The Morava River (March in German), flows south to join the Danube at Devin, near Bratislava. The broad Morava ‘valley’ is the main route to the north, especially through the Moravian Gate into Poland. The main rail lines were built in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when the whole route was under a single administration.
Vienna (Wien, population 1.7 million) and Bratislava (population 427 000) are about 55 km apart. The line north from Vienna, on the west bank of the Morava, is the Vienna – Břeclav line. The line north from Bratislava, on the other side of the river, is the line to Kúty, which has a connecting line to Břeclav.
Břeclav (population 26 000) was intended as an important rail junction, and it still is. North of the station, the line splits. One line goes to Brno and Prague (Praha). The other continues on the west bank of the Morava, toward the Moravian Gate, Ostrava, and Silesia. This is the former Kaiser-Ferdinands-Nordbahn, begun in 1837.
On this line is another junction at Přerov: the line to Olomouc (population 102 000) diverges here. When Czechoslovakia became independent, the line Prague – Olomouc – Přerov – Žilina – Košice was developed, as its east-west rail axis. This route uses a curve just north of Přerov station: if trains serve Přerov, then they must reverse. That also applies to to route Prague – Olomouc – Ostrava. North of Přerov, these routes share the Moravian Gate line for about 25 km, to Hranice, where the Žilina line diverges. The low pass in the Moravian Gate is about 2 km north of Hranice station.
Finally, there is also the Morava east bank line, north of Kúty. After Skalica, it is more of a local line: Skalica is now the border station between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. At Uherské Hradiště, the separate east-bank line ends: it crosses the Morava to connect to the west-bank line.
The straight and level alignments along the Morava, are ideal for new high-speed rail lines (HSL). A logical pattern of high-speed services along this corridor, does require new connections across the Morava, and the abandonment of junction stations such as Přerov and Břeclav. The proposal here is, that HSL services through the corridor serve only 6 cities: Vienna, Bratislava, Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava and Žilina. In turn, that requires upgrading of some regional lines, such as Brno – Olomouc ( line 300 and line 301), and Ostrava – Žilina (via line 320). No existing line would be closed: they would be upgraded for better regional and inter-regional services, connecting with the European-level HSL services.
The proposed pattern of high-speed lines is:
- a line west of the Morava from Vienna to Ostrava,
- a line to Brno, diverging from the first line, north of Břeclav
- a line east of the Morava from Bratislava, with a bypass of Devínska Nová Ves, joining the first line via a new connection at Holíč (link D, purple)
- a connection from the western line to the eastern line, approximately from Angern an der March to Závod (link A, orange)
- a connection from the eastern line to the western line south of Břeclav, from Závod to Rabensburg (link B, blue), or
- a connection from the eastern line to the western line, along the E65 motorway from Sekule to north of Břeclav station, by-passing Kúty and Břeclav (link C, green).
All these links cross the Morava. The flood-plain directly alongside the river is almost uninhabited, and much of it is a nature reserve. There are only two bridges south of Břeclav. The shortest cut through the protected zone is link A, Angern – Gajary – Závod. The new alignment itself would be about 23 km long, but most of that is through agricultural land.
The link from from Závod to Rabensburg (link B) would be about 12 km long, but it would cut diagonally through the protected zone. That is a good reason to prefer link C, which would run alongside existing infrastructure (motorway, and avoids the station at Břeclav. That line along the E65, by-passing Kúty and Břeclav station, would be about 25 km long.
This bypass would connect to line 250, the line from Břeclav to Brno (population 405 000). This 60-km alignment is also suitable for high speeds, if the curves between the straight sections are improved.
The link from Holíč (link D) would not cross a protected area: if it by-passed Rohatec, it would be about 12 km long. It would join the line Břeclav – Přerov, Czech line 330.
The existing alignment through Přerov northwards can be by-passed entirely, by a new 20-km alignment to the east (red line). High-speed trains from Olomouc, to Žilina and Ostrava, can be re-routed via a new north curve (dashed line), about 10 km long. Trains from the south toward Olomouc, can prossibly use the existing alignment, if the curves near the station are improved. If not, a shorter third bypass (blue line) can be built west of the station.
North-east of Přerov, the high-speed line would follow the existing alignment only approximately. A new or upgraded line to Žilina would diverge at Hranice: see the item on a possible Trans-Carpathian tunnel to Žilina. After the Moravian Gate pass, the Ostrava line follows the Odra (Oder) river. The alignment there lacks the long straight lines along the Morava, except in Ostrava itself. The city has a population of 315 000, the industrialised region around it, 1.2 million. HSL alignments north of Ostrava are not considered here, but certainly a new direct line is needed, from there to Rybnik and Katowice.