BULGARIA’s National Railway Infrastructure Company (NKRI) has outlined its plans for the modernisation of the Vidin - Sofia line during the Europe in Bulgaria: Common Future conference being held in the city of Vidin.

Head of the NKRI unit preparing, managing and implementing the Vidin - Sofia project, Mr Albena Traikova, gave the presentation focusing particularly on modernisation of the Vidin - Medkovets section of the route, close to Bulgaria’s border with Romania.

The centenary of the building of the original alignment of the Vidin - Sofia line is being celebrated this year by NKRI and Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ). The project to modernise and rebuild 45km of the route has a budget of €2.3bn, making it one of the largest rail projects in Bulgaria in terms of cost.

The project will see part of the route being reconstructed on a less circuitous alignment requiring extensive civil engineering work. In total there will be two tunnels of 325m and 2975m in length; six bridges with a total length of 564m; and 11 viaducts and flyovers with a total length of 4680m, including one with a length of 1126m and height of 112m.

The new alignment will shorten the Vidin - Sofia route by 14km. The new line will be electrified and laid with heavier rail to increase line speed for passenger trains to 160km/h and for freight trains to 120km/h while meeting the latest European Union (EU) standards for safety, reliability and interoperability. The route will form part of the TEN-T network.

Also as part of the project, the two existing intermediate stations at Medkovets-Brusartsi and Brusartsi-Dabova Mahala will be partially rebuilt and four new stations will be built at Dabova Mahala, Vodnyanci, Sratsimir and Vidbol. In addition, software modelling has been used to minimise noise from train operations and noise protection measures will be provided where required.

The Vidin - Medkovets project has been divided into three sections: Medkovets - Dabova Mahala, Dabova Mahala - Sratsimir and Sratsimir - Vidin. The tendering process to select the contractors for the first two sections is due to be completed this month, while completion of the procurement process for the third section is expected to be completed within a few months.

The indicative value for the construction of the entire Vidin - Medkovets section is put at €613.5m, 85% of which will be provided by the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

In July 2022 the EU announced that it was providing €224.57m i to Bulgaria for the modernisation of the Medkovits - Sratsimir section of the Vidin - Sofia route. This was reported to be the largest sum of EU co-financing ever provided for a Bulgarian rail project. Bulgaria also received €4.9m in EU funding towards technical assistance for upgrading the Mezdra - Medkovets section.

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