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The World Bank Supports Strengthening Road Safety In Bulgaria

The World Bank supports strengthening road safety in Bulgaria trough its latest Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project.

The Project was approved by the WB Board of Executive directors on June last year and it aims to assist the country to reduce road transport costs by improving the condition and quality of its roads network.

Bulgaria's road network is of critical importance for trade with the European Union as well as for the integration of the country's remote regions in the European market. However, limited funds for road rehabilitation and maintenance have led in the past to a deterioration of a large percentage of roads, which may be depriving Bulgaria from an important source of economic growth.

In addition, road accidents have become an increasing issue with the growth in motorization, with Bulgaria having a traffic fatality rate twice as high as the European Union's average.
Under the Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project, the National Road Infrastructure Fund (NRIF) will rehabilitate selected Class I, II and III roads totaling about 450 km.

The Project will also assist with enhancing the technical and managerial capacity of the NRIF by investing in equipment, technologies, and procedures which would allow for a more efficient use of the resources allocated to the road sector, including future EU grant funds.

A dedicated component of the Project focuses on road safety improvements such as the development of road safety plans, the improvement of legal aspects of road safety, the introduction of new approaches for timely medical emergency services and targeted road investments. In addition, a grant from Global Road Safety Fund in the amount of US$ 75,000 is being used by the World Bank and the Government to introduce road safety international best practices in Bulgaria.

A national Workshop on Road Safety Management Capacity in Bulgaria, cosponsored by the Government and the World Bank, took place on December 10, 2007 in Sofia and focused on developing an Action Plan for implementing the National Road Safety Strategy.
The event was opened by H.E. Petar Mutafchiev, Minister of Transport, and Florian Fichtl, World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria. More than 60 participants from the Government, private sector, civil society attended to the workshop and discussed the current progress in key sectors affecting road safety.

At the request of the Government of Bulgaria, the World Bank conducted a detailed assessment of road safety situation in Bulgaria including the roles and responsibilities of the various public and private institutions involved. The assessment was part of the activities supported worldwide by the World Bank and the Global Road Safety Facility and was conducted in the period between September and November 2007.

Bulgaria now has a serious road safety problem with over 1,000 deaths and over 10,000 injuries each year (in 2006, there were 1,043 deaths and 10,215 injuries). Bulgaria's fatality rates are 2 to 2.5 times as high as in some Western European countries and in addition, many of those 10,000 injured may end up being disabled for life.

Besides the pain and suffering of victims and the grief of families who have lost loved ones, such casualties are a significant drain to the Bulgarian economy. In addition to the scarce Police resources used at accident sites and medical and nursing resources used up in treating victims, the country loses the future productivity of those killed or disabled.

Annual losses to the economy are estimated to be well over EUR 500 million per year and could well be as high as EUR 1,000 million per year. No country can afford to sustain recurring annual losses of this magnitude year after year so urgent action is required to try to reduce such losses.
Bulgaria, in line with other European countries has committed itself to meeting the EU wide target of reducing its road accident casualties by 2010.

Whereas other European countries are steadily reducing the numbers killed and injured on roads, Bulgarian trends currently show deaths increasing by 5 percent and injuries by 7 percent per year, and unless significant additional investment and increased efforts are made to improve road safety, Bulgaria will find it very hard to achieve its target of reducing casualties to 700 deaths and around 6,600 injuries by the end of year 2010.

A part of the Action Plan that was developed during the Road Safety Workshop will be implemented and financed under the World Bank supported Road Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project which with was approved by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank on June 26, 2007.