Govt Presses Struma Highway Builder

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Section of the Struma highway from the town of Sandanski to Kulata border checkpoint (Lot 4) can be ready within four months in case of good organization of work, said officially the Deputy PM Ekaterina Zaharieva. However, if the contractor fails to submit a new timetable for work on October 15 its contract will not be renewed.

Because of the claims related to the lack of materials and expropriation procedures of the land, the Greek company Actor that is building the 15-kilometre route, asked for extra 39 million levs from the state. The Greeks won the auction with a bid of 56 million levs without VAT, and separately in March 2014 they also received 5.5 million levs for displacement of engineering infrastructure.

“The state is not obliged to provide any other materials, and in providing the necessary land – there in fact were some appeals, but they have been completed and are associated with shifting gear, rather than the main track. Such risks are carried by the contracting builder,” said Zecharieva. She added that because of the delays there have been sums withdrawn as penalties under the contract with Actor in the amount of 1 million levs. If builders catch up with the delay in the final payment procedure the state will decide whether such penalties are to be returned.

As for the construction works for the stage from Dupnitsa to Blagoevgrad (Lot 2), the period for completion is extended, but without the additional cost for the contractor. Because of the delays in building permits and ongoing archaeological excavations Italian-Bulgarian consortium between the Impreza, GBS Infrastructure Construction and Patstroy 92 requested extension until October 2015.

The deputy PM of the caretaker government explained that the excavations have found valuable things that at all costs must be reserved. She also focused on the fact that this part of the Struma highway is one of the most complex in the country – there are many bridges, including one of the longest in Bulgaria – over 900-metre-long one, two tunnels of 360 m and 380 m and many other facilities.

Otherwise the construction of the most difficult stretch of highway – Lot 3 is expected to begin next year passing through the Kresna gorge. It will cost 1.7 billion levs, or virtually all the amount envisaged under the new Operational Programme Transport until 2020. The construction of subdivisions 3.1 (Blagoevgrad – Krupnik) and 3.3 (Kresna – Sandanski) could begin next spring. Subdivision 3.2, which covers the Kresna gorge, is currently in a process of designing a version of the tunnel crossing the protected by Natura programme zones. The construction of a 15-kilometre-long tunnel is estimated at 1.1 billion levs and has already caused controversy. The companies that accumulated experience during the last years of experience highway construction in the country fear that they will drop out of the game. While in the country more than 4,000 bridges have been built, large tunnels literally count on the fingers of both hands, but not this facility will be one of the largest ones in Europe. So now the caretaker government is considering another option – to extend the existing route, which can be one-direction only and the opposite route could pass from somewhere else. Such an option can accelerate the completion of the highway and come up with 200-300 million levs cheaper that can be used for other projects. But environmental organizations are unlikely to accept it very warmly.



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