New Runway at Sofia Airport Expected to Receive Upgraded Categorization by End of September

As of October, the new runway of the Sofia Airport will be able to handle flights even in foggy
conditions after its categorization is upgraded to category two, Transport Minister Peter Moutafchiev said Monday, presenting the mid-term report of his Ministry. Moutafchiev said that the categorization has been coordinated with the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) and that it will be announced by the end of the month.

A problem which could hinder the categorization upgrade is the road located next to the runway, which could prove a source of interference, Moutafchiev said. The road has to be closed but the Sofia City Hall is saying nothing for the time being, he said.

The Transport Minister said that the memoranda of acceptance and hand over with regard to the new terminal of the Sofia Airport need to be ready by the end of the year after which it will be known what amounts of compensations Austria's Strabag will need to pay for the long delay of the construction works and opening of the facility.

Moutafchiev said also that the Bulgarian air carriers have removed from their lists all aircraft which do not meet the European aviation requirements and that the European Commission (EC) has assessed the step as a serious one. He said also that several projects for CAA staff training have been approved and that the inspections and measures put in place by the Bulgarian air carriers threatened with inclusion in the so-called air lines black list, have been commended.

Bulgaria, which has been issued an aviation safeguard clause, reports on all these measures on a monthly basis, and the clause may be lifted by the end of the year, Moutafchiev said. However, he warned against excessive expectations as the requirements are a lot stricter for countries which have already been imposed such a sanction.

Moutafchiev said an inspection is forthcoming in November by the EC, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States which, among other things, will show whether Bulgarian air carriers will be able to fly to the United States. Citing opinions from sources in the aviation business, the Transport Minister said that Bulgarian air carriers may start preparations to provide direct flights to the USA.

During the first two years of the incumbent cabinet's term of office, the work of the Transport Ministry is characterized with accelerated paces of implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects, Moutafchiev said. By way of example he cited the completion of the runways and new passengers terminal of the Sofia Airport, the opened procedure for the construction of the intermodal bridge over the Danube between Vidin in Bulgaria and Calafat in Romania, the electrification of the Plovdiv Svilengrad, Southern Bulgaria, railway and upgrading the tracks for a speed of 160 km per hour.

Another six new railway projects are being prepared at the moment, involving tracks along the most important destinations in this country, said Moutafchiev.

As his Ministry's main tasks he singled out the modernization of the transport infrastructure which he said depends on several factors: time, availability of steady financial flows, determination and commitment on the part of all line institutions and organizations. Other tasks of the Ministry include maximum utilization of the European funds and strengthening public-private partnerships in the development of the transport infrastructure and services.

Moutafchiev noted the large number of awarded concessions in the transport sector and the preparation of new facilities to be implemented through public-private partnerships.

The Transport Minister also said that the National Programme for Development of Ports for Public Transport lays down the policy for the development of ports with national and regional importance. The programme is to be handed for approval by the cabinet after the drafting of an environmental impact assessment.

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