Bulgaria Ditches Plans for Gotthard Tunnel Rival

Just when it seemed Bulgaria was establishing a decent motorway network, plans to build a mega tunnel have been downgraded while suspected corruption sees another major project restarted.

Also, this season’s McLaren-Hondas seem a little underpowered. Switzerland to deport foreign speeders. Tolls and shootings on the A31 in eastern France. Belgian roads are ‘catastrophic’ as mice eat Brussels tunnel plans.

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BULGARIA DITCHES PLANS FOR GOTTHARD TUNNEL RIVAL

Mega-tunnel cancelled in favour of surface motorway through sensitive Kresna Gorge.

Bulgaria has apparently cancelled plans to build a tunnel through the sensitive Kresna Gorge, between capital Sofia and Greece. More later.

Nose to tail in the Kresna Gorge, Bulgaria, May 2013. See more at Driving in Bulgaria: the Pothole and the Policemen. Photo @DriveEurope

The Bulgaria-Greece border at Kulata-Promachonas has been something of a hot spot recently.

For the past few weeks it has been the primary focus of nationwide Greek farmer blockades.

Yesterday there were 820 trucks, 320 cars and six buses stranded on the Greek side according to Kathimerini, and 1,000 trucks and 500 cars on the other as Bulgarian hauliers carried out a tit-for-tat action.

There may be some signs emerging now of a resolution but the other major transport issue in the area will take considerably longer to sort out, namely the 290km motorway connection between Bulgarian capital Sofia and Thessaloniki on the Greek Aegean coast.

Three of the four lots on the Bulgarian side have been completed but the third section, through the Kresna Gorge, a noted beauty spot and wildlife haven, has been plunged – yet again – back to the design stage.

A Gotthard-rivalling 15.38km tunnel got the go-ahead in February 2014 after twenty five years of tooing and froing, but The Guardian revealed this week the plans have been cancelled for lack of money, despite an EU contribution of €670 million.

Instead the Bulgarian government is leaning back towards building a surface motorway. The final plans will be revealed in two months.

Meanwhile, the first two lots of another Bulgarian motorway have been delayed after an apparently dodgy tender process.

The Hemus motorway will stretch west-east across the north of the country between Sofia and the Black Sea resort Varna.

Losing bidders successfully challenged the original decision after the winning bid was found to be both more expensive and, subsequently, double the original estimate reports Novinite.

With Hemus and Struma, plus the already-built Trakia motorway to the Black Sea at Burgas, and off shoot to the Turkish border at Edirne, Bulgaria will have a basic motorway network in place.

The internationally strategic road, 50km west from Sofia to the Serbian border – linking to the Western Europe network at nearby Nis – got the go-ahead last September.

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Formula One team McLaren-Honda has taken delivery of 24 brand new Volvo FH trucks to transport the race team and hospitality units around Europe. The vehicles come in three different specifications depending on the use. The engines meanwhile are all 13 litre 540bhp units. For power-obsessed F1 that’s slightly disappointing since the FH is also available with a 16-litre 750bhp unit. There is form here however. Ringmeister Bernie Ecclestone also specified his fleet of Mercedes-Benz Actros at 510bhp, when he could have had 625bhp.

Formula One team McLaren-Honda has taken delivery of 24 brand new Volvo FH trucks to transport the race team and hospitality units around Europe. The vehicles come in three different specifications depending on the use. The engines meanwhile are all 13 litre 540bhp units. For power-obsessed F1 that’s slightly disappointing since the FH is also available with a 16-litre 750bhp engine. There is form here however – F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone specified his fleet of Mercedes-Benz Actros at 510bhp, when he could have had 625bhp.

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roundup: SWITZERLAND. Possible new deportation rules for convicted foreign offenders include those convicted of speeding offences reports Reuters. It applies just to residents rather than visitors though a simple speeding ticket along with even a minor theft committed within ten years would – without appeal – see those without citizenship sent back to their country of origin (even if they were born in Switzerland). However, the final poll before the referendum vote on 28 February suggests the move will be rejected reports SwissInfo, currently 49% against and 46% in favour with support declining for the measure. Voters will also decide whether to build a second Gotthard Tunnel. FRANCE. Tolls are under discussion on the currently free section of A31 from just south of Nancy up to the Luxembourg border past Thionville reports Wort.lu. It’s an important route for cross-border workers. However, charges are unlikely to see the light of day until 2018. Revenue would pay for ring roads at Nancy and Thionville and widening Metz-Nancy. There are also long term plans to widen a 14km section of the A3-A31 cross-border. Of more immediate concern is a spate of apparent shootings along A31. There have been four incidents so far says Wort.lu. The police investigation continues (update: four children have now been arrested). BELGIUM. The state of Brussels roads and tunnels is ‘catastrophic’ says an engineering consultants group reports Deredactie. The situation in Wallonia in the south is similarly bad with ‘gigantic’ potholes in the motorways. Flanders in the north fares better though 30% of infrastructure is of ‘poor or insufficient quality’. Meanwhile, mice have apparently eaten the original construction plans for Brussels’ beleaguered tunnels reports Reuters. The lack of blueprints is holding up essential maintenance – two major tunnels have shut recently, one long term – with the final bill expected to be around €1 billion.

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