Bulgaria plans Gotthard rival – Berkut disbanded

Bulgaria plans a spectacular new tunnel but they’ll have to be quick. Ukraine’s Prius-toting riot police are disbanded. The misery continues at the Gibraltar frontier, eCall gets half a nod and it won’t be long before Zeebrugge gets a proper motorway link.

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BULGARIA PLANS GOTTHARD RIVAL

A race against time to complete one of Europe’s longest tunnels.

Take our word for it: Kresna is lovely. But the current single lane Struma highway gets very busy. Photo @DriveEurope.

Take our word for it: Kresna is lovely. But the current single lane Struma highway gets very busy. Photo @DriveEurope.

The Kresna Gorge is one of Bulgaria’s best known beauty spots, a twelve mile long, deep canyon between the Malashevska and Pirin mountain ranges near the Greek border in the south west.

Kresna is home to rare species of vultures and orchids, among other things, while the River Struma running along the bottom is a magnet for white water rafters.

The spectacular landscape and unique fauna and flora presents a massive challenge to road builders however as they try to upgrade the important north-south road between capital Sofia and Thessaloniki on the Aegean coast.

Three of the four parts of the new 150km Struma Highway are open or nearly ready but the 64km chunk through Kresna is still on the drawing board.

Since the project was first suggested in 1990 there have been a range of solutions under discussion, from routing the road away from Kresna entirely to building a succession of tunnels linked by high flying viaducts.

Back in 2011, UK-based Ove Arup suggested one long tunnel, mounted lower in the mountains to reduce the impact on the environment, not just in day-to-day use but also during the protracted building phase.

Planners have finally decided on the latter option, a 15.38km twin-bore super tunnel to rival the 16.942km single-tube Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland (itself the world’s third longest).

It was announced this week it will cost 1.1bnn LEV (£460m) to build. The tender will be published in May and the winner chosen in November.

Just one problem remains. The tunnel will take ten years to build, give or take, but the EU money available to part-fund the project has to be used by 2022 at the latest.

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Ukraine. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has invested in 1,200 Toyota Prius hybrids, thirty of which were delivered to the Kharkiv force yesterday according to an official statement.

Ukraine’s fearsome Berket – Eagle – riot police force has been disbanded according to reports this morning. Berkut units played a big role in the battles with protestors in Kyiv recently though, to be fair, probably not the sniper massacre 20-22 February. Not sure what’s going to happen to the fleet of 1,500 Toyota Prius they started to take delivery of last year. Photo via Khakiv police.

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roundup: BELGIUM. Works starts next week on a new motorway, north-south between Bruges and coastal resort Knokke-Heist in West Flanders. The A11 will also link port Zeebrugge to the motorway network for the first time. GIBRALTAR QUEUE WATCH. The recent run of massive delays continues with queues peaking at 2h30 this afternoon according to @RGPolice. How wrong we wereCARS. The automatic emergency service summoning eCall system, to be mandatorily fitted to all new cars, has been adopted by the European Parliament but, as we suspected, it won’t happen in 2015. No new date has been set yet.

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