Fate of Defunct City Railway Raises Tensions in Sofia

Society | June 15, 2011, Wednesday // 18:38|  views

Nationalists from the VMRO party are seen protesting against the dismantlement of a defunct Sofia city rail line. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

The fate of a still existing section of a ring railway in the Bulgarian capital Sofia has gotten out numerous protesters in favor and against the preservation of the line.

In a special statement Wednesday, the Bulgarian Transport Ministry explained the reasons the railway, which once was on the outskirts of Sofia but today runs through several residential districts in the eastern part of the city, has been slated for dismantlement.

The railway line in questions runs from the Poduyane train station through the Slatina quarter to the Hladilnika quarter.

The decision to terminate the use of the line was made by the former team of the Transport Ministry in June 2007.

"This is needed because the route of the railway was constructed in order to service a territory that was once in the periphery of the Bulgarian capital. Today this line goes through several residential districts and creates dangers for their residents. It also crosses six busy streets and a boulevard. The general structure plan of the city of Sofia also does not provide for the use of this railway," the Transport Ministry explained.

It further points out that part of the section slated for dismantlement is used to transport only 9 freight cars monthly, which does not justify the funds that National Company "Railway Infrastructure" spends on its maintenance.

"The World Bank has set a number of conditions that have to be met in order for a development loan for the Bulgarian railways to be granted. One of them is the closure and dismantlement of unprofitable railway lines such as the section in question," the Transport Ministry says.

Its further argument for removing the line is the fact that it runs close to the newly-built National Sports Arena, which according to Sports Minister Svilen Neykov will create threats for those visiting the events in the arena.

The Transport Ministry further claims that it is considering an idea to construct a bicycle alley along the route of the railway.

The major organization protesting against the dismantlement of the rail line in the eastern parts of Sofia is the nationalist party VMRO, which also protests against the future sale of the plot around the current Pioner train station along the route of the line to private firms.

Their protest rally on Wednesday was met with a counter-rally by people from the Dianabad and Iztok quarters demanding the removal of the line, and the construction of a bicycle alley.

Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski has promised to meet all protesters next week to discuss their ideas, vowing that the line will not be dismantled in the meantime. He also said the Ministry will support "any sensible idea" of the Sofia Municipality about what to do with the railway line and its route.

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Tags: railway, National Company "Railway Infrastructure", sofia, Poduyane train station, Slatina quarter, Hladilnika quarter, Dianabad quarter, Iztok quarter, VMRO, Ivaylo Moskovski, Transport Minister, Sofia Municipality, national sports arena, Svilen Neykov, Sports Minister, World Bank


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