site.btaAlmost 10 Mln Cars Have Crossed Vidin-Calafat Danube Bridge in 10 Years

Almost 10 Mln Cars Have Crossed Vidin-Calafat Danube Bridge in 10 Years
Almost 10 Mln Cars Have Crossed Vidin-Calafat Danube Bridge in 10 Years
Danube Bridge 2 between Vidin and Calafat (BTA Photo)

Slightly over 9.3 million motor vehicles have crossed the Danube Bridge 2 between Vidin and Calafat since it was inaugurated on June 14, 2013. It is expected that in the autumn, when the Danube Bridge Vidin-Calafat AD company marks its 10th anniversary, the 10 millionth vehicle will pass through the facility. Interviewed by BTA, engineer Ludmil Dimitrov, Executive Director of the Bulgarian-Romanian company, said that traffic increased by nearly 15% in 2022 compared to 2021, and by 12% in January-May 2023 compared to a year earlier. The company's two main functions are maintenance of the facility's technical condition and customer service for safe crossing and payment of fees, Dimitrov said.

A steady increase in traffic

Asked to sum up the first ten years since the opening of Danube Bridge 2, Dimitrov said that in 2022, a little over 1.3 million motor vehicles crossed the Danube Bridge 2 in both directions, of which 770,000 were heavy-duty trucks, and about 430,000 were cars. In the first five months of 2023, 191,000 vehicles passed through the facility, compared to 164,000 a year earlier.

There is a steady upward trend in the traffic of heavy-duty vehicles - trucks over 12 tonnes with four or more axles. The January-May period of 2023 saw 5% growth compared to a year earlier. Over-12-tonne trucks crossing the bridge account for 62% of all vehicles. Traffic has been particularly heavy since March is due to the war in Ukraine because the passage of goods across the Black Sea is severely restricted. Cargo coming from Asia transits Turkiye and Bulgaria en route to Western Europe. And the border crossings at Vidin and Ruse are really busy. 

In the first five months of 2023, between 3,400 and 4,000 motor vehicles crossed the Danube Bridge 2 at the border checkpoint daily in both directions, and the trend continues. Traffic is heaviest in the summer, July and August, when 4,600 cars crossed daily, and the fewest cars crossed in the first months of the year. 

On average, 1,500 to 1,800 cars leave Bulgaria. They are processed round the clock in the six lanes of the border crossing, and at times, five lanes are used for trucks, and one for the other vehicles.

Asked about train traffic on Danube Bridge 2, Dimitrov said it is very weak. Every day, two international passenger trains depart from and arrive at Vidin International Station, travelling to and from Romania on the Vidin-Craiova route, but there are few passengers on them. The situation is even worse with freight trains: at the moment, only 20 freight trains pass through per month. There is no cargo and no investor interest in this transport, but there is nothing the company can do.

No major repairs needed

Ten years after its opening, the bridge is in a very good technical condition. To date, no serious repairs have been carried out, technical maintenance is strictly scheduled all year round, which guarantees the serviceability of the facility. Constant maintenance is needed only for the asphalt surface due to the heavy truck traffic. The checkpoint roof has been extended, which has increased throughput. Until now, the roof covered five out of the six lanes and one of them could not be used when it rained.

Queues remain a problem

Asked about the most serious problem of Danube Bridge 2, engineer Dimitrov said that in recent years, queues have formed almost daily, especially on weekends, sometimes reaching up to 10-15 km in the roads leading to the approaches to the bridge, which creates tension both among drivers, who sometimes wait for more than 24 hours, and among the workers at the border crossing. However, solving this problem is not up to the management of the Bulgarian-Romanian company. 

The causes of tailbacks are twofold. First, the Romanian border post is not designed to handle heavy traffic and to carry out so many checks. Second, the Romanian border police have to check all traffic due to migrant pressure. The trucks' mandatory rest periods cause further problems. 

The border checkpoint was designed and built in line with the recommendations of a Bulgarian-Romanian working group so as to meet the technical requirements for entry in the border-free Schengen Area, i.e. it was designed for movement without border control.

The most realistic solution would be a buffer parking lot where vehicles can wait before crossing the bridge. Also, the border crossing on the Romanian side should be expanded, which is a lengthy procedure. The Bulgarian-Romanian company takes care of the infrastructure, chemical toilets and trash cans. Long waiting times also mean worse pollution and fuel spills, which erode the road surface.

One thing that will really ease traffic and transit is Bulgaria and Romania's entry in Schengen when border control will be abolished.

Financial details

Fees have not changed since the bridge went into operation. Cars pay EUR 6 or BGN 12, buses EUR 25 or BGN 49, and trucks over 12.5 tonnes EUR 37 or BGN 72. Incoming vehicles from Romania pay in leu or euro. 

Dimitrov said the company is in a very good financial condition. Its revenues for 2022 were about BGN 55 million. EUR 400 million were invested in the construction of the bridge and its infrastructure: EUR 304 million by Bulgaria and EUR 96 million by Romania. The investment came from a EUR 70 million grant from the European Commission and from loans, which are to be repaid in 20 years. The financial results show that the investments will be recouped faster than expected. 

The company has a workforce of 114 people as agreed by Bulgaria and Romania. The company is chaired on a rotating basis by a Bulgarian or a Romanian.

/DD/

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By 00:28 on 18.04.2024 Today`s news

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