"We are competitive on the international construction market"- Eng. Stoyko Meshkov (one of Trace Serbia executive directors) in front of epicenter.bg

13 Feb 2019

Recently, Serbian President Alexander Vucic launched his "Future for Serbia" campaign visiting E 75 highway construction (part of Corridor 10 linking Belgrade with Skopje) in Grdelica Gorge, Southern Serbia. In this area is also located the lot of the highway being constructed by the Bulgarian company “Trace Group Hold” PLC. 

This is the most complex segment in engineering terms: the direct route of the highway passes through a highly rugged mountain terrain, in the valley of the river, alongside an electrified single-track railway and the E75 two-lane main road. The project has 340 pre-tensioned beams, the largest of which have a length of 49 m and a weight of 100 t.

In 2017, when the E 80 highway was officially opened, Serbian President Alexander Vucic assessed the quality of the new highway saying that: "The people who built the road have done a great job. They have changed the configuration and landscape in this part of Serbia. My smile today is 30.5 km. long ".

Trace Group Hold PLC built 14 km of E 80 highway.

Eng. Stoyko Meshkov is project manager of the lot, constructed by Trace lot within E 75 realization: Grdelica – Caricina Dolina, lot 2: road and bridges from Predejane tunnel to Caricina Dolina. Here is his interview in front of Bulgarian information website epicenter.bg:

- Engineer Meshkov, the construction works you are involved in was determined by President Vucic as part of the "symbols of Serbia's modernization and rapid development." This is a very high estimate. How did you deserve it?

- With our work. Trace Group Hold is expanding its portfolio, is also expanding as well as its foreign investments. In 2014 and 2015, Trace bought two of the largest road construction companies in Serbia and also a stone quarry and asphalt center, the largest in the country. We have contracts for the current maintenance of about 2000 km of national and municipal roads, practically - all of South-East Serbia, about 28 Serbian municipalities. We first completed our project on the European highway E 80, Nis – Dimitrovgrad section, the official opening was at the end of 2017. Trace worked on two sections with a total length of 14,311 km. We have also built the new alternative road Pirot - Bela Palanka with a length of 22 km. Trace corporate structure - tested in Bulgaria, has been transferred to Serbia as a model. The Holding has established a Bulgarian subsidiary - Trace Serbia, with a Bulgarian capital, run by two executive directors - one of them is the Serbian engineer Predrag Spassov, the other one is me.

- Was it difficult to position yourself on the Serbian market?

- Every change is difficult, but the Holding has created teams including Serbian engineers and specialists, we established mutual trust and we are working professionally in accordance with Serbian law. Actually, we are a Serbian company with Bulgarian capital. We have 6 Bulgarians amongst 520 people working for us (note: Trace Serbia). We exchange teams with our colleagues in Bulgaria. When we had to build "Brussels" boulevard in Sofia, for example, we sent construction brigade, in which there were Serbian and Greek builders. When we need help, we get support from Bulgaria. We are currently running a competition for appointment of young specialists - engineers. We selected 15 people among 40 candidates. It is about to understand who will endure our work rhythm and the day-to-day solving of difficult tasks. There are construction sites we are working 24/7. Such a project is E75 highway construction (part of Corridor 10) – one of its sections in Grdelica gorge.

- What is the road construction in this section particular with as a technical implementation?

- The area we perform is on an intensively intersected terrain – it is a gorge that crosses South Morava River, a railway line and a first-class road that has no alternative before the highway construction. This is the only route to Macedonia and Greece and is extremely busy. Along the entire length of the new highway the left and right lanes have different levels which has determined the construction of supporting structures.

In a section of 4750 m there are bridge facilities with total length of 1800 m, and support structures about 3000 m long. More than over 1000 pilots with a total length of 18 000 m were laid on the site. We have built a road junction that allows all-directions-traffic.

I will also mention a few more facts: during the construction we did not stop the trains traffic at all, nor did we stop it on the first-class road. The South Morava River sometimes is raging; when the waters of the dam are being released, the river level rises by 3 meters in two hours. That further complicated the temporary passage of the site. Part of the project is the consolidation of the slope, which is 550 m long, the highest part being 60 m.

- What are these prestressed beams, the largest of which have a length of 49 m and a weight of 100 tons? Where else did you use them?

- Allow me to mention two digits only: there are 552 beams built on the site, laid and stressed on the ground. The longest one is 49 m. This is the longest beam ever installed in Serbia, I think there is no such beam in Bulgaria either.

- Six bridge structures were constructed in less than 5 km - that looks like a serious construction. How high are these bridges? Is there such a difficult road section in Bulgaria?

- Thе bridge facilities are 6, the highest bridge is 14 meters high, and the longest one is 525 meters; the largest opening is 55 meters. Three times Our structures crossed the river three times and we passed also twice over the railway line. The beams used so far are up to 45 m. Such a complex lot has not been built up yet. Looking for a similar example, perhaps the Kresna Gorge would have comparable characteristics.

- I do not remember here (in Bulgaria) such a gratitude as that expressed by Vucic: "My smile is 30.5 km today" he said (regarding the construction of E 80 section Nis – Dimitrovgrad), and you have built 14 km of it. Is there a difference in attitude towards builders in Serbia and Bulgaria?

- You're bringing me back to the question of social capital - the human one. In the XXIst century, the biggest battle is for knowledgeable and capable people who are ready to work. This capital is being created slowly and hardly, it requires a lot of hard work, suitable conditions and teachers willing to give you the most valuable: their experience and their support in difficult times. In Trace, we work on international contracts, with international designers and supervisors. We are builders with great international experience that makes us competitive on the international construction market.

The full original interview in Bulgarian language is available here.