Georgi Gvozdeykov, Minister of Transport and Communications: Modernisation of railways to be completed by the end of 2026

Interview of Minister Georgi Gvozdeykov for Railway Transport, the conversation was conducted by Petar Galev

Green transport is not only my personal priority and cause, it is a priority of the government and of the whole of Europe


After a long period of political catharsis and party wandering, our country has a regularly elected government. For more than a month and a half Georgi Gvozdeykov has been Minister of Transport and Communications. Since his first day in office, the questions to him have been numerous, the requests for interviews - urgent, always with ‘yesterday’s deadline’... And our specialized readership is waiting for answers, because his mandate began in an extremely important period for the railway transport, and his decisions largely determine whether and when the country will have railways adequate to the 21st century, to consumer needs, to business requirements.

A technocrat by training, a graduate in aeronautical engineering, the Transport Minister

Georgi Gvozdeykov is accurate, precise and extremely specific about the details of every topic covered in our conversation. It is important to note that he has a clear, forward-looking vision of what our railways should look like when they are modernised, beyond procurement, legal procedures and administrative conventions. Because it has been proven that if you focus only on individual trees, you certainly lose the view of the forest. And Georgi Gvozdeykov seeks to prepare not just a plan for comfortable, reliable and efficient trains, but certainly to ensure that they fit into the overall modern life, into the overall communication picture of the country.

A motorsport champion, Minister Gvozdeykov undoubtedly understands speed, and we hope he will be the one to set the pace needed to overcome the delay in rail reforms more quickly.

Mr Minister, you announced that ‘green transport’ will be among your top priorities. In this regard, how do you assess the current state of the railways, which are generally among the most environmentally friendly modes of transport?

Things have not changed much in the railways in the last 30 years. I recently travelled by train in Western Europe and the service there is radically different. However, I think we have the capacity to change the situation in our country.

I am aware that this is a slow process that requires time and serious financial resources, but with better and long-term planning we can ultimately provide an attractive service.

Green transport is not only my personal priority and cause, it is a priority of the government and of the whole of Europe. In the coming years, Bulgaria will see several billion leva invested in transport connectivity projects and it is up to us how we use these funds. Because they are important for improving the climate and implementing so-called green policies, which are becoming increasingly relevant.

Could you briefly comment on the reasons for the suspension of orders for new rolling stock and what you think is a reasonable timeframe for their resumption?

The purchase of the new rolling stock is part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP). And since a huge financial resource is involved, we have analysed the procurement process to see if these funds are planned effectively and appropriately. What we saw, however, were flawed procedures, inflated values that would have significantly damaged the budget, and the inclusion of new activities for which I did not receive a valid argument as to why they were necessary.

To be specific, I will say that a compulsory pre-clearance procedure, for example, which is done by the Ministry of Finance as required by the NRRP, has not been carried out by the caretaker cabinet.

Another problem - in the case of the order for the supply of 18 electric locomotives, we found that it was unduly inflated by setting too high requirements for the locomotives. Eventually, nine of these are needed for depot shunts and nine for shunts from depots to some stations. For these different types of manoeuvres, machines with different requirements are needed and prices are therefore not the same.

In the case of locomotives shunting inside depots, the maximum speed is up to 10 km/h and two types of European permits are not required - for the type of railway vehicle and for placing on the market. There is a bidder who, in the 2022 market study, has proposed this type of locomotive at a price of up to EUR 920,000 without these permits and another who is proposing a price of up to EUR 2,300,000 with permits. This is a very big difference that falls entirely on the state budget.

The construction of repair facilities with state funds is the other illogical action, which does not appear as a requirement under the NRRP at all. Not to mention that there were neither financial estimates of how much they would cost nor funding secured.

I have tasked the team to resume the suspended orders by August. I hope that by the end of this year we will also have a contract for the delivery of new rolling stock.

It is important to me that a fair and transparent procedure is conducted, in which there are more participants and therefore more competition. In these ‘battles’ it is important to respect all legal norms and as they say - let the best man win. I will strictly monitor that all regulations are being followed and will not hesitate to use my powers if violations are found.

How do you assess the implementation of the key projects with EU co-financing in the field of railway infrastructure and what measures are you planning to avoid delays and possible loss of EU funds?

Work must be carried out in parallel on the renewal of the railway lines and the delivery of new rolling stock. They are like two sides of the same coin. What I have seen in recent years is a priority investment in infrastructure at the expense of rolling stock modernisation. This creates an imbalance in the whole system and, as we can all see, does not lead to good results.

It is very important that we streamline all the infrastructure improvement processes and focus all our resources on meeting project deadlines. By the end of 2026, the modernisation of rail transport should be completed and we will eventually boast an efficient service that is already close to the European level.