Improving the Competitiveness of Romanian and Bulgarian Railways by Increasing Quality of Service

Improving the Competitiveness of Romanian and Bulgarian Railways by Increasing Quality of Service


BP Scholten, ECORYS, NL


The competitiveness of rail transport in the South East Balkan region is lacking behind. Several investement proposals to reduce rail border crossing stopping times on the main railway corridors are analysed.


The paper will describe the findings of a World Bank financed project (closed in 2005). The overall objective of the project is to improve the competitiveness of rail transport in the South East Balkan region. The instruments to achieve this are (i) reducing the border crossing stopping times for freight and passenger transport trains on the main railway corridors, and (ii) improving the quality of services through identifying pragmatic short-term high-impact measures and capacity building actions that will facilitate liberalisation of railway services. The project consisted of both desk study and data collection, audits of key rail Border Crossing Points (BCP¡¦s) through field visits and the development of project proposals for improvement of border crossing facilities.

Desk study: low number of trains and high border crossing times
In general the number of trains per day is low. This means that organization of the border process for all parties involved is a compromise between cost control and time control, because for a small number of trains one cannot expect the same capacity as on a busy road border crossing. The border processing times for passenger trains, according to the timetable, are in general between 30 and 90 minutes. The border processing times for freight trains are between 3 and 7 hours according to timetable.

Audits reveal border crossing problems: mainly railways activities are inefficient
The border crossing process time is too long; the current organisation results in very unreliable timetables. This is not due to customs or police activities or requirements but largely to the way the railways work together at the border. The liability for the train, the cargo, the rolling stock and taxes of any kind are transferred from one railway to another at the border. The lack of cooperation for changing locomotives and crews that can work cross border are the main reason for the lengthy and unpredictable process in the border stations.

The border crossing timings differ between the various BCP¡¦s because of local conditions or constraints. Releasing constraints like capacity bottlenecks will not help much when the cooperation between the railways will not improve.

Improvement of border crossing timings should mainly be sought in cooperation for the use of locomotives and crews working across the border so that stopping times can be minimal and logistical problems with finding the next locomotive are avoided.

Interviews: an appreciation of findings
Our interviews have revealed the following:
 þ The South East Balkan railways are not really involved in the process of catching market share in modern logistics
 þ The Romanian rail freight company is big enough to run trains cross border with own locomotives, although is lacking financial resources
 þ The Bulgarian railways are too small to operate their own interoperable locomotives To grab their share of the market a partnership in a joint venture is interesting
 þ The concept of corridor transport management is not yet applied in the South East Balkan region; cooperation between the railways is lacking
 þ The infrastructure management and capacity planning along corridor IV is not working appropriate
 þ Inland terminals will not contribute to improvement of the border crossing process in Bulgaria and Romania.

Investment proposals to reduce the border crossing stopping times
The following investment proposals have been identified:
 þ Integration of border procedures in a new joint station as an extension of the Kapikule (Turkey) station along the road border zone between Bulgaria and Turkey
 þ Support to set up a railways coordination centre responsible for timetable planning, border process planning, supranational traffic management including delay management and providing advanced information to all border parties
 þ Investigate the option to set up a joint locomotive pool for the Balkan countries; the locomotives should provide traction for all international trains, but at least for long distance international (transit) trains along corridor IV and X
 þ Introduce an internet-based IT system as proposed to cover Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey as well

Some other solutions are identified as well:
 þ Increase the rail capacity on the railway link between Curtici (Romania) and Lokoshaza (Hungary)
 þ Railway staff should take part in any learning/capacity building programme at the Bulgarian - Turkish border or Romanian ¡V Ukrainian border
 þ An alternative to improve cooperation between railways is to organize knowledge transfer activities between western European railways and the Balkan railways

Setting priorities: integration border activities Bulgaria-Turkey costly with high impact
A pre-feasibility analysis reveals that the integration of border activities in Svilengrad (Bulgaria) and Kapikule (Turkey) is the most costly investment: around 48 million USD. The estimated benefits are significant: faster border processing, average improvement of 2-5 hours, a better catch rate for smuggling and illegal immigration, improved cooperation between Turkey and EU and eventually harmonisation of Turkish export law (indirect effect) based on equal conditions for rail and road. Therefore it is recommended to give the highest priority to this proposal.

The railways coordination centre (estimated costs 0.8 million USD for the first year) and the development and implementation of a simple and open internet-based IT system (estimated costs 0.4 million USD, excluding software and operational costs) are also promising concepts that need further elaboration.

Joint actions needed
The investment proposals are all contributing to improving the competitiveness of rail transport in the Balkan region. However, these measures should be seen in a wider perspective of improving market orientation of the railways in modern logistics. Therefore in parallel additional measures aimed at improving their performance should be taken by the Balkan railways themselves.


Association for European Transport