Five delegates from Semarang came to Sofia on a special study visit in mid-March, organized by the program for International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC), funded by the European Union. Sofia takes part in the program with the innovations developed and tested within the INNOAIR project. The visit was an opportunity for the Indonesian city to learn first-hand from Sofia and to improve its inner city transport.

The delegates met with Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia Municipality, Mr. Doncho Barbalov, Deputy Mayor for transport and urban mobility, and the INNOAIR project team together with representatives of Sofia Development Association. The guest delegation included representatives of the local government of Semarang, the IURC program and the Association of Indonesian Municipalities (APEKSI).

Of special interest for the Indonesian guests was Sofia’s tram transport; during their 4-day visit, they met with experts from the Traffic Control Center and learned about the new analytical system for updating the timetables of the city transport, developed under the INNOAIR project, and Sofia’s progress towards sustainable mobility.

Another area of interest was public engagement and the collaboration of the city administration with the citizens for improving urban mobility and air quality, which are key project objectives for INNOAIR. One successful initiative of Sofia in this respect is the collection of data and recommendations directly from the citizens. SofiaCoin - the mobile app created under INNOAIR – is a good example; the app drew significant interest from the Indonesian delegation to try and test in Semarang as well.

Representatives of Semarang and Sofia also had an opportunity to discuss their future partnership together with Mr. Pablo Gandara, Head of the IURC Program Team for Asia and Australia, Sevdalina Voynova, program director at SDA, and Elitsa Panayotova, coordinator of SofiaGreen.

The two cities share common ambitions and objectives. The Indonesian city has successfully implemented low-emission zones, regulations and measures for weekly car-free days and nights. Sofia has made significant progress towards sustainable urban mobility and could offer expert advice to Semarang for developing a tramway system. Sofia is one of the few capitals in Europe that has preserved and continues to develop its tramway network; while it is one of the most environmentally-friendly types of urban transport, it is also one of the most demanding in terms of maintenance.