Will Bulgarian Railways (BDZ) Modernize in the Foreseeable Future? Our Readers Have Spoken

Novinite Insider | June 2, 2024, Sunday // 22:50|  views

A recent survey on our Facebook page posed the question: "Will Bulgarian Railways (BDZ) be modernized in the foreseeable future?" The results are in, and opinions are divided. 75% believe that BDZ will indeed enter the 21st century, while 25% are skeptical, fearing that additional funds will merely be embezzled.

Some of the comments from the survey provide deeper insights into the public sentiment. One optimistic respondent wrote, "We can only hope for a better tomorrow! It is a step up! I personally can't wait to get aboard one of these trains! I love train rides!" Another shared a similar more realistic view, stating, "My answer to the question is, YES BDZ will enter the 21st century. All governments are corrupt at some level, but investments in improvements add a new venue for further corruption to take place and take new money." A different comment added humor to the discussion: "Makes me think of Bai Ganyo on his train trip to Prague."

Context and Challenges Facing BDZ

The debate comes in the wake of BDZ's recent ticket price hikes, which have brought the quality of the nation's railway infrastructure into sharper focus. The current state of BDZ reveals a system struggling with aging trains—averaging 40 years old—and frequent delays. According to Nova TV, one in ten trains arrives late by an average of 33 minutes. Despite these challenges, BDZ managed to transport nearly 22 million passengers last year, with Sofia Central Railway Station handling almost 20% of this traffic.

Efforts Toward Modernization

In response to the growing scrutiny, BDZ is making strides towards modernization. One significant development is the transition to electronic ticketing. This initiative, valued at BGN 15.8 million excluding VAT, aims to allow passengers to purchase tickets via cards, vending machines, mobile apps, and other digital platforms. This move follows a 20% increase in ticket prices and reflects BDZ's commitment to enhancing passenger experience through digital solutions.

Additionally, BDZ is planning to implement video surveillance on its trains, a measure highlighted by Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov in a recent parliamentary inquiry. Following a successful trial in locomotives, an evaluation is underway to extend this to passenger wagons. Although a specific timeline for full implementation has not been provided, the surveillance has already proven beneficial in preventing incidents and accidents involving locomotives.

New Additions to the Fleet

To further address the need for modernization, BDZ has acquired 79 second-hand railroad cars from Deutsche Bahn for BGN 30 million (EUR). The first 19 cars, intended for busy routes such as Sofia to Varna, Burgas, and Ruse, arrived a month behind schedule but are expected to start transporting passengers by mid-June. Gvozdeikov emphasized that these modernized wagons, previously used by German passengers until last December, are more cost-effective than repairing old ones. He particularly noted the advanced facilities, such as the toilets, urging for proper maintenance of this new equipment.
Conclusion

The mixed reactions from the Facebook survey mirror the broader public discourse on BDZ's future. While some remain hopeful about the steps towards modernization, others are wary of potential mismanagement. The initiatives underway—from electronic ticketing to new railroad cars and enhanced security measures—signal a commitment to improving the Bulgarian rail system. However, the journey to fully modernized railway infrastructure remains a challenging path, demanding continued effort and vigilance.

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Tags: survey, BDZ, railway, trains

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