Vladimir Vladimirov, Chairperson of the Board of Directors at the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ), in an interview with Radio FOCUS
FOCUS: The state subsidy for the BDZ-Freight Services will be fully restored. There will be no staff dismissals and suspension of trains’ movement. This was decided at the meeting between the company management and officials with the Bulgarian government held yesterday at the Ministry of Finance.
Now we will talk with Vladimir Vladimirov, Chairperson of the Board of Directors at the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) – first reaction on the news and first interview on the issue for Radio FOCUS. Good day, Mr Vladimirov. You overcome the situation.
Vladimir Vladimirov: Good day. I cannot say that there was some kind of a battle but it is good for the state railways that the subsidy will be paid and the work process has been brought back to normal, as well as that the reforms will continue following the normal pace.
FOCUS: What did agree yesterday, could you be more specific?
Vladimir Vladimirov: We agreed that the subsidy should be fully recovered and at the same time, there will be serious measures taken on behalf of the state in terms of the restriction of the fare dodgers, including by taking some legislative actions.
In addition, we expect serious interference of the state in terms of restricting the thefts of fuel and other assets not only from BDZ but from the railways as a whole and at the same time to give guarantees for the financial ministry – buildings and properties – that we will pay off our debt to the World Bank.
FOCUS: What are the measures for the recovery and strengthening of the company? What plan for reforms did you present to Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov?
Vladimir Vladimirov: We presented to Minister Dyankov what I told you we agreed on in terms of the subsidy, while at the same time we will continue implementing the measures provided in the plan for restructuring and they are already bearing fruit.
There are no grounds to question what we are doing and there aren’t any brand new measures, which have not been announced so far.
FOCUS: Is there a need to work out or to develop further the crisis strategy for the final recovery of the BDZ and to extend the stages provided in it?
Vladimir Vladimirov: To us the priority focus is put on the fare dodgers and the fuel thefts – these are the priorities for this year, as we can save millions, if we tackle these problems. If we can call these crisis actions, then yes, we continue working on them and I believe that our efforts on these issues and the interference of the state will bring results yet this fall.
FOCUS: Did you discuss the situation at the BDZ-Freight Services?
Vladimir Vladimirov: The issue about the BDZ-Freight Services was mentioned briefly in the talks but only in reference to its privatisation. This way the company will have a perspective for development, a better perspective compared to the current situation.
FOCUS: I guess that after yesterday’s meeting you will be more confident in the dialogue with the trade unions – they expected a severer outcome and they were even, figuratively speaking, sharpening their swards.
Vladimir Vladimirov: They should first consider things well before making any inadequate statements, or at least they should be more patient.
As far as the trade unions are concerned, what I heard over the last days was very disappointing. Many things said for the media were not true, to say it mildly.
FOCUS: Indeed, we have some good news and there is no point in casting a shadow on it with some bad thoughts. Mr Vladimirov, what’s more important is to manage to motivate and encourage the railway workers. How will you do that?
Vladimir Vladimirov: I think that over the last three years the reforms we made did not only dismayed the railway workers but we also managed to convince big part of them that we are on the right track.
I may present some figures about what is happening at the BDZ-Freight Services, which absolutely contradicts to what the trade unions say. This year we expect some 1,100 carriages to be repaid, as some 510 of them are already ready. For comparison, in 2008 the company repaid smaller number of carriages – 944, while in e2009 – 158, in 2010 – 143.
We see that the measures we take bring results and now there are more carriages in good shape at the Freight Services.
FOCUS: There are no more serious and clearer perspective, can we say that there is place for optimism and hope about the future of the BDZ?
Vladimir Vladimirov: There is definitely some place for optimism and hope. This is in terms of the number of the carriages with the Freight Services. Speaking of the BDZ-Passenger’s Services, while the company used to be at a loss with the same amount of the subsidy, this year the company already reported BGN 10 million profit for H1 2012, i.e. we pulled out from the hard situation the Passenger’s Services used to be despite the given subsidy.
The big issue with the big debts amassed in the past, however, remains. We should gradually cope with this problem.
FOCUS: How are you fighting with this issue?
Vladimir Vladimirov: We follow the plan for restructuring, which means that when the Passenger’s Services register some profit, even a small one, it means that there is more free money in the company. I already announced that we have BGN 40 million more free money for the first six months of the year and there were immediately some speculations – where this money is… The money has been already paid off to the distributors and the banks and the debts are decreasing.
We also continue selling the unnecessary assets and we also continue to optimise all the processes and activities so as to free some resource for covering the debts.
FOCUS: Thank you for this first interview after the hard talks at the Finance Ministry. Good luck.
Vladimir Vladimirov: Thank you. The state railways belong to all the people and each success we have is a success for Bulgaria.