Senior Bulgarian officials have warned of serious shortcomings in preparations for winter road conditions, against a background of the previous government’s failure to budget for snow-clearing.
The Road Infrastructure Agency is rushing to draw up new temporary contracts with companies with which existing contracts expire in the next few days and weeks.
But at the same time, the agency has warned that there are shortfalls in stocks of materials such as salt, sand and lye used to make roads driveable after snowfalls.
Speaking at a November 14 2014 news conference, Regional Development and Public Works Minister Lilyana Pavlova said that some of the four-contracts with snow-cleaning companies would expire as soon as November 17, some on November 30 and others in December.
New four-year agreements were introduced too late, Pavlova said.
She described the situation as “critical” because some firms were not ready to work in winter.
“I will not comment on why the contracts were not renewed in the past six to seven months.”
Bulgaria was governed by a Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms ruling axis from May 2013 to August 2014, that finally fell amid widespread public rejection.
That ruling axis approved a 2014 national Budget that is in the process of being repaired by the new Parliament elected in October. Budget 2014, arguably among the worst messes left by the former government, made no provision for winter road cleaning.
The head of the Road Infrastructure Ageny’s management board, Lazar Lazarov, said that the country’s roads and its snow removal firms were not full prepared for winter.
He listed serious shortfalls in quantities of sand, salt and lye, and added that while 3092 snow removal machines were needed, only 2376 were available.
Lazarov said that the regions least-prepared for winter road conditions were Sofia, Pernik, Pleven and Stara Zagora. The reasons varied from financial problems to administrative issues, he said.
He said that the regions where the agency had “no concerns” because they were well-prepared were Blagoevgrad, Kurdjali, Montana, Razgrad, Silistra, Turgovishte, Veliko Turnovo, Vidin and Vratsa.
Some mountain passes would be closed during the winter season. These included Troyan Karnare and Dyulinski, which were at high altitudes and where heavy snowfalls were usual, of between three to four metres. Regular snow and rain made proper maintenance practically impossible, he said.
(Photo: Michael Hornak)