WORKERS, TRAFFIC JAMS AND HOPES
If we were not Bulgarians and if we didn't live in the centre of the Balkans we would certainly have good underground public transport in the capital city. Alas, the reality is different - perhaps because we are just there, at that, in a long-lasting transition period... That is why 28 years after the beginning of construction work of the Sofia Metropoliten there is only a 10-km long section and eight underground stations between the housing quarters of Obelya and St. Nedelya. As it often happens in our country, the bombastic promises that the subway would reach Interpred this year were not realized. Of course, the blame for that was entirely transferred to the contractors from the Japanese firm Taisei and Sofia's Mayor Boyko Borissov hurried to explain that the remaining part of the route to the Mladost residential district was almost ready. New promises followed - the extension will be ready in the spring of 2009! And as we know that what is said in Bulgaria does not necessarily match reality, we decided to check what stage the construction of the section from the Yunak Stadium to the station in Mladost 1 has reached, as it is known that the Japanese are still digging the tunnels in the central part of the city.
A huge construction site can be seen behind the high metal fence in the corner of the Dragan Tsankov and Evlogi Georgiev boulevard. Taisei's employees are working although it's raining because the more than half a year of delay has to be made up for. For more than two years now one of the biggest stations of the Sofia Metropoliten is being built here, although its name does not show that. It is simply called Station Nine. The tunnels to the two neighbouring stations - Eight (near St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University) and Ten (near Interpred) are ready and the railways are being placed in them now. The platform from which passengers will be getting onto the metro trains is under construction more than 20 m below the ground. Offices and trade establishments will be located above it, near the surface. The big underground parking lot near Interpred can be already seen. The facility will have three floors and should accommodate more than 600 vehicles, which is one more proof of the Sofia Metropoliten's extreme importance. It will not only ease the capital's traffic, but will also solve another problem in city - parking. The underground parking places near the metro stations are expected to accommodate about 2,000 automobiles which presently jam Sofia's central parts.
According to the plan, the station at the Yunak stadium should be ready by the year-end, but if one sees the huge ditch and the crude concrete walls, he could hardly believe that is possible.
According to the Metropoliten Sofia Director, Stoyan Bratoev, the rails have been put to the 10th station and the communications are being completed. Since we were not allowed to inspect that in person, we have to believe him. However, we visited the Interpred underground station to see how far construction works have gone. In fact, this station was built more than one year ago and last summer Sony made an exhibition there. The only workers we met now were two officials from the Railway Infrastructure national company who were inspecting the railroad. Surprisingly, a health officer was cleaning the floor - a scene that makes you think that the trains of the underground railways are already passing regularly.
In the section from the 10th station to Musagenitsa quarter the route goes above the ground and the 11th underground station (at the corner of Dragan Tsankov and G.M.Dimitrov boulevards) is the only one that goes under it. The basic construction work has been done and the external architecture of the station is now being built. This is why two thirds of Dragan Tsankov boulevard roadway are closed for traffic. Let's hope that promises that the road will be opened by the summer will be kept, because people who live in Sofia still have bitter memories about the terrible jams in the hot days in which excavation works in the region continued. We should note that compared to the pit near the Yunak stadium there were many more workers here or at least it seemed so. Apart from those who were building the ground part of the entrances to the station, there were others who were already setting the marble covering on the stairs to the platform. The latter, of course, is quite illogical, considering the fact that rough construction works are still to be done. But it seems that in Bulgaria things are going this way...
In order to reach Mladost 1 quarter, the route of the underground passes along the middle of Andrey Saharov Blvd. and then goes beneath the ground again. In this section the rails are being placed and a Musagenitsa station is being built (before the bridge over the Durvenishka river) entirely above the ground. It is almost finished, too, with only completing work on its interior to be done. It seems that the construction of the section linking the centre with Mladost is really in its final stage and if not in spring, in autumn 2009 the underground trains will begin to travel on it.
Several hundred metres further from the Musagenitsa station the first diametre of the Sofia underground (from Obelya to Mladost 1) is completed (for now). After the last (13th) station the route divides into two. The municipality plans to make one section reach the Business Park in Mladost 4 and the other pass through Drouzhba quarter and go to the airport. However, all this is merely a distant perspective that will hardly become true soon, at least with the current speed of construction.