BULGARIA has begun construction on a 7km twin-bore tunnel on the Elin Pelin - Kostenets line, the longest rail tunnel in the Balkans, which forms part of the Bulgaria’s east-west rail line and the wider TEN-T network.

The tunnel is being built by the Jen-Dui Railway Elin Pelin joint venture, formed by Turkish companies Gengiz and Duigu, as part of the 20km, Lev 301.7m ($US 301.7m) Elin Pelin - Vakarel upgrade project. The upgrade will allow passenger trains to travel at 160km/h and freight to travel at 120km/h.

“The technical and operational challenges faced by the builder are extremely high as this lot is the most difficult of the entire stretch,” says minister of transport, information technologies and communications, Mr Georgi Todorov.

The Elin Pelin - Kostenets modernisation, which forms part of the wider Sofia - Plovdiv modernisation project, is being partially funded through the European Union’s Cohesion Fund.

Bulgaria - Turkey passenger service trialled

The director general of Bulgaria’s National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC), Mr Krassimir Papukciyski, and the chairman of the board and director general of Turkish State Railways (TCDD), Mr Ali Ihsan Uygun, have met to discuss the introduction of a trial passenger service between Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and Istanbul, Turkey.

The service will operate twice a week, with a timetable currently being developed. The service will be optimised to ease customs checks at the border.