The third line of the Sofia metro underground rapid transit system went into service on August 26 with eight stations, linking the Hadji Dimitar and Krasno Selo boroughs of Bulgaria’s capital city.
Initially envisioned for October 2019, the launch of service has been delayed several times due to the testing the rail signalling systems and automated trainsets, both provided by Germany’s Siemens. The process was further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw Siemens pull some of its personnel from the country in spring 2020.
The delays have allowed Sofia city hall company Metropolitan to finish work on the second of three stretches of line 3, allowing operations to begin with eight stations in service, rather than four, as originally intended.
The third stretch of line 3, with four stations between the Krasno Selo and Gorna Banya boroughs, is expected to go into service in early 2021, with construction work already finished, but testing yet to begin.
Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova said at the opening ceremony that line 3 was expected to be used by 60 000 people a day from the start, rising to 110 000 when the next section opens in 2021.
The cost of Sofia metro line 3 so far is about 400 million euro, using EU funds and government co-financing. Fandukova said on August 26 that the city hall has already secured financing for the first expansion of line 3 to Slatina borough, but gave no further details about the project’s schedule.
The official launch of service was held at the new Medical Academy station, with Fandukova, Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov and Metropolitan chief executive Stoyan Bratoev in attendance. As has become traditional, service on the new line on launch day is free of charge.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, an ardent supporter of expanding the city’s metro system going back to his four-year stint as Sofia mayor, did not attend. Before the launch ceremony, he posted on his Facebook page, describing the Sofia metro as “the most beautiful and cheapest in Europe.”
“We build with the same quality as in Europe, but much cheaper. This is why when someone talks about corruption in Bulgaria, I point to the metro,” he wrote.
Borissov has been the target of anti-government protests demanding his resignation for the past seven weeks. A group of several dozen protesters gathered outside the Medical Academy station during the line 3 launch ceremony.
(Photos via Borissov’s Facebook page)
Please support independent journalism by clicking on the orange button below. For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, you can support The Sofia Globe via patreon.com and get access to exclusive subscriber-only content: