The Sofia metro underground railway extension to the airport is to open in early April 2015, according to Stoyan Bratoev, executive director of the company in charge of the metro.
Travelling time from the airport to the centre of the city is expected to about 15 minutes.
The new line will have four stations: Druzhba, Iskursko Chausse, Sofia Sveta Gora and Sofia Airport. One of the stations, Iskursko Chausse, will have a direct connection to the rail line between Sofia and Plovdiv.
The construction of the new five km stretch of the metro from Tsarigradsko Chausse Boulevard to the airport began in late November 2012. Construction has cost 136 million leva, of which 110 million has come from the EU’s transport operational programme and the rest from Sofia municipality and the national budget.
According to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to attend the official opening of the Sofia metro line to the airport.
In March 2015, the Sofia Metro added announcements in English on metro trains, in anticipation of a higher number of foreigners using the service.
Metro trains are running at more frequent intervals to cope with the expected increase in the number of passengers.
It is expected that by the end of April, the metro extension to Mladost 4 should be ready. This line, from the current Mladost 1, will have three stations and connect to Business Park Sofia.
According to Bratoev, the metro line to Sofia Airport is “100 per cent” ready and empty trains have been taken on several test runs to qualify the line for the required safety certificates.
Some bus routes linking Druzhba and the Mladost residential area are to be altered as new metro train lines come into service. Precise details of the changes are yet to be announced.
The opening of the two new lines, those to Sofia Airport and to Mladost 4, is expected to see the number of people using the Sofia Metro to increase to 32 per cent of those using public transport in the capital city.
With the completion of the third line, expected to happen by 2020, traffic will increase to 550 000, an estimated 45 per cent of those using public transport in Sofia.
He told local media that the two new lines were expected to have a further beneficial effect on traffic reduction in the city. The most recent opening of a new metro line, in 2012, cut the number of cars on Sofia’s roads by 21 000, according to Bratoev.
Further benefits are expected to include a reduction in car accidents in Sofia, by a projected eight per cent, and reductions in air and noise pollution in the capital city.
Bratoev told local media that interest in the contract to build the third line, which will connect the south-west and north-east of Sofia, was very high. Fourteen bids had been submitted, he said on March 23.
The third line’s route is intended to be from Botevgradsko Chausse to Vladimir Vazov Boulevard, on to the centre (Eagle Bridge, NDK and Bulgaria Boulevard) and then on to Krasno Selo and Ovcha Kupel, with the last metro station at the Ring Road.
It will be a challenging project because, among other things, the planned route passes by underground water courses.
Construction of the seven km central section of the third line, from Botevgradsko Chaussee to Ovcha Kupel, will be divided into four lots. The winner bidders will have 45 months to complete the project after contract signing.
Construction of stage one of the central section of the line, from Yanko Sakuzov Boulevard to Krasno Selo, with a depot at Zhitnitsa Street, is envisaged to be completed by 2018, according to Metropoliten Sofia.
(Main photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)