BULGARIAN Transport Minister Petko Tabakov announced on January 29 that US consultancy Arkadis had been selected to undertake exploratory work on the planned Sofia - Skopje rail link. The company was chosen from a shortlist of seven bidders as part of the US-funded Initiative for Southeast Balkans Development (RG 10.99 p621).

Macedonian Railways has already spent around US$100m on refurbishing the Skopje - Kumanovo - Beljakovci route and preliminary works on the extension to the border. Tabakov said Bulgaria needed to spend a similar sum on rehabilitation of the 88 km Radomir - Gyueshevo line, with US$240m required to close the 57 km gap between Gyueshevo and Beljakovci.

In the longer term, the route is to be extended west from Skopje to Albania, incorporating the existing branch to Kicevo and a second cross-border link. n