50 years.
The event was attended by the Minister of Transport and Communications Hristo Alexiev, the Turkish Ambassador Eileen Sekizkök and the management of the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC) who paid an inspection visit to see the progress of the modernisation of the railway line.
“More than 200 people with the help of more than 100 machines worked for a year and a half to dig tunnel No. 1 of the railway line. Tunnel construction was neglected for a long time. I analysed the standstill projects, and I did my best to accelerate them. With a good mobilisation of the state and the contractor, the project is expected to be completed in time, until 2027,” the minister said.
The project to modernise the 20 km line covers a twin-bore tunnel with a length of almost 7 km, the largest in Bulgaria. Dozens of other facilities will be built, including the tunnel with a total length of 1.5 km, a road overpass and an underpass, 8 bridges and overpasses, the installation of the signalling and telecommunication systems, and the construction of a new Elin Pelin station and the Pobit Kamak stop.
The tunnel is being built on the 20 km rail section between Elin Pelin and Vakarel which is the most difficult to perform on the whole route between Sofia and Plovdiv. Works on the section have been launched in 2021 and are carried out by the DZZD Jen-Dui Railway Elin Pelin Turkish joint venture consisting of Gengiz and Duigu companies. The JV was awarded a BGN 498.8 million (EUR 255 million) contract excluding VAT to complete the project in four years.
When the project will be completed will be fully compatible with the requirements for interoperability and will contribute to eliminating the problem with the bottlenecks. The passenger trains will run at a speed of 160 km/h and freight trains at 120 and 130 km/h, depending on the sections.
The project to modernise the Elin Pelin – Kostenets railway is part of the global project Sofia – Plovdiv on the Orient / East – Mediterranean Corridor which is co-financed by the “Transport and Transport Infrastructure” Operational Programme (OPTTI) 2014-2020 is included in the Strategy for Development of the Railway Infrastructure. In 2020, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has approved a EUR 50 million loan of the total value of EUR 555 million estimated for the entire project.