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Bulgaria maps out infrastructure priorities until 2013
Dnevnik News 06/03/2006
Bulgaria will award concession contracts for all domestic airports, excluding the Sofia International Airport, and for the Trakia, Maritsa and Struma motorways, says the new action plan of the government for the implementation of infrastructure projects of national significance.

The railways linking Sofia with the Black Sea coast will be upgraded on EU money in 2007-2013, says the document.

The timetables for the implementation of the different projects should be ready be the end of March.

The action plan is expected to be approved by the government in April before it is submitted for review to Brussels.

The presentation of the infrastructure action plan puts to rest most of the contentious issues that until recently pitted one ministry against the other.

However, the regional development ministry and the transport ministry are still arguing over who should run the Roads Executive Agency (REA), the authority that will administer the EU cash for first grade roads.

Transport minister Petar Mutafchiev advocates that REA should be subordinated to his ministry while regional development minister Asen Gagauzov and REA chief Veselin Georgiev insist that the agency should remain subordinated to the regional development ministry. Gagauzov and Georgiev have proposed that the EU funding should be administered by a board made up of the ministers of finance, transport and regional development.

The money at stake is just over 1 bln euro that will be disbursed by the EU cohesion fund. The resource has been earmarked for the construction or repair of 9 first grade roads, the ring-roads in Montana, Vratsa and Gabrovo and the link between the Hemus motorway and the Sofia ring-road.

Another 1.15 bln euro have been slated for the modernisation of the Sofia-Pernik-Radomir, Sofia-Dragoman and Mezdra-Gorna Oryahovitsa railways and the eletrification of the Parvomai-Svilengrad-Turkish border railway.

The construction of the Hemus motorway will be put on hold due to weak traffic.

Two sections of the Trakia motorway are already under construction: Orizovo-Stara Zagora and Karnobat-Bourgas.

The construction of the Sofia ring-road is part of the Trakia motorway concession deal with Portugal's MSF, Lena Engenharia e Construcoes and Somague and Bulgarian state-owned companies Avtomagistrali and Technoexportstroi. The deal is on the back-burner pending a ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court on the lawfulness of the procedure.

The cost of the missing 97 km section of the Black Sea motorway, linking Varna and Bourgas, is estimated at 317 mln euro.

The 160 km Struma motorway, linking Sofia and Kulata (on the Greek border), will cost 676 mln euro. Gagauzov has been quoted as saying that Greek companies are interested in the Struma concession.

It is not clear if the concession procedure for the Maritsa motorway, linking Plovdiv and Kapitan Andreevo (on the Turkish border), will be restarted. Italy's Salini won sections of the motorway on competitive basis in the early 1990s. Later, sections of the same motorway were granted for construction to Turkey's Ceylan as part of a bilateral power-for-infrastructure deal.

The airports in Plovdiv, Rousse, Gorna Oryahovitsa and Targovishte will be signed over to concessionaires. The concession for the Varna and Bourgas airports initially went to Denmark's Copenhagen Airports but that award was overturned in court. The government will have to decide which of the other bidders should be invited to negotiate for the vacated concession.

A Swiss-German consortium is interested in the Rousse airport concession, said deputy transport minister Ucel Atilla.

The concession procedures for port terminals Somovit, Svishtov and Oryahovo should be completed by the end of 2006.

Varna-based BM Port has been tapped to operate the Lesport facility, part of the Varna port, but that award has been contested in court.

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