Construction of the new Danube bridge starts in Bulgaria

VIDIN (AFP) – Bulgaria’s prime minister inaugurated yesterday the construction of a second bridge across the Danube River to fellow EU newcomer Romania, hailing it as a key part in a new European transport corridor. Sergei Stanishev said the 1,971-meter rail-and-road link between northwestern Vidin and the Romanian city of Calafat was vital to the planned trans-Europe route from the German city of Dresden to Istanbul. Corridor for Greece «The construction of this bridge will open up the whole fourth pan-European transport corridor between Greece and Central Europe. It will also be of extreme significance for the economic and social development of the whole northwestern Bulgarian region,» he said. The two Balkan neighbors, who share a 470-kilometer border along the Danube and who both joined the EU in January, are currently linked by a single rail-and-road bridge between the northeastern Bulgarian city of Ruse and the Romanian city of Giurgiu. It was built in the 1950s and has for years been groaning under the ever growing traffic between Central Europe and Asia, while plans for the new bridge stalled due to lack of funding. The building of «the bridge is a good example of what belonging to the EU can signify for each and every one of us,» Stanishev said a week before Bulgaria’s European elections. The two countries agreed to build the second bridge in March 2000 but it took several years for Bulgaria to raise its share of the estimated -226 million needed to finance the project. Three-year plan Spanish company FCC Construccion was awarded the -100 million contract to build the new structure in January, but Bulgaria has yet to choose a company to complete the adjacent infrastructure. FCC Construccion now has 38 months to complete the bridge with its four lanes – for motor traffic, a railroad line, bicycle alley and a pedestrian sidewalk. Besides supplying a key link in the fourth European transport corridor between Central Europe, Greece and Turkey, the new bridge is expected to bring more jobs and increased trade to the forlorn northwestern Bulgarian region, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.