The narrow-gauge Railway Station in Sofia, Bulgaria, was built in 1831 to support the new construction of the national capital. Fast forward to today and dozens of trains roll through its iconic curved structure each day, linking it to the tunnels beneath the city and its outskirts. In 2015, that same railroad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was sold off. It is now home to squatters and bulldozers tearing up the soil around it.
The Railway Station has come to symbolize what some see as Bulgaria’s stagnant economy, and the country’s depressed economy has slowed freight through this thriving, once bustling hub. The owners of the railway, Fortress Railway Holding, intended to maintain it as a source of income—one that would not only provide to a worthy cause, but also give goods a more convenient way to be shipped from, say, the United States to Bulgaria and vice versa. It is currently being picked apart by state-owned companies.
As at many countrysides, access to the key value-added industries of Bulgaria has been restricted. The capital itself, Sofia, was intended to be covered by an ambitious and costly metro project. But transport logistics and logistics projects rarely, if ever, deliver their promises, as our GPS project and our investigation reveals. Bulgaria, once again, has been left with a collapsed development and a blighted infrastructure. Meanwhile, the country’s declining eastern neighbor, Romania, is being lifted into higher economic position.
We recently sat down with an insider at a local production company who explained why the railway that crisscrosses the capital has become the most important economic anchor for Sofia.