Greece-Bulgaria freight corridor to shift 650 million euros worth of cargo on rail yearly

Image: Wikimedia Commons. Thaliapap

A project that has been under discussion for months is now making stable steps towards implementation. The Sea2Sea project will invest in a railway line linking northern Greece and Bulgaria to the Romanian border and will shift considerable seaborne cargo volumes from the Bosporus strait to rail.

The Sea2Sea project aims to develop a railway corridor connecting the Greek ports of Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupolis to the Bulgarian Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas while extending to the port of Ruse located on the Danube and the Bulgarian-Romanian border.

Greece and Bulgaria aim to establish a joint company to manage the project. At the same time, the two parties will attempt to include it in the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF II) financial program.

As for Greece, the country will invest roughly four billion euros in railway projects in its territory. The investments will target the railway links between Thessaloniki and Toxotes, passing through the port of Kavala and the Alexandroupolis-Ormenio line that extends to the Greek-Bulgarian border. The project’s construction contracts will be signed in 2023, and works should complete by 2027-2028.

The proposed railway line between Greece-Bulgaria. Image: © GoogleMaps.

The two main projects

The Thessaloniki-Toxotes project will utilise a budget of 1,68 billion euros. “It will put 206 kilometres of a new railway line with signalling and electrification into operation and will complete the railway corridor connecting Thessaloniki to Kavala and the existing Greek railway network,” explained ERGOSE, the subsidiary of Hellenic Railways tasked with implementing infrastructure investment projects. According to ERGOSE, this line will decrease the transit times between Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis by three hours.

On the other hand, the Alexandroupolis-Ormenio line will see investments of up to 1,08 billion euros aiming to improve cross-border connections between Greece and Bulgaria, but also Greece and Turkey since the line is located in a three-border area. ERGOSE mentioned that the contractor to undertake the project’s completion would have to upgrade 176 kilometres of the existing single railway line into a double equipped with signalling and electrification systems.

Why is it important?

A few months ago, specifically last April, the Greek transport minister Kostas Karamanlis stressed the importance of this new corridor. Specifically, he underlined that this is a project of geostrategic significance since it will boost rail freight traffic and volumes in the region. “There is no way to become a logistics centre in southeastern Europe without investing in rail connections between these Greek destinations and allowing northern Greek ports to have rail access,” he said.

“With these rail developments, Thessaloniki will become a gateway for transport through southeastern Europe, while the port of Alexandroupolis will become increasingly important. There are possibilities to even extend this line towards North Sea ports,” he added.

Indeed, according to ERGOSE’s studies, the geostrategic and logistical value of the Sea2Sea mega project cannot be unseen. “By the time the project is delivered, it could draw a considerable percentage of containerised cargo traditionally transiting via Bosporus. The shift from sea to rail could amount to 650 million euros with of cargo per year,” concluded the company.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is the Chief Editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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