International Working Group “Corridors” in Sofia

The fifth meeting of the International Working Group «Spatial and Transport Development along European Corridors: An Example of the Corridor 22, Hamburg–Athens» took place in Sofia, on the 20th and 21st November 2017.

Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is an important node connecting the national east-west transport relations from the Black Sea with Serbia and FYROM as well as Romania and Greece in the north-south relation. Bulgaria is facing huge challenges in modernizing its transport infrastructure.

Two experts of the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC) informed about the ongoing modernization of the main railway lines. The upgrading on the national east-west rail axes connecting Sofia with the Black Sea and Turkey via Plovdiv has advanced well and will be completed within a few years. Due to financial limitations, the upgrading of the international connections to Serbia, FYROM, Greece and Rumania is only proceeding gradually, but will gain importance in the next years. Due to the comparably low demand single track lines are sufficient on most sections, a proposed new route Sofia – Mezdra is unlikely to be constructed in near future.

Regarding the city planning, Sofia’s Chief Architect presented the importance of improving not only the national transport network, but also the access to this network on the scale of Sofia. Due to the high car ownership in Sofia the city puts high effort into the promotion of public transport. Investments are made into the extension of the metro network, including an additional line and several interchange stations to the local train network. For national and international access, the main station and international airport were connected to the metro system.

Two representatives of the Municipality of Sofia – Sector of Master Planning and Consortium InfraMobilPlan and an expert of the Sofia Higher School for Civil Engineering – agreed that the high modal split of car transport requires strong management measures to increase the attraction of public transport and divert through traffic around the city center. Although Sofia is a densely populated and compact city, further action is required to break the ongoing urban sprawl and to calm the traffic in the city center. The Sofia Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan with respective measures is in preparation. An expert for integrated spatial development from the National Centre for Regional Development pointed out that, outside of Sofia, the ongoing population decline is the main challenge. The loss of social infrastructure and services in rural regions is opposed by the Targeted Investment Program, which seeks to attract investments and to create jobs in backward areas.

The International Working Party continues with its research on the corridor and will discuss its analyses on the sixth official meeting in Hamburg in February 2018. The preparation of a strategic program is in progress and will be discussed as well.