BR Analysis! The endless 21-year saga of the Comarnic-Brasov highway

Razvan Zamfir 30/08/2018 | 14:49

Proof that history repeats itself are the many lives of the Bucharest-Brasov highway, a project that is now in about the same shape as it was 20 years ago. The only exception is the Bucharest-Ploiesti highway, finalized in 2012. The rest of the story remains the same, and according to news from 1997, the works for Comarnic-Brasov segment would have taken only three years to develop, one year less compared to today’s project deadline.

More than 20 years ago, the Romanian authorities were looking at the first version of this highway, which was changed in 2002-2006 and again in 2013, and reverted to the 2006 version in 2018.

“The highway connects the capital with the city of Brasov, crossing the Sinaia – Busteni – Azuga – Predeal tourist axis. The duration for design and execution is set for a maximum of four years starting in 2019,” prime minister Viorica Dancila stated.

But the Bucharest-Brasov highway has had many lives, and one of them had begun, but ended in Ploiesti. All the plans the state rolled up had no beginning and no end, just papers and noisy statements, the loudest being Dan Sova’s, the minister delegated to Infrastructure Projects. “I’m moving my tent there and it’s going to get done,” he said back in 2013.

In the meantime, Dan Sova got a 3-year jail sentence for influence peddling, and so the highway’s story continues. The project at the time would at least have protected the tourist cities in the way, such as Busteni, Sinaia or Predeal. However, the project recently presented by the Dancila government seems to be a carbon copy of the 2002-2006 version, which cut directly through the cities in the area.

Little hope for the project to even start

“The great innovation of the new study is that it is back on the 2002-2006 route with the highway that cuts through the forest. By 2015, this route had been updated with a more environmentally-friendly version of tourism, and better for the people living in the Prahova Valley: that area was crossed through a series of tunnels. By returning to the 2006 version, the highway is built more or less along the Prahova River (…) At the same time, in the 2006 version, the projected speed was only 80 km/h, currently incompatible with the design and construction standards of a motorway,” according to the 2015 study (Dan Sova’s variant). In 2018 it is again compatible with speed standards, which means tight curves and very high slopes”, MP Catalin Drula writes on Facebook.

According to Drula, the reason for returning to the 2006 route is to cut costs compared to the improved 2015 version. So the construction project will be cheaper. On the other hand, the toll that will have to be paid for the use of the motorway will double.

The National Forecasting Committee also appeared in the equation, to prove that the project is financially feasible. The problem is that even with a more expensive toll, the potential PPP partner will have to stay in the contract for around 44 years, not 24 years as was initially stated.

And which company exposes itself for such a long time? In any case, the minimum investment of the state will be EUR 1.36 billion, but the the final cost would be determined only after signing the contract after detailed field investigations and completion of the design by the private partner.

“There is a great chance that these costs will increase. The model is already being tested in Romania – it’s called the Bechtel highway,” writes Drula.

The costs back in 2015 were closer to EUR 2 billion and the project hasn’t moved.

“What will happen to this highway? If I were to cast a prediction, I would say that it is very likely that the project will fail before a contract is signed, as it has already happened three times. After 21 years of the state juggling with the idea, there is little hope,” Drula concludes.

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