Bulgaria is crossed by no less than five pan-European Corridors: IV (Dresden – Budapest – Arad-Craiova – Sofia – Thessaloniki / Plovdiv – Istanbul), IX (Helsinki – Kiev – Chişinău – Bucharest – Dimitrovgrad – Alexandroupolis), VIII (Durrës – Tirana – Skopje – Sofia – Plovdiv – Burgas – Varna), Corridor X – branch C (Nis – Sofia – Plovdiv – Dimitrovgrad – Istanbul) and VII (Danube), and for modernising the Bulgarian sections of these corridors, the State has accelerated the absorption of European funds.
In Bulgaria benefits from two large ports at the Black Sea, Varna and Burgas, both connected to the pan-European corridor VIII, which links the Adriatic and the Black Sea. Varna is the largest Bulgarian naval complex with two ports, Varna East and Varna West, transited by more than 8 million tonnes of freight every year. It is the only Black Sea port which owns a terminal where bogies can be shifted from broad gauge to standard gauge, providing the possibility of a continuous transport between the CIS and Europe. The second port, Burgas, is an important transport point in the transport of oil and oil products, due to its location close to the LUKOIL Neftochim Burgas, believed to be the largest oil processing plant in South-Eastern Europe.
Bulgaria’s transport priorities are included in the document of the Sectoral Operational Programme – Transport, approved by the European Commission, which secures the distribution of structural and cohesion funds. The Bulgarian SOP-T has five priority axis, the first referring to the railway infrastructure development along the TEN-T axes, while the third to the development of intermodality in the transport of passengers and freight. As regards the railway infrastructure, Bulgaria has initiated major projects, succeeding to sign contracts for around 80% of the EU financing (EUR 511 Million) granted for railway infrastructure projects within the SOP-T. Thus, the projects under development such as the modernisation of Vidin-Sofia line (total cost EUR 320 Million) – Corridor IV, electrification and reconstruction of Svilengrad line at the Turkish border (EUR 35 Million) – Corridor IV, IX and X, modernisation of line Sofia-Plovdid (EUR 125 Million) – Corridor IV and X. Modernisation of line Sofia – Pernik – Radomir line (EUR 100 Million) – Corridor X, rehabilitation of line Plovdid – Burgas (EUR 187 Million) – Corridor VIII and construction of an intermodal terminal in Sofia (EUR 25.90 Million).
Tomislav Donchev, the minister dealing with the absorption of EU funds, said that he hoped to sign contracts for the remaining 20% of EU funds by mid 2012. Most financing will be directed towards three important sections: Plovdiv-Svilengrad, Septemvri-Plovdiv and Plovdiv-Burgas.
It is worth mentioning that the transport ministers in Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary signed on June 16, 2011 in Luxembourg, the Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of the Railway Freight Corridor 7, in conformity with Regulation 913/2010.
It is also interesting that the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and his Macedonian counterpart Gjorge Ivanov declared that the launch of the pan-European transport corridor VIII is a priority for Bulgaria and Macedonia.
The corridor, linking Bulgaria’s Black Sea ports with Albania and Macedonia’s Adriatic Sea ports, would be a chain in he shortest connection between Asia and Western Europe. Plans for the corridor have been discussed for years and achievements have been long awaited, the most important hindrance of the project being the lack of a railway connection between Bulgaria and Macedonia.