Bălți, Moldova’s second biggest city, today celebrated the arrival of a fleet of new trolleybuses financed by a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and a grant from the European Union.
Environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the trolleybuses also have low floors, which improve accessibility for the public, particularly the elderly or those using push chairs or wheelchairs.
The purchase of the new vehicles is part of an EBRD and EU project to modernise public transportation in Bălți for which the EBRD has provided a €3 million loan and the EU contributed a €1.6 million capital expenditure grant from its Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF).
The financing will also allow the Bălți Trolleybus Authority to upgrade the existing power supply infrastructure and to modernise its administrative offices and maintenance equipment. The project will ensure the long-term sustainability of the company’s operations by improving the speed, reliability and overall efficiency of the trolleybus service. This will include optimising operational costs and energy savings, and the adoption of modern management practices.
Bălți is the second-largest city in Moldova in terms of area and economic importance after the capital city, Chișinău. Dubbed the “capital of the north”, Bălți is a major industrial, cultural and commercial centre and transportation hub.
A special launch event took place on the occasion of Bălți City Day at the trolleybus company depot to welcome the first nine of the 23 new vehicles.
Attending the event, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leancă said: “This project is important because it makes the lives of Bălți residents easier and more comfortable and demonstrates very clearly the benefits of European integration for our citizens. In this particular case, it brings higher quality transportation that changes people’s daily lives as well as the city’s image and infrastructure. It will have a positive impact on general prosperity in the city. I thank our European partners for this support, which is yet another proof of the fact that Europe is for everyone.”
Julia Otto, Head of the EBRD office in Chișinău, said: “The EBRD supports the authorities in bringing quality municipal services where they are most needed – in the regions, outside the capital. This is the EBRD’s first direct project with a regional municipality and a very significant investment that will change people’s everyday lives for the better in Bălți. The new trolleybuses represent a major improvement in passenger comfort and service reliability and also provide environmental benefits – they are eco-friendly and energy efficient. Over 100 trolleybuses have been running in Chișinău for three years now and we are proud to help bring new transport solutions to Bălți as well.”
Kaido Sirel, Head of Operations at the EU Delegation to Moldova, said: “We are very happy that thanks to the €1.6 million grant provided by the EU in addition to the EBRD loan, the residents of Bălți will benefit from the 23 new trolleybuses which will improve the quality of life in their city. This is an excellent example of cooperation between the EU, the EBRD and the city of Bălți that is bringing direct benefits to citizens.”
Bălți Mayor Vasili Panciuc said: “Modern, environmentally-friendly public transport is essential for the sustainable economic development of the Bălți municipality. This project facilitates the renewal of 70 per cent of the city’s aged trolleybus fleet. This will significantly improve our public transport services to serve more efficiently an increased number of passengers, and particularly the more vulnerable groups. The present project is an ideal solution to one of the city’s key priorities, and the citizens of Bălți express their gratitude to the EBRD for its support and for partnering with us in this project.”
Bălți has become an important destination for EBRD investment as the Bank encourages economic growth outside Chișinău, in less developed areas. In late 2013, the EBRD extended loans to cable and wire manufacturer Gebauer & Griller Kabelwerke GmbH, and German automotive supplier Draexlmaier Group, both located in the Free Economic Zone of Bălți. The EBRD is also examining the possibility of financing the modernisation of district heating services, which will have a major impact on the quality of life in Bălți.
The EBRD is the largest institutional investor in Moldova. To date, the Bank has signed some 100 investments in the country, covering the energy, transport, agribusiness, general industry and banking sectors, for a cumulative amount of over €900 million. The EBRD is also pursuing intensive policy dialogue to tackle key transition challenges across sectors.
The Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) is a financing mechanism of the EU aimed at mobilising additional funding to cover the investment needs of the EU neighbouring region for infrastructure in areas such as transport, energy, the environment and social issues (for example, construction of schools or hospitals). The NIF also supports the private sector, particularly through risk capital operations targeting small and medium-sized enterprises. In Moldova, the NIF has been used to support numerous projects such as the Moldova Road Rehabilitation Programme, Chișinău trolleybuses, and rehabilitation of water utilities.