The “final” date for the opening of the as-yet incomplete section of Bulgaria’s Trakiya Motorway, linking Sofia to Bourgas via Plovdiv, is to be known on July 8 or 9.
This is according to Desilava Terzieva, Regional Development Minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government that took office in May.
In recent months, there have been various dates announced as the scheduled date for the opening, ranging from June 30 to July 12.
While work on the highway started decades ago, completion became a signature project for Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB government headed by Boiko Borissov from mid-2009 to early 2013.
Under that government, expectations had been that the Trakiya Motorway would be completed by the end of June 2013, which for a government that pushed forward its achievements in completing infrastructure would have been a useful photo-opportunity ahead of elections that initially were planned for July 7 2013.
But the early 2013 political crisis intervened, and for two months Bulgaria was under the stewardship of a caretaker cabinet, which indicated that the highway would be finished and opened on July 12.
Currently, at legal driving speeds, it takes just more than three hours to reach Bourgas from Sofia, but part of the way includes a diversion to the “old” road, with work on the outstanding stretch of highway in sight.
According to Terzieva, the deadline for the completion of Trakiya Motorway was July 15.
There had been a delay because of an issue with the quality of asphalt being used, which now had been resolved.
She said that a committee had been appointed to review the work on highways because the main problem in Bulgaria was “working quickly and poorly”.
Millions would have to be spend annually because the national road network was a miserable condition, she said. “It is better to invest more money in construction and then spend less on road maintenance,” Terzieva said.
She said that no real work had been done on closing the gap in the Maritsa Motorway since October 2012. Construction had resumed after several warning letters to the contractor and the threat of termination of the contract, according to Terzieva.
The European Commission had warned at the end of 2012 that the lack of work on the project could mean a loss of EU funds, she said, but neither the GERB government nor the caretaker cabinet (in office from mid-March to late May) had “the courage to take a political decision”.
She said that the current government would have to rely on the existing contractor to complete the Maritsa Motorway, even though the company had “serious financial difficulties”.
(Photo: (c) The Sofia Globe