State-of-the-art rail line brings speedier trips

High-speed rail transport is becoming a reality in south-eastern Bulgaria, following infrastructure improvements along a stretch of line some 100 km long between the towns of Parvomai and Svilengrad. These form part of a broader rail project to boost capacity and significantly reduce journey times for passengers and freight between the city of Plovdiv and the Greek border.

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The work was spread over two years and directly generated employment for more than 1 400 people. It also contributes to the development of certain priority railway routes on the trans-European transport network, the so-called TEN-T programme.

Two-phase modernisation

The project took place in Yuzhen tsentralen, a region that is home to more than 1.5 million people. It followed the first phase of railway rehabilitation work on the Plovdiv – Svilengrad line, completed under the 2000-2006 Cohesion Fund (the former Instrument for Structural Policy for Pre-accession (ISPA) programme).

Part funded by the EU, the new project focused on a section that covers almost three-quarters of the 150 km railway line between Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, and the border with Greece. The main goals were to speed up rail journeys and increase the line’s capacity.

Work involved upgrading, modernising and electrifying the rail section between Parvomai, which lies some 45 km to the east of Plovdiv, and the small town of Svilengrad, including a connection to the Greek border. It comes under an overall Bulgarian strategy to refurbish and modernise the whole rail route from the nation’s border with Serbia to the borders with Turkey and Greece at Svilengrad.

Journey times slashed

In total, 96.5 km of line were reconstructed, with partial doubling of tracks. Overhead line was installed on over 100 km track, seven stations were resignalled and each station now has a passenger-information system.

With the project now completed, conventional passenger trains are expected to travel at up to 160 km/h and tilting trains up to 200 km/h. Freight trains can now achieve speeds of 120 km/h. As a result, journey times between Plovdiv and Svilengrad will be cut by 47 minutes for passenger trains and by 33 minutes for freight trains – leading to a 70 % and 10 % increase in traffic respectively.

Greater rail safety is now assured too. Besides overseeing installation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) to enable compatible signalling with high speed lines across Europe, and a new mobile communications system, the project eliminated 20 level crossings.

The modernised line will immediately benefit regional commuters, plus long-distance and international passengers and freight in the longer term. It should also boost the regional economy, notably towns such as Haskovo, Dimitrovgrad, Svilengrad and Harmanly and their industrial base.

Total and EU funding

The “Plovdiv – Svilengrad Railway Electrification and Upgrading of Corridors IV and IX, Phase 2: Parvomai - Svilengrad in Bulgaria” project has a total eligible budget of EUR 207 437 000, with the Cohesion Fund contributing EUR 142 966 000 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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