Transportation of passengers and goods by railway

The transportation of passengers and goods by railway is regulated by the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail(COTIF) from 9 May 1980, Regulation (ЕО) № 1371/2Transportation of passengers and goods by railway007 REGULATION no. 41 of 27 JUNE 2001 and REGULATION № 54 from 2 June 2003 accordingly. The domestic regulation of transportation services can be found in the Railway Transport Act.
In Bulgaria Railway transport activities are coordinated and controlled by Executive Agency Railway Administration (EARA). The railway infrastructure elements and the land on which these elements are built is public property of the state. Those elements can be used by the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NRIC) or by traders to whom a concession has been granted.

Licensed railway transport operators

Railway infrastructure can be used only by licensed railway transport operators to whom a safety certificate has been granted. The relations between infrastructure operators and transport operators in respect of the access and use of railway infrastructure are regulated by a contract. The contract shall be concluded within six months after the date of the licence is granted to the transport operator. In case the licence is withdrawn or its term has expired, the contract is terminated. The transport operator may sign a new contract with the railway infrastructure operator within six months after the date of termination of the original contract.

In order to gain access to and use railway infrastructure, transport operators pay charges levied by the railway operator.

Licensed Transport Operator

Licences for transportation of passengers and goods by railway are issued by the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communication to an already licensed railway transport operator. The licence is individual and can’t be transferred to another transport operator. The license is granted for an indefinite period of time, but is reviewed every five years. It is also reviewed in the case of restructuring the entity to which the licence has been granted or as a result of a change in the ownership of that entity. The license is considered valid until the end of the review procedure.
Should it be established that the transport operator does not fulfil the requirements for granting a licence during the process of licence reviewing, the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communication shall issue mandatory guidelines and define a timeframe for correction of irregularities. In case of failure to fulfil the mandatory guidelines within the stipulated timeframe, the license shall be terminated.

The act determines two types of licences:

  1. Licences for transportation of passengers;
  2. Licences for transportation of goods;

Licence for transportation of passengers and goods by railway is granted to an applicant with good reputation, satisfies the requirements for financial stability, satisfies the requirements for professional competence and is willing to conclude insurance contracts that cover the applicant’s liability in respect of passengers, luggage, cargoes, mail and third parties in accordance with the provisions defined by law. The applicant must also satisfy the following requirements:

  1. To operate as an undertaking whose main business is the rail transport of passengers and/or goods in or outside the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria;
  2. To possess the required equipment and facilities necessary for the purpose of providing rail transport services;
  3. To operate engine car traction units, including an engine car and an electric multiple unit (EMU) and to employ staff members with the necessary qualifications to drive and operate those units.

The conditions for termination of the license are described in the Railway Transport Act. It can be terminated with a decision of the licensing body, upon an application of the license holder or in case the license holder decides to terminate company’s activity.

Rail transport operator with a licence issued by another country

Rail transport operators with a licence to perform rail transport services, issued by a country Member of the European Union may also perform these services on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and  have access to the railway infrastructure.
Access to the railway infrastructure for the purpose of providing rail transport services can also be granted to transport operators licensed by foreign railway administrations, but solely when those services are described in the International agreement signed by the Republic of Bulgaria.

The companies operating under a railway transport licence in Bulgaria are less than a dozen.   Most of these companies are state-owned or the state is a shareholder in them. Only two of the companies have a Transport licence issued by the Ministry of transport, Information Technology and Communication. Most of them work under licences issued by another country Member of the European Union. The only company that is licensed for transportation of passengers is “Bulgarian State Railway – Passengers Transportation” LTD.

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