Government gives new Bucharest metro lines project another try

Newsroom 13/07/2009 | 16:31

After having switched the metro project connecting the Victoriei area to Otopeni airport from the Bucharest city council to the Ministry of Transportation earlier this year, the Romanian government has decided to give the undertaking another shot. Financing for the scheme is likely to be in place after the government completes negotiations with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) over a EUR 300 million loan. The JBIC loan will incur 1.7 percent interest per year and will be reimbursed by the Romanian state in 25 years.
The government will soon sign memoranda for both financing and technical features for the new metro line. Under the current project, it will cost EUR 1 billion to build the new connection. The previous proposal, of which the former minister of transportation, Ludovic Orban, was in charge, was priced at only EUR 250 million for a railway connection. Then, the railway option was preferred as it was less expensive than an underground metro line and could have been built using an existing railway track between Chitila and Mogosoaia.
“Construction works at the new line will most likely start next year and will last five to seven years,” said Gheorghe Udriste, general manager of Metrorex, the state-owned company which runs the Bucharest metro. He explained why the underground option was chosen this time: “The lack of space above ground prompted the idea of a metro line completely underground. Moreover, this line will also serve the urban area north of Bucharest, areas like Mihalache Boulevard, 1 Mai, Free Press Square and Baneasa. Two route options, one through Poligrafiei and the other through Domenii, are being analyzed. The new line connecting the city to the main Bucharest airport will run for 15.7 kilometers and will be served by 19 new metro stations.
The metro line connecting Victoriei Square to Otopeni airport is the main priority for the government, along with a new metro line connecting the Drumul Taberei neighborhood to Universitate Square downtown. Drumul Taberei is the largest Bucharest neighborhood without a metro connection. The line connecting this area to downtown will be partially financed with a EUR 370 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which has already been approved. The EIB financing should be expanded in the coming years, in order to provide enough funding to keep the project going. The entire investment for this underground line will reach an estimated EUR 700 million. Overall, building new metro lines and connections to railway lines could cost Romania around EUR 8 billion in the next 25 years, according to the minister of transportation, Radu Berceanu. Several underground stations are already connected to railway lines: Basarab, Gara de Nord, Obor and Republica. The ministry plans to build four other stations: Baneasa, Bucharest West, Progresu and Berceni.

By Corina Saceanu

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