The Sofia Subway will Buy Non-Russian Trains for the "Russian Lines"

Society | January 23, 2023, Monday // 12:38
Bulgaria: The Sofia Subway will Buy Non-Russian Trains for the "Russian Lines" @Wikimedia Commons

16 new subway trains will be bought by "Metropolitan" EAD. The procurement for BGN 250 million and will be used to provide eight trains for the deviation of the third line to the "Slatina" district, and another eight - for the first and second lines, on which only Russian trains are now running. They are known as the "Russian lines" because they have all-Russian automation and control systems manufactured by Metrovagonmash (Метровагонмаш).

However, trains manufactured in other countries will be bought for them this time. The reason is the sanctions against Russian companies imposed because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This was not explicitly stated in the order announced on December 23. "Russian companies will not participate in this order, because there is a European regulation that requires more than 50% of the goods to be produced in the EU, and in connection with the sanctions against Russia, they cannot apply," explained Stoyan Bratoev, executive director of "Metropolitan" EAD, to Bulgarian media "Dnevnik".

He said that the requirements for the new trains themselves are no different from previous orders when they bought Russian trains.

Can non-Russian trains run on "Russian" lines

For the purchase of the eight new trains for the so-called “Russiansubway lines 140 million BGN (without VAT) are planned. The client "Metropolitan" has set a requirement that they comply with the current transport automation, as well as be able to connect "with any type of participating trains in this section". The new locomotives must be able to operate "without requiring the installation of additional stationary equipment on the first and second subway lines and in the dispatching points", the assignment states.

"It is possible to run trains that are not of Russian production on this route. It is only necessary to make a special control unit that corresponds to the route, and it will be a commitment of the manufacturer that won the procurement", Bratoev explained to "Dnevnik".

A month after the order was announced, not a single offer has yet been received. The deadline is March 23. “They usually send everything at the last minute,” he commented.

Russian subway trains were not quite Russian

The newer models of Russian subway trains in Sofia, the "Rusich" (Русич) model, were actually not quite Russian, because many of their parts were imported - European and Japanese. "Their engines are Japanese Hitachi, the electronics are also Japanese," explained Bratoev. According to him, the Russians initially tried to develop an engine for the "Rusich" model entirely on their own, but the result was unsuccessful and "Metrovagonmash" had to cooperate with a Japanese company.

Because of the sanctions, the municipal company "Metropolitan" is taking the first step towards separating from the Russians with this procurement, commented Gergin Borisov from "Spasi Sofia" (Save Sofia), who is also the founder of the civil initiative "Save the subway". "We have an opportunity to break away from complete dependence on Metrovagonmash and invest in a European manufacturer, that is, to serve our taxpayers in the European Union," he believes.

The position of the transport management expert Eng. Tsanko Simeonov from the association "City Transport and Infrastructure" is different. He believes that Sofia is missing the chance to modernize the “hopelessly outdated automation and control system of the I and II subway lines.” “Now we will buy eight new subway trains, but with the requirement that they be deliberately with old automation, so that they are like other Russian subway trains, instead of the other way around ", said Simeonov for "Dnevnik".

Eastern Europe disconnected from "Metrovagonmash" a long time ago

The other capitals from Eastern Europe, which also operate with Russian subway trains, have long reoriented themselves to Western models, because "they decided to disconnect from Russia earlier than Sofia", says Simeonov.

The Bucharest subway has trains of the Canadian company Bombardier, and one of their lines has Romanian-made locomotives. The Hungarians renovated their subway with the French Alstom, and Warsaw with the Siemens, Polish-made Inspiro model, which also runs on the third line in Sofia from 2020. Prague uses Spanish CAF trains, and repairs Soviet trains in its Skoda factories.

Over the years, the Sofia "Metropolitan" has been constantly postponing technical renewal due to political inertia, and also because it is more convenient for the manufacturer of all subway trains to be the same and thus maintenance is cheaper, believes Gergin Borisov.

Since 2005, "Metropolitan" has been conducting tenders for the purchase of new trains so that the Russian "Metrovagonmash" wins them, says engineer Simeonov. He gives an example: "The requirement was deliberately that the trains were only 88 m long, and the platforms of the Sofia subway are 100 m long and are adapted for longer trains. However, only the Rusich model fit into this requirement, as it was developed as a ‘light subway especially for one line in Moscow - Butovska. It was 7 km long on a flyover and therefore lighter trains were needed. This model is no longer produced and used by anyone in Russia except in the subway in Kazan, as well as we in Sofia."

Who will pay for the new trains?

The financing of the public order worth BGN 250 million has not yet been secured, Prof. Bratoev explained. Nevertheless, the procedure began. The winners in the two separate positions - for the third subway line and for the first and second - will have 36 months to deliver the subway trains.

"We still don't know where the money will come from. The idea is that if funds are released, there will be a ready procedure," admitted the executive director of "Metropolitan".


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