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Case study report: rail link Thessaloniki (Greece) – Sofia (Bulgaria)

This case study presents the cross-border public service between Thessaloniki and Sofia. 

It explores the business model of this service, including its governance arrangements, operational provisions to develop the service and address demand, and its territorial scope. The line was initiated in 2005, operated until February 2011 and after a four-year suspension was reinstated in 2014. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the route is temporarily out of operation. The case study presents the key obstacles to the service, and solutions to these obstacles are discussed. Due to technical problems with infrastructure and delays in the rail connection this is not a full train service (a replacement bus is used to operate the cross-border part of the connection since 2017). There is low demand for the service which can be attributed to the long travel time compared to other means of transport (private bus or passenger car) and the use of the replacement bus. The final section reflects on the lessons learnt from the case study. 


This case study report is part of a series of 31 case studies developed in the framework of the study ‘Providing public transport in cross-border regions – Mapping of existing services and legal obstacles’, completed by Spatial Foresight in cooperation with TCP international, TRT trasporti e territorio and EureConsult for the European Commission’s DG REGIO.