Towards a climate neutral EU:
efficient allocation of EU funds

Improving the air quality in Sofia by suppling electrical rail transport

Organisation: Economic Policy Institute Website: Added: September 13, 2022
Project start date: October 24, 2019
Project end date: June 17, 2023



The Sofia tram network represents a vital part of the public transportation system of Sofia. It has been operative since January 1, 1901 with a standard gauge one-way track. Most of the track is narrow gauge (1,009 mm), with standard gauge (1,435 mm) used on lines 20, 22 and 23 and accounting for approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) of the system's track length. The idea of the project is to improve the air quality in Sofia Municipality via purchasing new electric and sustainable tram railcars. The project includes the supply of 29 new low-floor articulated trams for 1 009 mm track gauge. In the framework of the supply of vehicles, the following items and mandatory elements to ensure normal operation of the trams and sustainability of the project are being executed: • Training of employees of “Stallen Electric Transport” EAD for management, maintenance, diagnosis and repair of trams. • Supply of diagnostic equipment; • Supply of specialised tools; • Provision of documentation for the trams. The project is being implemented on the territory of Sofia Municipality, and the purchased trams will be operated by “Stollen Electric Transport” EAD on existing tram lines 4, 5 and 18.

Good practices and innovations

As a result of the successful implementation of the project, Sofia will have 29 new electric low-floor articulated trams for 1009 mm gauge. According to the technical specification, the trams subject to the contract will comply with the applicable European norms and standards and all other valid documents required for the performance of public services in the European Union. The production of the trams shall be executed under an integrated quality management system according to ISO 9001:2015 or equivalent quality assurance measures, and in compliance with the IRIS (International Rail Industry Standard) or equivalent for tram production.

Financial data

The total project cost is 117 189 000.00 BGN (49 953 216.79 EUR). The own financing is 19 489 000.00 BGN, whereas the total amount actually disbursed is 71 347 898.28 BGN. The percentage of EU co-financing is 85.00 %.


The project is yet to be implemented. However, its success could be jeopardised by a number of risks. Firstly, when it comes to the public transport, there are a number of issues that must be addressed in the near future, in order to make sure that the tram and overall public transport is a preferred commuting option. There are no dedicated tram routes and no priority crossings, timetables do not correspond to the load, some of the new residential areas of the city have no access to public transport at all. The latter decreases the attractiveness of the public transport as a preferred commuting option. Secondly, the number of cars in Sofia has almost doubled in 10 years - from 717,270 in 2010 to 1,014,289 today. It is clear that many inhabitants prefer their own car transport to the public one. Research shows that there has been a steady decrease of the number of passengers, resorting to the utilisation of public transport. In October-December 2018, urban electric transport companies transported nearly 72 million passengers, which is 1.45 million less than in 2017. In 2020, in the ten days after 15 September, there were a total of 2.4 million on all routes, and in 2021 there were 79 thousand fewer. Whereas, for this period in 2019, total passengers were 3.05 million. A possible reason could be that there is a lack of communication to the society regarding the benefits of the sustainable public transport and the benefits it brings to the environment. As a recommendation it could be suggested that some part of the future project proposals is occupied by various activities, such as information campaigns, related to the motivating society to use public transport services. Another issue is that very few people validate their cards on surface transport: only about 1.5% of all journeys. In reality, there are no serious measures or fines taken to prevent the passage without. To compare, on the other hand, in the metro all passengers are validated because access is through barriers. To conclude, investments in new electronic and sustainable public transport vehicles is not sufficient to substantially achieve the desired outcome, and therefore a new and comprehensive policy to strengthen public transport is needed. The policy must make the public transport services more attractive to the society.

Information sources

Other info

European Climate Initiative (EUKI)
This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). EUKI is a project financing instrument by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). The EUKI competition for project ideas is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It is the overarching goal of the EUKI to foster climate cooperation within the European Union (EU) in order to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.