BUREAUCRATIC MIST ABOVE SOFIA AIRPORT CLEARED AWAY
The National Expert Council approved on November 27 the two technical projects for the construction of a new passenger terminal and a new runway system at the Sofia Airport. Thus, the remaining bureaucratic mist above the long-ago planned modernization of the airport has been cleared away and tenders for picking out contractors for implementation of the two main construction projects can be already invited. This is a result of 30-year-long discussions on the reconstruction of Sofia Airport. Eight years have passed since the first sod, and five - since the last overall plan for the airport's development was prepared.The National Expert Council was set up by a joint order of the Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Plamen Petrov and the Minister of Regional Development and Urban Planning Kostadin Paskalev. Their deputies - Zdravko Velichkov from the Transport Ministry and Belin Mollov from the Ministry of Regional Development - co-chaired on November 26 and 27 the sessions of government experts who gave green light to the two technical projects. On the following day all interested parties held a meeting at the Sofia Municipality and agreed to cooperate for facilitating the procedure of expropriating the plots of land, to be incorporated into the areas for the airport's expansion.However, the Sofia Airport's principal - the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications - can invite tenders for nominating chief contractors only after the European Commission (EC) approves the prepared tender dossiers for the construction of the passenger terminal. The reason is that the European Investment Bank (EIB) finances the facility's construction by a state-guaranteed loan of EUR60MN, to be repaid in 20 years, including a 5-year grace period, at an interest changing each year on the basis of LIBOR. The European Union (EU) also grants EUR50MN under the EU pre-accession ISPA fund.The other creditor - the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development - approved the tender dossiers for the extension of the airport's runways two months ago. The Fund extended a loan of about USD40MN for lengthening the existing lending and taking-off runways by 800 m and for building a new 3,600-m-long runway. The credit from Kuwait is also repayable in 20 years, including a 6-year grace period, at a 4% annual interest and 0.5% for administrative costs and contingencies.The other EUR50MN of the necessary aggregate amount for the realization of the airport's overall modernization, totalling EUR210MN, is to be projected in the budgets for 2002, 2003, and 2004.The future modern passenger terminal was presented at a special press conference on November 28 through a three-dimensional computer animation by the project's chief architect Bernard Johan Hasselman from the Dutch consulting company NACO - Netherlands Airport Consultants B.V. NACO has taken part in projecting extension and modernization of some of the biggest and most state-of-the-art airports, among them those in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Geneva, Dusseldorf, Athens, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. The project for the Sofia Airport has been worked out in close cooperation with the Bulgarian consulting company Stroyconsult Engineering.Representatives of the EIB and of the EC are expected to arrive in Bulgaria soon to finally approve the procedure for holding tenders for chief contractors. The tenders themselves are to be invited in December and the two chief contractors should be made public in April 2002. In such case, construction will begin in May 2002, and the new passenger terminal and runway system should be built within 22 months, i.e. by end-March 2004.The bidders are 15 companies and consortiums, among them the German Siemens, Walter Bau, ED Zublin, and Hochtiff (in a consortium with Bulgaria's Glavbolgarstroy), the French Boygues, the Italian Salini, and the British subsidiary of the world-famous company Bechtel.Some of the above-mentioned companies will bid for the construction of the new runway system as well.