A total of 15 Bulgarian and foreign companies have applied in the tender to build Lot 4 of Bulgaria's southwestern Struma Highway, the Road Infrastructure Agency announced upon opening the bids.
The applicants are from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Turkey, Bulgaia's Regional Development Minister Rosen Plevneliev announced. Their number is the second highest number of bidders for a highway section in Bulgaria after earlier this year 17 companies competed for one of the lots of the Maritsa Highway.
The 15-km Lot 4 of the Struma Highway – the future road that is supposed to link Sofia with Kulata crossing on the Greek border – is estimated to cost about EUR 53 M. Its construction will be funded from the EU Operational Program "Transport" and has to be completed in 25 months.
The Lot 4 section runs from Kulata-Promachonas to the southwestern Bulgarian town of Sandanski.
The Bulgarian government is planning to select one of the 15 companies by the end of October and to have it start the construction by November 2011 if there are no appeals.
The construction of Lot 4 of the Struma Highway will also have a positive effect on the Sofia-Kulata railway because it will necessitate a change of the route of a 3.3-km railroad section.
The new railway route will be transferred to a straight section that will allow the trains to go at a speed of 160 km/h, which is about the highest speed that can be reached by trains in Bulgaria.
Plevneliev revealed that the government was expected to pick a winner for Lot 1 (running from Dolna Dikanya to Dupnitsa) in September since one of the bidders had failed an appeal and the ruling of the Competition Protection Commission is expected.
The Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency will start new tenders for Lot 2 (from Dupnitsa to Simitli near Blagoevgrad) and for Lot 3 (from Simitli to Sandanski), as well as for the Bulgarian section of the Sofia-Nis Highway running from Sofia to the Kalotina crossing point on the Serbian border.
Lazar Lazarov, member of the board of the Road Infrastructure Agency, said that by the end of 2011 the agency was going to assign the planning of the route of the Bulgarian section of the Sofia-Nis Highway. The Sofia-Kalotina section will probably be divided in two lots, and the tenders for selecting their executers are expected to start in 1 year.
The total cost of the Struma Highway – from Sofia to Greece – is estimated to be about EUR 1.1 B. The total length of the highway is slightly over 173 km.
"We have already started to economize – the estimated Lot 1 cost was EUR 63 M, while the best bidders' offers reach BGN 60 M without the VAT," Plevneliev said.
The Struma Highway starts at the Daskalovo road junction to the west of Sofia, where it will be connected with the short Lyulin Highway, and will run to the Kulata border crossing on the Bulgarian border with Greece. Some of the sections of the 156-km road are promised to be completed by the end of the Borisov Cabinet's term in 2013. A total of 19 km have been completed so far.
Lot 2 (from Dupnitsa to Simitli, 45 km) and Lot 3 (from Simitli to Sandanski, 60 km) will be harder to build because of the rough terrain, and the Borisov Cabinet has made it clear it plans to complete Lots 1 and 4 by the end of its term in 2013, and to have made progress on the other two.
The Struma Highway is a priority for the Bulgarian government in 2011 because of the importance of the traffic and economic ties with Greece, and because it is a part of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 4 (from Central Europe to Thessaloniki and Athens via Vidin and Sofia).
The highway will be the first one in Bulgaria to feature special facilities for wild animals such as bears and hares.