CONSTRUCTION OF THE ZHELEZNITSA TUNNEL
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The EU and national governments have come up with an ambitious pan-European improvement project meant to connect the continent with a modern and efficient transport network. One of the nine routes is called the Orient/East-Med Corridor. It will run through nine countries, from Greece in the south, through Bulgaria, and north to Germany, connecting the ports of the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and Mediterranean to the North Sea at Hamburg.
In western Bulgaria, the 150km Struma motorway is a key link in this network. It carries the heaviest volume of traffic of any route crossing Bulgaria in the north-south direction. One particular section that needs modernising connects six of the largest cities in the western part of the country, and the Road Infrastructure Agency of Bulgaria is undertaking a massive infrastructure project to improve it.
However, Bulgaria has struggled to overcome widespread corruption in public procurement following the country’s transition to democracy. Another recently-built link in the Corridor, the New Europe Bridge over the River Danube, was not controversy-free, going both over time and over budget.
Transparency International Bulgaria is using an Integrity Pact signed with the Road Infrastructure Agency to monitor the design and construction of a €128 million tunnel near Zheleznitsa village, along the Struma motorway. This is an important section of the motorway, as the tunnel – almost 2 km long – is expected to be the longest in the country.