The 160km-long Strouma Highway, which had to be finished as early as in 2004, would not be ready in the next 10 years, Sega daily reported. The Cabinet had silently approved the decision to postpone part of the construction for the period 2014/20.
Media reports put the construction at one billion euro, while the Cabinet has so far officially claimed that the cost would be closer to 600 million euro.
In July 2008, the Cabinet said that the highway would be built in sections of 16.78km, 2.45km, 3.56km and 4.56km, respectively. What was not announced, however, was that the Cabinet had decided to postpone the construction of the third section of the highway for 2014, Sega said. The reason was financial.
The road was extremely important, because it would shorten the trip from Sofia to Thessaloniki from four hours to an hour and a half hour, Sega said. The highway, which is part of the European corridor N4, is important project for the European Union and 600 million euro for its construction were provided, mainly from the EU’s cohesion fund under the operative programme for transport.
Bulgaria’s Government would cover part of the funding. However, recently local authorities come up with the thesis that the money would only be enough for the construction of three sections of the highway, the newspaper said. According to the authorities, section 3 was the most complicated and had to be postponed for 2014/20, the next EU budget period, because it would cost another 400 million euro.
As early as in 2007, former National Road Infrastructure Fund (recently restructured into the National Road Infrastructure Agency) head Vesselin Georgiev told media that the section was passing through the Kresna gorge and the preservation of rare plants and animals would cost additional 200 million euro.
At the beginning of 2008, the Environment and Water Affairs Ministry examined the project for the highway and approved it, but gave 50 recommendations, including overhead crossings for turtles and tunnels for wolves, Sega said. Because of the eco requirements, NRIF calculated that the cost of the section construction would rise to 400 million euro. Sega said that it had a report by the Permanent sub-committee on the utilisation of EU funds, confirming that the section construction would be much slower and expensive than expected.
What was more alarming was that the Cabinet’s action plan did not include the section in question and section 2. In the autumn of 2008, the authorities would hold a tender for the construction only of sections 1 and 4, SofiaEcho reported.