Blue, white, orange and yellow trams are a classic feature of the Bulgarian capital. From summer 2016 the residents of Sofia will have to get used to a new colour: green. This is the colour of the Basel trams that will soon be running through the city's streets. At the end of November 2015, the Basel transport operators (Basler Verkehrsbetriebe) signed a contract to deliver vehicles to Bulgaria.
Comfortable and wheelchair-accessible
The carriages are passenger-friendly, with a low-level entrance that makes it easier for disabled persons to board, thereby making public transport more accessible to them. This is not the first time that vehicles withdrawn in Switzerland have been reused in Eastern Europe; this model has tradition. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs has supported similar projects when providing transitional aid to countries undergoing democratic transition. For example, Basel trams can be found in Serbia, and Zurich trams in Ukraine.
Sustainable public transport system
Besides delivering trams, Switzerland is supporting a study into the sustainable design of urban mobility in Sofia, which will serve as the basis for policy decisions. The aim of the project is to improve the link the between metro, bus and tram networks.
The project has a budget of CHF 3 million, of which Switzerland is contributing CHF 2.55 million; the remaining CHF 450,000 is provided by the Sofia transport operators and the city authorities. In this way, Switzerland is helping to improve the public transport system in Sofia and thus to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.