Series Of Railway Accidents In Bulgaria Goes On

Class 52 shunting locomotive

Class 52 shunting locomotive; they are between 25 and 46 years old and show it. (

Travellers on the express train from Sofia to Varna were in for a nasty shock yesterday, when their train caught fire because of a faulty brake. (Images Copyright JB Photography)

The incident happened close to the capital Sofia, nobody was injured. This is the latest in a string of accidents involving passenger trains operated by the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ).

Two weeks ago, on 20 July, another train caught fire for the same reason from  Sofia to the city of Varna on the Black Sea coast. More than 200 passengers had to be evacuated, again with no injuries. However, the fire destroyed the first two passenger cars before the fire brigade finally arrived, more than an hour after the alarm.

On 29 June a local train between Cherven Bryag and Montana in Northwestern Bulgaria had to stop near Vratsa because of a fire on board, nobody was injured. And on 10 June a freight train caught fire near Simeonovgrad in southern Bulgaria. The fire started on the locomotive, the driver managed to get away without injuries.

The most severe accident in recent years happened, when a night train between Sofia and Kardam caught fire in 2008 and nine passengers burned to death. Nine other were injured, the fire was thought also to be caused by faulty brakes.

The passenger cars in Bulgaria are not only old but also poorly maintained

The passenger cars in Bulgaria are not only old but also poorly maintained, resulting in a series of fires because of faulty brakes. (

The latest in a string of accidents was, like most, caused by the deplorable state of locomotives and rolling stock operated by the BDZ. With the exception a few modern Siemens Desiro Classic Diesel and Electric Multiple Units used in local traffic, the rest of the locomotives is up to 50 years old and in very bad shape.

Hand-operated railway barrier in Dupnitsa

Hand-operated railway barrier in Dupnitsa, on the main line between Sofia and the Greek border. (

The same goes for the rail infrastructure: stations, signals and tracks. On some secondary lines barriers and signals are still hand-operated, tracks and switches in some locations badly in need of repairs.

An indication for the condition of the Bulgarian railway hardware was the revocation of safety certificates for about 80% of locomotives and rolling stock last October. The discussion about the certificates is still ongoing, meanwhile travellers either have to accept the danger or get other means of transportation.

Images by Mariela Zamfirova & Johann Brandstatter (More images of BDZ locomotives and rail cars can be found on the Rail Gallery on our website)

(Sources:, Bulgarian National TV, Middle East & Balkans News; 11 August 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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