Банкеръ Weekly


Much-a-do around Sofia Subway

It won't be an exaggeration to say that in the last three polls for mayor of Sofia - in 2005, 2007 and 2009 - Mr. Boyko Borisov and Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova largely won supporters with promises for expansion of the subway. And now, too, the ruling GERB party will again rely on this asset - the public media space is filled with metro events.

The construction sites are everywhere, hard work is going, and the progress is visible even for people who are not specialists. Whether because of strict contracts providing for serious penalties, or because of the economic crisis, there are now no delays. On the contrary - there is a chance for early completion of some projects.

A few days ago mayor Fandakova said the underground railway will start operating from Mladost 3 to Tsarigradsko road in May next year, not in September as originally scheduled. Along with it the large buffer car park with 1300 parking places at the Expo International Exhibition Centre on the same boulevard is supposed to be opened.

According to the builders of the stretch - Metro Mladost consortium, which includes the companies PSI Corp., Trace Sofia JSC, Adval AD Strojinject AD, the tunnel construction are completed, and what remains is the placement of the rail tracks, escalators and elevators, while the repair work on Tsarigradsko Shosse near the Expo centre will end on September 12 and the normal movement of cars will be resumed, promised the mayor. By 14 September activities in the intersection between the boulevards Malinov and Andrei Sakharov are to finish, where now the passage of vehicles is temporarily limited. It is there that the first metro diameter branches off to the International Exhibition Centre and Tsarigradsko road and to the business park, but these routes are yet to be designed. The metro stations there are being completed at more than 65%. The contract with Metro Mladost is worth nearly BGN222 million, and is financed by the European Investment Bank.

Fandakova also said that in March or April next year the construction of the section from Tsarigradsko road to the airport will begin. It is 5 km long and will have four stations. The European Commission is expected to easily approve the financing of this route as Brussels has repeatedly criticized Bulgaria, that Sofia Airport is not connected to any railway line, as it is in most capitals in Europe.

In well advanced stage is also the section from Obelia district to Nadezhda overpass. The structures of two metro stations are built there - Nadezhda and Han Kubrat and the other two are ready at 80 percent. According to another statement of Fandakova on 12 September traffic along Lomsko Shosse boulevard will be resumed, which is now fully reconstructed. The total cost of this project is EUR130 million. Money for it come from the European Investment Bank.

Undoubtedly the greatest interest among the broad public has been provoked by the construction of the second metro line - from Nadezhda to Lozenets, which is 6.4 km long and has seven stations. It is being built by Turkish company Dogus Insaat ve Ticaret and a consortium of Bulgarian companies Metrotrace, and the total value of the contracts is BGN471 million. According to the executive director of Metropoliten Sofia, Stoyan Bratoev, the line is about 70% ready and the building process is even ahead of schedule.

Several days ago the tunnel boring machine reached the junction between the Vitosha and Evtimiy boulevards which finishes the digging of a 3.8-kilometer tunnel from Nadezhda overpass the Central Railway Station and Lion's Bridge to TZUM. So the parts of the second metro line, built by the two construction companies are already connected. Nearing completion is also metro station 9 (in the square in front of the National Palace of Culture), whose basic structures were made more than 30 years ago. The Turkish consortium is working on the both stations in front of the Central Railway Station and Lion's Bridge square. The first one is located under the station's square and has underground links to the central bus station and is provided with an underground parking lot with 150 parking spaces. The construction of the second one is still in its infancy and the unpleasant news for motorists is that the problems in traffic lie ahead, especially taking into account that a roundabout road at two levels between the boulevards Slivnitsa and Maria Luisa is scheduled to be built. Within a week or two one of the busiest areas - the crossroad of St. Naum and Cherni Vrah boulevsrds will be almost fully open and, where the trafic has been limited for almost two years.

Metro station 10 (the Museum of Earth and Men) is already linked with the tunnel, continuing to Hladilnika square and now finishing works on it are being carried out. In an advanced stage is the construction of Station 11 (between the Zlaten Rog and Major Thompson streets). According to the plan, the facilities should be located at a depth of 10-12 m above which an underground car park is provided for about 620 vehicles. In fact they are already working on the third metro line - from Knyazhevo neighbourhood to Levski district. In September last year the Czech company Metroproekt Prague started to design the layout and preparation of investment project after it won the municipality's tender with the lowest bid price - BGN3.33 million. Accidentally or not, the results of expert evaluation became known a week ago. Public discussions in different areas of the capital are under way and they will continue until the end of September.

Five options for the route have been proposed. According to unofficial information, the favorite is the one which departs from Vladimir Vazov Blvd passes through Evlogi Georgiev, Orlov Most, the National Palace of Culture, Pette Kiosheta, Georgi Sofijski, the Medical Academy, under the crossroad between Ivan Geshov and Bulgaria Blvds, through Krasno Selo district, Zhitnica Street, Ovcha Kupel Blvd. and reaches railway station Sofia-Pernik. The length of this route is 15.4 km and it will have 18 stations. In the area of the line some 270,000 inhabitants live, and estimates are that the passenger flow will be 137,000 people a day. High chances has also the second option, according to which the route goes under the same places but has an additional station at Ivan Geshov Blvd. Another option is the line to start from Botevgradsko Shosse Blvd and going under the monument of Levski, to Sofia University, the National Palace of Culture and the Russian monument to the Tsar Boris III Boulevard. This option has a length of 14.2 kilometers with 18 stations, a 5.3 kilometre-long tunnel section and a 8.9 kilometres that will go above ground. According to calculations, it will again pass through the territory with a population of 270,000 but the estimated traffic is 121,000 people a day.

Because of its high price (Editor's note: because of the long underground route) an unlikely option is the subway to departs from Vladimir Vazov Blvd, again passing through Levski Monument, Sofia University and the National Palace of Culture but continuing along Bulgaria boulevard to Krasno Selo from where to reach Tsar Boris III and Montevideo Blvds, and hence - to Ovcjha Kupel and to the train station Sofia - Pernik. This track has a length of 16.5 km (of which nearly 10 are below ground) and 17 stations. At the same time, the city zone, which the line will operate has about 260,000 people, and the expected traffic volume is 125 thousand people a day.

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