Sofia, 15 Dec 2011: With the strike of the railway workers loosing steam after 22 days, the state-owned railway company BDZ now faces another peril: half the fleet of modern passenger trains could be blocked over delayed payments to German bank KfW.
(Images Copyright Johann Brandstatter/JB Photography and KfW)
The BDZ operates 25 Siemens Desiro Classic passenger trains (electric multiple units, EMU) since 2008 on regional railway lines, 15 are 3-car sets, the rest are 4-car sets. The purchase was financed with a credit from KfW IPEX in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
Unfortunately, Bulgaria is still owing 24 million Euro to KfW and the bank now demands the transfer of half the outstanding money the by the end of 2011. If Bulgaria does not pay, the German bank threatens to stop all 25 units in question via Siemens with a built-in software.
Transport minister Ivaylo Moskovsky voiced hopes that a solution could be found during the upcoming visit of finance minister Dyankov’s visit to Berlin. Another option would be to release the 70 million Euro aid package for the railway operator that has already been approved by parliament.
If neither solution works out, half of the modern passenger trains in Bulgaria could be blocked indefinitely. The other half are 25 Diesel-powered Siemens Desiro Classic running as Class 10 in Bulgaria. Everything else moving passengers around on Bulgaria’s railway lines is at least 33 years old, has no safety certificates and is largely in a deplorable condition for lack of maintenance.
However, a well-placed source tells us that chances are good for continued operation of the Siemens trains because Bulgaria is expected to make a substantial payment before the end of December.
Meanwhile, trains continue to stand still during daytime because of the ongoing strike of the railway workers. BDZ reacted to the walkout by simply cancelling all trains between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from the new timetable introduced last week.