The proposed high-speed rail line Wien – Maribor is intended as part of a larger network of high-speed lines in south-eastern Europe. The high-speed line (HSL) proposed here would diverge from the Maribor line at Szombathely, and run via Zalaegerszeg and Nagykanizsa, to a junction just north of Koprivnica. From there, it would run parallel to the Drava through the Podravina plain, to Vinkovci, and then in a almost straight line to Belgrade.
High-speed lines south from Vienna…
The proposed HSL via Sopron would put Szombathely about 115 km from Vienna (Wien). The city has a population of 80 000, and is the capital of Vas county (257 000). The HSL would follow the existing north-south rail line through the city, and then split – each branch along an existing rail alignment. The Drava line would follow Hungarian line 17 toward Zalaegerszeg. Until Vasvár, this line is dead straight, but it then curves as it crosses a ridge: the HSL would pass under Vasvár in tunnel.
After another straight section, the approach to Zalaegerszeg is curved. In fact, the existing line does not pass through Zalaegerszeg: it runs to Zalaszentiván, about 5 km outside the city. The line to Nagykanizsa continues from there, and there is a connecting line to Zalaegerszeg itself (line 25, continues to Murska Sobota). The new HSL would run directly to Zalaegerszeg station on a new alignment, parallel to existing tracks but not alongside them. The new line from Szombathely, avoiding Zalaszentiván station, would be about 55 km long.
Zalaegerszeg has a population of 62 000, and is the capital of Zala County (282 000). Here too, the existing station location can be used, but the approach lines must be upgraded. South of Zalaegerszeg, the HSL would follow the alignment of the local line (line 23) to Bak. The line follows a valley, aligned north-south like most in this region. At Bak, the HSL would turn south-east across the ridge, to rejoin the existing line to Nagykanizsa, somewhere near Felsőrajk (this is line 17 again). A surface alignment might be possible, since the ridge is only 60 m higher than the valley floors, but a 5-km tunnel would allow a shorter route.
The new line would then follow line 17, into Nagykanizsa, population 50 000, the second city of Zala County. The station is located south of the centre – so that it can also serve the main line from Budapest (line 30, via Lake Balaton). The section from Zalaegerszeg to Nagykanizsa would be 50 km long.
Nagykanizsa is also a logical interchange station, for a Balaton HSL from Budapest to Zagreb and Ljubljana – parallel to line 30 and the M7 motorway. That line would probably require a new approach tunnel under the centre of Nagykanizsa, but that has no other impact on the HSL from Vienna.
With or without a Balaton HSL, the new line south of Nagykanizsa would be used by high-speed trains to Zagreb, via Koprivnica and Križevci. It would replace the existing route for passenger trains (Hungarian line 60 to Gyékényes, and Croatian line M201), which forms a large S-curve. The rest of the line, from Nagykanizsa to Belgrade, is described in the second half of this post.