This proposed upgrading of the 97-km Szeged – Békéscsaba line, is part of series of proposals for rail infrastructure in the region (Danube – Tisza, Dél Alfold, northern Vojvodina). The line is part of a strategic secondary route, built when the whole region was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The route extends from Osijek on the Drava river, via Szeged and Oradea, to Satu Mare on the upper Tisza. It is generally at right angles to the radial lines from Budapest. The route was cut by the post-1918 borders, and is now in four countries: Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania. The Szeged – Békéscsaba section remained in Hungary, currently as rail line 135. It links the two main routes into Romania.
Proposed is a technically simple upgrading, to a double-track electric inter-regional line with a line speed of 200 km/h, and through tracks at all intermediate stations. The only major infrastructure project is a new bridge over the river Tisza. Especially at the eastern end, this is a single-track line, with extremely simple rural halts. ‘Upgrading’ here means closing the line, and building a new one on the alignment, which is almost straight. In the towns, the station areas have enough space for improvements.
Szeged (population 170 000) is a logical terminus for services. The proposed high-speed line Budapest – Timişoara would become the main route through the city, serving a new station on the western edge. Trains from the west, via an upgraded line Baja – Subotica – Szeged would pass through the new station (shown in purple), and then terminate at the existing Szeged station. Some of these trains would come from Pécs or further east, via the proposed HSL Pécs – Baja.
Click to enlarge: The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, without the 1918 borders, and with older Hungarian spellings. The old bridge over the Tisza at Szeged station no longer exists.
In the same way, trains to Békéscsaba would leave from the existing station in the city centre, and then make a loop via the HSL station, and a northern station (Szeged-Rókus, on the main Budapest road). This is the present alignment, but the HSL station would be new, allowing cross-platform interchange with trains to Budapest. There would be one other station before the Tisza, at Algyő (population 5000).
At the river Tisza, the line has a double curve, to cross the river at right angles. Since the single-track bridge must be replaced, it can be realigned, with easier approach curves. 12 km from the Tisza, and 31 km from Szeged, is Hódmezővásárhely, with 47 000 inhabitants the largest town before Békéscsaba. It would retain its western station at Hódmezővásárhelyi Népkert, at the junction with the line from Csongrád and Szentes.
The only other town on the Békéscsaba line is Orosháza (population 30 000), 62 km from Szeged. It is a secondary rail junction, served by three rural lines (present Hungarian policy is to close all rural lines). The village of Székkutas, between the two towns, has 2600 inhabitants, just enough to justify its station. Csorvás, population 6000, east of Orosháza, would certainly keep its station. The village of Telekgerendás has only 1600 inhabitants, but it is a compact settlement with a real station, so retention might be justified.
That gives 7 intermediate stops: 3 in the two towns, and 4 village stations. The rural halts, some in open country, would be closed.
Békéscsaba (population 65 000), is the capital of Békés County (377 000). It is on the main line from Budapest, to Arad and Timişoara, and on to București (Bucharest). The line from Szeged curves south-east into the station, which is large but basic, and needs reconstruction.
Only the section Szeged – Békéscsaba is described here, but inter-regional trains would continue via an upgraded line to Oradea. Logically, the fastest services would run non-stop from the HSL station at Szeged (about 93 km): the intermediate towns are too small for a stop. The line should be upgraded sufficiently, to allow a 40-minute journey time.