Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

SOFIA WILL WAIT SOME MORE TIME FOR THE NEW AIRPORT

The Moststroy company, owned by businessman Vassil Bozhkov, will build the road to the new airport in the capital city. It has offered the lowest price for the section, connecting the airport and the Tsarigradsko Shausse boulevard. The Cabinet has set aside BGN12MN for compensation to owners of expropriated real estates and construction. More than BGN4BN of that amount will go to the owners of plots of land. So, Moststroy will have to go into the limits of the remaining money for building purposes. Busy work is going on the construction site of the new Sofia Airport two months and a half before the deadline for the completion its terminal. The efforts, however, will be hardly sufficient to finish the facility by August 31, journalists who were there on Wednesday (June 15) commented. They construction site was visited that day by PM Simeon Sax-Coburg-Gotha, Transport Minister Nikolay Vassilev, and Dimitris Kourkoulas, Head of the EC Delegation to Bulgaria. We are not completing a stage of the project today. We came to inspect the construction fo the terminal, Mr. Vassilev explained. The reinforced concrete and metal construction of the building and the fire protection systems have been completed so far. The building of facade is 90% finished, and 85% of the roof construction is ready, architect Antoniya Ivanova from the team realizing the project told a reporter of the BANKER weekly. You don't need to be an expert in order to see that the entire building is just erected and the completion work is yet to be done. No electric cables and plumbing have been installed yet, and the facilities for luggage handling are still not ready. The construction of a modern facility such as the new Sofia Airport is undeniably quite a important and expensive task. The project envisions four levels above the ground and the total area of the building alone is 45,500 sq. m. The airport will be equipped with the most up-to-date technologies for registration fo passengers, handling of luggage, check of security, info and communication systems. For the first time the a Bulgarian airport will service passengers through sleeves, providing direct connection between the place and the terminal. About 2,000 passengers are expected to pass through the terminal in peak hours, double the current number. The project (the runway included) is worth a total of EUR210MN, of which EUR60MN is a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), EUR38.1MN - from the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic development, EUR50MN - grants from the EU's ISPA and PHARE programme, and the balance of EUR61.9MN comes from the state budget. Despite the importance of the facility, however, it was accompanied by numerous problems. The blame goes both to the Transport Ministry and to the contractor - the Austrian company Strabag - which builds the terminal. For more than ten moths after the first sod in February 2003, construction stopped because Strabag asked for more money due to wrong geological research work. Building continues only after the Government and the international financial institutions agreed to give the Austrians EUR4.8MN additionally and an 8-month postponement of the term for the airport's completion. Thus, the price of the terminal went up to EUR117 MN, and the deadline for finishing it was set at August 31, 2005. But that was not the end of problems to the new airport. There was a scandal connected with the equipment ensuring the airport's security. Moreover, the asphalt of one of the driving tracks for aircraft folded. Almost a year after that accident, the reasons are still not clear. We are expecting parallel tests of the pavement in order to establish the reason. Then we'll make a decision how to settle the problem. The repair of defected driving paths could delay the terminal's completion by two or three months, Deputy Transport minister Sofia Kassidova said. The new head of the Sofia Airport Kalin Barzov tried to calm the situation by saying that 98% of the entire area is in a very good state. But he did not conceal the possibility of delaying the terminal's commissioning because of the testing of checking systems.Even if these problems are solved and the terminal is ready in due term, it could not be commissioned before finishing the airport's new runway. And the deadline for its completion is end-October 2005. We can only hope that the new airport would be ready before the New Year.

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