This is the second part of the proposal for a coastal rail line in Istria. The first half described the rail geography of the peninsula, and the rail line along the north coast to Piran. This section describes the line along the west coast, which would diverge from the Piran line at Strunjan. Istria (south of Trieste) has a population of about 315 000 ( Istarska county in Croatia and the Obalno-kraška statistical region in Slovenia). The population of the west coast, from Umag to Pula, is about 125 000, but it is heavily developed for tourism – transport demand is greater than population alone would predict. A new north-south motorway runs parallel to the coast, about 10 km inland.
The alignment proposed here is schematic. The line would run parallel to the coast, but not alongside it. Some resort towns have developed inland, so a station close to the old town centres is difficult to construct. The exact alignment would be determined by local factors.
The line would diverge from the northern coast line near Strunjan, and then enter tunnel toward Lucija (separate tunnels from Strunjan seem the best option). The line would serve a station under the main road through Lucija. It would then follow the valley past Seča, and cross a ridge in a short tunnel, into the alluvial plain with the Sečovlje salt ponds. The line would roughly follow the main road to the small Portorož airport, which has charter traffic in summer. Because of the alignment of the runway, the line would need to cross it in tunnel.
At the other side of the plain, there is a ridge of over 100 m. Behind it, the ground falls more slowly, to the coast at Umag. The aerial view shows the head of the Bay of Piran, looking toward the airport (heights are exaggerated). The new motorway here simply climbs up the ridge from the plain, and that is one option for the rail line. Via a short tunnel, the line would then turn toward Umag, approximately via Murine. An alternative (blue line) is a longer tunnel, from the alluvial plain to the lower ground near Umag (25 m elevation).
Umag / Umago has a population of 8 000 (municipality total 13 000). The station would be on the outskirts – for instance on the main road inland to Buje, at about 10 m elevation, and about 1 km from the old town.
From Umag, the line would closely follow the coastal road, about 1 km inland, and at about 10 to 30 m height. There is development all along the coast, but only at Dajla is it concentrated enough for a possible station. The next coastal town is Novigrad / Cittanova (population 4000). The line would curve from north to east, with a station on the outskirts, about 2 km from the old town.
The line would now cross the Mirna valley floor. The steep slope on the other side is a problem, if the alignment follows the main road past Tar – it is at 100m elevation. By locating the station on the west side of Vabriga, at 50 m elevation, the climb is reduced. The line would cross the Mirna valley on a viaduct, about 1200 m long, and climb to the plateau via two tunnels. The station for Tar-Vabriga (population 1500) would be on the road to the beach, and about 3 km inland.
South of Tar, the line would again follow the main road, toward Poreč / Parenzo. The town has a population of 17 000, but development has spread along almost 10 km of coast. It should be possible to use the alignment of the main road, in cut-and-cover tunnel, with a station about 500 m from the edge of the old town. From there, the line would again follow the main road, toward Funtana and Vrsar. Tourism justifies stations here, despite the low populations (800 and 1900).
At Vrsar / Orsera, the station would be on the outskirts, and the line would turn south-east, around a hill. On the lower ground south of Vrsar, the line would enter a tunnel under the Lim fjord (Limski Kanal, not a real fjord). The tunnel portal would be at about 10 m elevation, and the channel is 30 m deep, so the tunnel would drop about 50 m. The south portal would be on lower ground south of Valalta, also at about 10 m. For a tunnel of over 3 km, with a gradient of 3%, a 50-m drop is feasible.
South of Valalta, the line would turn toward Rovinj / Rovigno. With a population of 14 000, this is one of the largest tourist centres in Istria, and it has a ferry connection to Venezia (Venice). Here too, development inland makes station location difficult. A curving tunnel under the higher parts of the town could serve a station close to the centre.
At Rovinj, the line could connect with a restored branch from Kanfanar / Canfanaro, 21 km long on the original alignment. At Kanfanar, it connects to the old Austrian main line through Istria – which would become a Rijeka – Pula line, after opening of the Učka rail tunnel. The branch could simply be operated as as shuttle, but to avoid multiple changes of train, it would best be used by a service starting at Pazin.
South of Rovinj, the coast is less developed. An inland route via Bale / Valle is an option, joining the existing rail line at Vodnjan. However, this part of Istria is almost uninhabited, and Bale is small (municipal population 1200). Allowing for future development, a coastal route seems preferable: it is also shorter. It would serve one intermediate station, at Fažana / Fasana (population 3000). Via a tunnel under a low ridge, the new line would join the existing alignment, very near the centre of Pula / Pola. This is the largest city of Istria, with 60 000 inhabitants, and around 90 000 in the metropolitan area (includes Fažana). The line would end at a new Pula station, just south of the existing station – close to the amphitheatre, harbour, and historic centre.
The line from Trieste to the junction at Strunjan is about 30 km long, and the rest of the line along the west coast is another 90-95 km. With a total length of about 125 km, and a 99% new alignment, a journey time of close to 90 minutes is feasible.