By Clive Leviev Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Several months after it was promised and about 11 months after the Danube Bridge 2 was officially opened, international railway transport along the Vidin-Golentsi-Craiova route between Bulgaria and Romania began on May 10 2014.
Danube Bridge 2, officially the New Europe Bridge, was officially opened on June 14 2013 but the rail tracks that cross it in parallel with the road passageway lay unused for close to 11 months.
In December, the head of Bulgaria’s state railways BDZ said that the rail route over the bridge would open in February. This turned out to be May.
The service that began on May 10 is to be provided by pairs of trains owned by Romania’s state railway carrier, Romanian transport ministery secretary of state Raduta Matache said at the official launch ceremony. Bulgarian trains also will travel along the route.
Matache said that he had worked with Bulgarian deputy transport minister Petar Kirov to accelerate efforts to get the rail transport service over Danube Bridge 2 underway.
The bridge is a project of a strategic importance for both countries and would strengthen the co-operation between Bulgaria and Romania, Matache said.
Kirov said that in the 10 months and 10 days since the official opening of Danube Bridge 2, about 418 193 vehicles had crossed the bridge.
“This railway is proof that we could achieve a lot in partnership with our neighbouring countries. This bridge is a product of our joint efforts and it would not have been opened without European solidarity,” Kirov said.
Also on May 10, Greece reopened the regular rail service between Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia and the Greek city of Thessaloniki. The service was suspended three years ago as part of austerity measures by Greece.
Two trains will travel between the two cities every day. The train is comprised of two second-class carriages. A one-way Thessaloniki-Sofia ticket costs 17.80 euro and a return ticket 35 euro.
The same day, Greece’s railway company also reopened daily rail services to Belgrade and Skopje.