DANUBE BRIDGE II - GATE TO EUROPE
On June 17 the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications hosted a meeting of the donors, financiang the construction of the second bridge across the Danube at Vidin-Calafat. It was attended by representatives of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the ISPA programme, the French Development Agency (AFD), Germany's state-run bank Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW), and the Romanian Transport Ministry. A day later the press centre of the Bulgarian Transport Ministry announced that the international consultants (chosen in a tender) - a consortium between the British companies Scott Wilson Holding, Flint Nail Brothership, and the Spanish Iberinsa - presented three draft projectsfor the second bridge across the Danube. The proposals are said to be in compliance with the requirements, set earlier by the European Commission (EC) - the facility should not be unnecessarily pompous, but functional. It should have four lanes for vehicles (two in both directions), a railway, a cycleway, and an optic link for transferring data. The presented draft projects (with almost equal prices and small differences in the technical parameters) were approved by the donors and the Romanian Government.The next step will be to invite a tender procedure for choosing a company to undertake the designing and construction of the bridge and adjacent infrastructure on Bulgarain territory. No information was provided about the immediate commitments of the Romanian side.Collection of offersshould begin in the autumn of 2003 and be completed by June 2004. The scheme for picking up candidates will be probably an international tender with preliminary ranking. One of the conditions will be that the candidates should present an offers for each of the draft projects, proposed by the international consultants. The aim is achieve greater competition between the firms and the best technical and aesthetic parameters of teh facility. An opportunity for presenting a new draft project has been stipulated as well. However, the new projects should be in compliance with the technical parameters, set in advance. Danube Bridge II is to be ready in 2006, and the first vehicles should be driving along it in the beginning of 2007, after the one-year trial period. The term of the contract with the international consultants, worth EUR5.5MN, is five years. 85% of the funds will be released by the EU under the ISPA programme, and the balance should be provided by the state budget. The necessary financing for implementation of the project itself, worth EUR185MN, have been ensured as well. The EIB will extend a loan of EUR70MN. The agreement for its first tranche of EUR50MN has already been ratified by Parliament. Another EUR70MN (earmarked for the construction and building supervision) will come from ISPA. Germany's KfW will grant a loan of up to EUR20MN (for the construction itself) and EUR470,000 (for feasibility studies). EUR5.5MN (intended for feasibility studies and construction) came from the French Government through the Stability Pact's assistance. Bulgaria will participate in the designing, construction supervision, and management of the project with about EUR4MN, and will invest another EUR20MN in building the facility. However, the Romanian side is not very enthusiastic about the undertaking. The big problem is the very bad infrastructure on its territory, which in no way would be able to handle the preestimated daily traffic through Vidin-Calafat (more than 450 buses, trucks and cars, and 80 passenger and freight trains). The road from Kayova to Arad needs urgent major repair, and the railway in the same direction has not been even electrified and is far behind European requirements. In end-2002 Bucarest announced readiness to repair the routes, but only if funds for the purpose are extended by the EU progarmmes. So, the EU which has already allocated quite a pretty amount of money for feasibility studies about the construction of Danube Bridge II and for consultations, now will have to launch additional funds or will have to convince Romania again in the usefulness of the entire project and the necessity of improving the infrastructure. However, there are problems on the Bulgarian side, too. Vidin is almost 200 km away from Sofia, and the road through the Petrohan pass is a real trial for the heavy-duty trucks. Therefore, most of the cargo traffic passes along the alternative road through Botevgrad, which also needs repairs and extension. The situation concerning the railroad transport is much more serious, having in mind that riding by train from Sofia to Vidin takes more than five hours. In the beginning of June the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Valentin Tserovsky announced that a highway from Danube Bridge II to Sofiawould be built via Petrohan, specifying that the project could be entireley financed by private firms or through concessions. At least EUR700MN will be necessary for its construction and it would take quite a long time to attract such an amount of money. Considering the time for its designing and for the construction itself, it could be concluded that the highway would be opened after the year 2010. No matter how many uncertainties there might be, Danube Bridge II shall be built for certain. Bulgaria will spend almost EUR25MN for its construction.