Almost all the territory between Budapest and Beograd (Belgrade) was once Hungarian-administered. When the railway between the two cities was built in the 19th century, only the last kilometres were in the Kingdom of Serbia. The rail network in the region suffered from the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War. Lines around Szeged and Subotica were cut by the new Hungarian-Yugoslav border. More damage in the Second World War, and tensions between the national states, obstructed restoration of a full network. The rail bridge at Novi Sad was bombed by the NATO in 1999, and only a temporary single-track road-rail bridge is currently available.
The main cities between Budapest and Belgrade are Kecskemét, Szeged, Subotica, and Novi Sad – all with over 100 000 inhabitants. However, they are not in a straight line, and there is no rail line which passes through all of them. The Budapest – Beograd motorway does pass all three, although this adds to its total length. (The motorway has the advantage that it can avoid the city centres).
The shortest route Budapest – Belgrade is the Kelebia line, from Budapest to Subotica and Novi Sad. (Kelebia is the border station). The European Union sees the Kelebia line as the future rail corridor, Pan-European Corridor X, Branch B. However, this line does not serve Kecskemét or Szeged.
The solution proposed here would serve all three cities by high-speed rail. It starts with a new line through Budapest Ferihegy airport, connecting to a high-speed line (HSL) along the M5 motorway to Kecskemét (110 000 inhabitants).
From Kecskemét, the HSL would parallel the existing line to Kiskunfélegyháza (or the line would be upgraded for high speeds). The eastern route would continue past Kiskunfélegyháza to Szeged. South of Kiskunfélegyháza, a completely new alignment would diverge, crossing the plain almost due south to join the Kelebia line into Subotica (100 000 inhabitants). The HSL would continue to Novi Sad and on to Belgrade. Again these lines can either be upgraded, or a parallel HSL built.
This combination of lines gives an optimum solution from a European perspective, and goes further than the limited corridors proposed by the EU. Generally following existing alignments, the proposal allows construction section by section. The local geography, the number of stations, and the level of traffic, would determine whether a parallel HSL or upgrading the existing line (Ausbaustrecke) is appropriate.
From Szeged (170 000 inhabitants), trains would use a re-opened and upgraded line to Kikinda and Timişoara (308 000 inhabitants). This is one of the oldest railway lines in the region, originally built as a through line, with a bridge over the Tisza in Szeged. The bridge is gone, and the station is now a terminal, but there is no need to restore the original route. High-speed trains can use a new station on the outskirts of Szeged, with the existing station as terminus for other services.
The original pattern of rail lines lines around Szeged is shown below. This is an excerpt from the Austro-Hungarian military map of 1910, and has the advantage of showing lines that are now closed, including the former bridge over the river Tisza. The new line, connecting to the Kikinda line, is shown in blue. The new station (in red) would be situated on the main road to Subotica, Szabadkai út. (Szabadka is the Hungarian name of Subotica).
Click to enlarge…
Via a west-to-south curve (green), trains from Subotica could pass through the new station, and then use the existing alignment (shaded green) into the existing station at Szeged city centre. Trains from Békéscsaba (to the north-east) would also pass through the new through station, on their way to the central station.
Subotica would also be connected to Kikinda via the proposed Senta – Kikinda line. See also the proposal for a parallel high-speed line from Budapest to Novi Sad via Szekszárd.