Bidding opens for Danube bridge

SOFIA (AP) – Bulgaria yesterday opened the bids for the long-awaited construction of a new bridge across the Danube River, the government announced. The bids came in at between 105 million euros and 268 million euros, the Ministry of Transport said in a statement. It did not provide other details, saying that the four offers will be evaluated and the winner will be announced within 45 days. The four bidders which reached the final stage include Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA; a consortium led by France’s Vinci SA and Bulgarian companies Moststroy PLC and Glavbolgarstroy; a consortium of Germany’s Zublin AG and France’s Eiffel; and a consortium of France’s Bouygues SA, Italy’s Rizzani de Eccher SpA and Bulgaria’s Transstroy Varna PLC. The bridge, which is to link the Bulgarian Danube River port of Vidin to the Romanian city of Calafat, is a key element of a European transport corridor linking the German city of Dresden with Istanbul in Turkey. The government expects to have the two-kilometer bridge ready by the end of 2009, the Ministry of Transport said. Bulgaria hopes the bridge will not only boost trade links with the European Union – which Sofia will join next year – but also bring economic prosperity to the northwestern region, now one of the poorest in the country. The 230-million-euro project has the financial backing of the European ISPA pre-accession program, the European Investment Bank, the French Development Agency and the German Credit Institution for Reconstruction and Development, the ministry said. Bulgaria and Romania signed an agreement to build the Vidin-Calafat bridge in 2000, but various bureaucratic obstacles delayed the project. At present, the only bridge on the 610-kilometer Danube section, which forms the Bulgarian-Romanian border, links Ruse in Bulgaria to Giurgiu in Romania by road and rail.