Row over plan to spend 671M leva on new buses, trams and trolleybuses for Bulgaria’s capital

A Democratic Bulgaria city councillor has hit out at a plan proposed by councillors from Sofia municipality’s GERB group to spend 671 million leva in the next six years on buying new buses, trams and trolleybuses for the Bulgarian capital city’s urban transport network.

Simeon Stavrev criticised the last-minute decision, planned to be put to the vote at the last scheduled meeting of Sofia city council ahead of Bulgaria’s October 29 mayoral and municipal elections.

The proposal, tabled by GERB councillors Doncho Barbalov, deputy mayor, and Zafir Zarkov, head of the transport committee, was detailed on September 11.

The explanation offered for the proposal being tabled now is that it concerns the plans of the transport companies for the coming years and implementation takes time.

Further, some of the new vehicles would be needed in the next two to three years, and the procedures and subsequent production would take at least that much time.

The purchase of 15 new trolleybuses is planned. Eighteen trams are to be bought for the upcoming route along Copenhagen Boulevard, the construction of which is to begin next year.

According to Barbalov, this is precisely one of the projects for which a decision must be made now, so that Stolichen Elektrotransport can prepare and announce an order, and then order the trams as well, since no company keeps that number of vehicles in stock.

In addition to these trams, it is planned to order 45 more with a smaller wheelbase (of different lengths), as well as 45 electric buses (of different lengths).

The vehicles will be used to provide new lines and to replace old vehicles.

The plans of the GERB councillors are to allow Stolichen Autotransport to start procedures for buying 210 new buses – methane and electric. Most orders should be announced next year.

Stavrev said that he would not support the plan at the city council meeting.

“670 million leva annot be spent in the last session of the term of office of any Sofia city council, before the voters vote their confidence for the next term of office,” Stavrev said in a post on Facebook.

“A full audit of Sofia’s transport companies is necessary before they are given the right to spend hundreds of millions of leva,” he said.

He said that the public transport in Sofia needs to be renewed, but first a unified transport model for the capital city must be made in order to know how many and what kind of buses, trolleys, trams and electric buses will be needed not only now, but also after 10 years.

He said that for the anticipated expenditure of 670 million leva, financing has not yet been secured, and the most optimal option would be a combination of own funds and co-financing from the European Union.

While trolleybuses and trams have a relatively homogeneous composition in terms of brands and models, buses come from many different manufacturers, which makes maintenance more expensive.

“The mid-term forecast that trolleybuses will go out of use and be replaced by electric buses makes the importance of motor transport even greater. GERB planned to buy 210 new buses and electric buses of five different types, which means that they could be five different models from five different manufacturers,” he said.

(Photo: Sofia municipality)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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