BULGARIA: National operator BDZ needs to focus on service quality, sustainability and long-term performance in order to ‘convince the public that it is developing in an upward trend’ and remain the state’s main passenger service provider when the market is liberalised in 2024, Minister of Transport, Information Technology & Communications, Rossen Jeliazkov said last month.

Jeliazkov was speaking at conference held to discuss the state operator’s three-stage rolling stock procurement programme.

The first phase to 2022 covers an intensive repair programme to reduce daily shortages of operational locomotives and multiple-units. This includes refurbishing 46 Siemens Desiro units to ensure their continued use on suburban routes for the next 12-13 years. An average of 15 locomotives are to be modernised per year, and BDZ and Škoda Transportation are discussing the possibility of enhancements to increase their maximum speed to 160 km/h and extend their operational life by 20 years.

Negotiations are also underway for the purchase of about 100 second-hand coaches from Deutsche Bahn, which BDZ believes would be cheaper than upgrading its existing vehicles and could be completed this year.

Phase two is to be initiated this year and covers the purchase of 10 to 15 multiple-units for medium-distance services and 30 to 50 high-quality coaches suitable for 160 km/h operation. This would help BDZ to compete with road transport on long-distance and international routes. Deliveries are planned for mid-2023. The cost is estimated at just over €100m, and Jeliazkov said procurement would be undertaken in a way which would ‘not hamper the financial position’ of BDZ.

In the longer term, the third stage of the programme from 2030 would see the replacement of the Siemens Desiro units along with life-expired locomotives and coaches used on international services.

In an effort to gain access to a wider range of potential suppliers and increase transparency, BDZ has published procurement registers for its passenger and freight divisions, providing mandatory information on tenders and consultations as well procurements valued at below 30 000 leva.