The successor to the oldest railway plant in Bulgaria, Express Service OOD, produces larger, more powerful and more environmentally friendly vehicles.

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

Express Service OOD is the successor of the Locomotive-Wagon Plant (LVZ) and the only company for the production, maintenance and development of new models of diesel and battery locomotives in Bulgaria. The company, which is the successor to one of the oldest Bulgarian private companies – a train service plant on the first railway line in the country of Ruse – Varna, this year celebrates 155 years since its foundation in 1866.

The new development of the company began in 1998, when the former manager of LVZ Anastas Kolev gathered part of his team in a new enterprise after the unsuccessful privatization of a huge factory from the times of socialism.

Today the company continues to strengthen itself in Bulgaria and abroad – one of their shunting machines will soon start operating at the TGV depot in Lyon (France), and their newest, powerful and environmentally friendly prototype has been successfully operating for several months at the Holcim cement plant in Beli Izvor (Bulgaria).

Recently, the company even managed to negotiate with the Bulgarian Railways (BDZ). For years the state railroad ignored the enterprise’s services in favor of dubious business interests, but the company, which was completely dependent on its private sector business, was not afraid to criticize BDZ. What has changed during this period?

Better relationship with BDZ

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

“We are currently working on many projects with the Bulgarian Railways BDZ Passenger Transport and BDZ Freight Transportation, we are repairing the locomotives of both companies. We are modernizing locomotives for narrow-gauge lines, repairing old wagons for freight trains,” said Tsvetelin Kolev, Deputy Head of Express Service OOD. He said that the state-owned company realized, albeit belatedly, the technical competence of the Ruse plant after more than a decade of deliberate neglect.

For the past 10 years they have pretended not to know about our existence. To cover up suspicious BDZ schemes through repairs, management stated in a series of interviews that there is no locomotive plant in Bulgaria, and for this reason they were forced to make repairs at companies of their choice,” said Kolev.

He adds that over the years, Express Service OOD has been systematically removed from participation in public procurement, and the Ministry of Transport, together with BDZ, revokes licenses for the repair of locomotives from the plant. This actually pushes the company to focus entirely on private clients, most of whom are from Western Europe.
“We hope that all this is over and that BDZ remembered the plant in Ruse,” he concluded.

Prototype of the future

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

In addition to repairing private and state-owned locomotives, the Bulgarian manufacturer did not pass by the development activities, which the company’s team is proud of. The latest implemented project of the company is the MDD5 diesel shunting locomotive. It is a 72 tonne CAT shunting RC locomotive with two diesel engines and meets the Stage V emission standard, which is not even mandatory for European vehicles yet.

“The MDD5 is our largest and most powerful locomotive to date. This is our old idea, which we are gradually developing, waiting for an investor in a prototype model,” says Kolev. The locomotive is intended to directly replace the most popular shunting diesel locomotive in the Balkan Peninsula – the Romanian LDH1250 (also known as “Series 55”). “Our locomotive is superior to the outdated Romanian locomotive in many ways, but the most important points for us are the incomparable energy efficiency and cleanliness of the diesel engine,” he added.

The machine, designed by the company’s team of engineers, was created in partnership with one of Express Service OOD’s longest-serving customers, Holcim AD, part of the LafargeHolcim group.
Since the end of April this year, MDD5 has been working at the Swiss conglomerate’s cement plant in Beli Izvor, and the reviews about it are extremely positive.

By the way, this is the sixth vehicle of the company, which the plant orders. “The very fact that we have such a long-term partnership with a leading manufacturer in Bulgaria speaks in favor of both companies,” said Deputy Manager of Express Service OOD.

“It took us over 10 years to develop the locomotive and build the prototype, but we were not focused on this project only. Expecting a good and serious investor, we have developed and delivered to the European market a whole line of battery locomotives. “All this would be impossible without the high qualifications and experience of our team,” says Tsvetelin Kolev.

On high-speed train shunting

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

And while their last locomotive operates at the cement plant, one of the company’s older models will soon be heading to an even more prestigious destination, the French TGV depot in Lyon.

“At the end of the year, we will deliver to SNCF (French State Railways) ES1000 battery locomotive, which will perform shunting operations with modern TGV trains at their depot in Lyon. “It is almost unbelievable that a railway product from Bulgaria was chosen by one of the oldest and most respected railway companies in the world,” said Kolev.

According to him, interest in the company’s solutions for railway shunting work is constantly growing for many reasons, but the main ones are two: “The desire of more and more Europeans to live and work in an environmentally friendly environment, to reduce the carbon emission of their activities on the railroad. At the same time, energy efficiency is another leading topic on the European agenda.”

Orders are growing in the markets traditionally important for the company – Germany, Great Britain, France and Switzerland, with the largest demand being the largest battery locomotive ES3000.

Development of Express Service OOD in Bulgaria

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

According to Tsvetelin Kolev, there is a growing industry interest in more energy efficient and environmentally friendly shunting machines in Bulgaria. “To our delight, last year we registered an increase in orders from Bulgaria. Old, ineffective and extremely harmful to the environment shunting locomotives are widely used  in our country. As an operator, we looked strange and exotic with our clean and efficient solutions,” he said.

Last year, we received a major order from Port Rail, one of the innovative rail operators, for four battery locomotives to be used at the Aurubis shunting yards in Pirdop and BMF Port Burgas. Bulmarket Rail Cargo is another modern railway company from Ruse, which also ordered a battery locomotive for its shunting operations,” said Kolev.

All of this is taking place in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the constraints that have affected many industries and businesses. But in the case of Express Service, the pandemic not only does not hinder, but also helps the business. “Many companies have realized the benefits of modern and clean remote-controlled locomotives. Our locomotives do not need one or two operators in a cramped cab, our shunting are carried out with fewer people and help to carry out non-contact operations,” says Kolev.

diesel and battery powered shunters
Picture: Express Service OOD

These successes instill optimism in Tsvetelina Kolev in the future of the plant, which is at the same time one of the oldest but most modern enterprises in the city. Its high-tech products have high added value and are entirely developed and manufactured locally near the city.

“Currently, another expansion of our plant is underway, a new workshop for the repair of locomotives is being built. We are also equipped with various new smart control machines that help facilitate the production of locomotive components. The investment in all of this is significant, as well as the great responsibility of the only locomotive plant in Bulgaria,” the manager concludes.

Martin Dimitrov /www.capital.bg

Translation by Taras Reyka

Express Service is the Eastern European leader in offering new shunting locomotives. Bulgaria based company has developed several series of diesel and battery powered shunters that cover most industrial, in-yard or even light train service duties.

Express Service OOD
www.lz1866.com

info@lz1866.com

DZS, Ruse 7011, Bulgaria
Tel. +359 88 7412838

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