The first informal negotiations with the European Commission for the new Operational Program "Transport and Transport Infrastructure" 2014 – 2020 were held in a constructive and positive manner. This emerged from the press conference given from the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications Nikolina Angelkova, following her meetings in Brussels.
"The budget of OP "Transport and transport infrastructure" is limited and its amount is 1.9 billion euros, with national co-financing and the projects that are to be implemented by 2020 as a priority, the way they were proposed in the first draft of the program in June amount to about 4 billion euros. Thus the need for prioritization is obvious, given the limited financial resources", said Minister Angelkova. The prioritization is based on the continuity of the investments from the previous programming period, the development needs of the regions, the project readiness and the complexity of the project, as the balance between the road and the railway infrastructure is kept as well as the development balance of North and South Bulgaria.
In the railway sector, the completion of the tracks the Serbian - Turkish/Greek borders and Plovdiv – Burgas will be a priority. “The programming period 2014 - 2020 envisages the modernization of the rest of the route Plovdiv - Burgas and the sections Elin Pelin - Ihtiman and Ihtiman - Septemvri", said Nikolina Angelkova. In her words, the section Dragoman - Sofia - Elin Pelin will be financed under the Connecting Europe Facility because in this way the route will not be unfinished. 406 million euros (including national co-financing) for Bulgaria, which will be used for rail and water projects, are reserved on it. The railway track Vidin - Medkovets and the project for the improvement of the navigation on the Danube River, which is a joint project with Romania, are to be financed under the Connecting Europe Facility.
"Except for high-speed railways, we need trains that meet the expectations of the people for safety, speed and comfort of the journey", explained the transport Minister. For this reason together with Jaspers initiative a long-term strategy for the development of BDZ will be developed. "This proposal was welcomed by the Directorate General "REGIO" and I hope that by the end of 2015 the strategy will be completed", added Nikolina Angelkova.
"We have proposed the entire “Hemus” motorway to be included in the scope of the OP "Transport and transport infrastructure" and the section from Veliko Tarnovo to Belokopitovo to be financed by a loan from the European Investment Bank. There have been preliminary talks with the bank and we have their agreement in principle", said Nikolina Angelkova. This will ensure the completion of the project as a whole in the period 2020 - 2022.
When it comes to road projects, Lot 3 of highway "Struma” remains a major priority. We have proposed to the EC the completion of the design of the tunnel at Kresna gorge while at the same time we are working on an alternative option", added Minister Angelkova. She explained that EIA of the project for the tunnel is to be made. Therefore, it was proposed to the European Commission to include the alternative option in the assessment, with the aim to reduce the indicative value and hopefully the deadlines. "No compromise will be made with the environment and each stage of the preparation will be discussed with the non- governmental sector", highlighted Nikolina Angelkova.
The other priority in the road sector is the construction of the tunnel under Shipka peak. There are also ongoing works along the line Vidin - Sofia and highway "Kalotina - Sofia", and the Ministry of Regional Development and the Road Infrastructure Agency have already started negotiations for their financing with a loan from the EIB. "Given the limited financial resources, other sources of funding should be sought, as one of the options is a loan from the EIB, but the most important thing is to implement those infrastructure projects", explained Minister Angelkova.
"Being one of the most successful projects, the underground will continue to expand with funds from the new Operational Program", said Nikolina Angelkova. In the period 2014 – 2020 works on the third metro diameter will begin and the construction of the most difficult part of the line - from Blvd. Yanko Sakazov to residential area Krasno Selo, is to be financed.
It emerged from the press conference that together with Jaspers the authorities are working towards the development of a multimodal transport strategy, which is a precondition to the Partnership Agreement with the EC. It was also proposed that through the Technical Assistance Program the EIB could develop a strategy for road infrastructure charging (i.e. toll system).
The formal comments of the EC are to be received after the discussions today, and they will be included in the program. Further meetings are planned in order to achieve the final informal agreement with the Commission. After that the program will be submitted for formal approval. Minister Nikolina Angelkova was confident that the process will not be delayed and will be completed before the end of the year.