The region between Szeged, Arad and Timişoara is part of the northern Banat, a historical region. Administratively, it lay in the Kingdom of Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was divided by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which cut the rail network in many places.
This proposal for a regional rail line Szeged – Lovrin – Timişoara is one of a series for the region. At Lovrin it would cross a similar regional line, from Kikinda to Arad.
The two lines form an X, inside a quadrilateral bounded by four rail lines. To the north is the proposed regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad. The Timişoara line would use this line through Makó, and split from it at Apátfalva. To the east is the existing Arad – Timişoara main line. West and south the area is bounded by the Szeged – Kikinda – Timişoara line, which would become part of a high-speed line from Budapest (HSL).
The proposed line consists of the upgraded Hungarian line 121 to Apátfalva (37 km), a restored link across the river Maros / Mureş to Cenad, and an upgraded Romanian line 218, from Cenad to Timişoara Nord (75 km).
The lines in the quadrilateral are simple rural lines, built to give each village a railway station, not for speed and direct routing. The idea is to restructure them into a two-line regional network. Lovrin (population 4000), is not the central town, but is is the easiest place for the lines to cross.
The largest town is Sânnicolau Mare (Nagyszentmiklós in Hungarian, population 13 000), which is 15 km north-west of Lovrin. The line would begin and end in large cities: Szeged (population 170 000) and Timişoara (310 000).
Click to enlarge: The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, without the 1920 borders, and with older Hungarian spellings.
The alignment from Szeged to Apátfalva is described under Regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad. The closed link to Cenad turned south after Apátfalva station, and crossed the river, which is now the Hungarian – Romanian border. At Cenad (Csanád or Ócsanád in Hungarian, population 4000), line 218 begins. The original alignment between them can probably be used, it is 6 km long (highlighted in red).
From there, the existing rural line would be upgraded – in reality closed and rebuilt, on the existing alignment. The low construction standards are visible at Sânnicolau Mare, where the line makes a rectangular diversion around the town (highlighted in blue). A completely new 4-km alignment, with a 2-km tunnel, could replace it (white dashed line). It would include a new station in the centre (possibly under the square with the circular flower-bed, on this image). The benefits compared to the existing alignment justify a tunnel, on this otherwise simple upgrade project.
The line at Lovrin is at the edge of the village, but in any case no complex interchange station is needed. The restructured lines would have frequent trains, and a vastly improved line speed: that would compensate for changing trains on some journeys. (Line 218 is currently operated by Regiotrans, with 5 trains a day, average speed about 30 km/h).
East of Lovrin, the existing alignment can be used as far as Becicherecu Mic (in Hungarian, Kisbecskerek). The winding section from that village to the main Arad – Timişoara line can be replaced, by a shorter connection to the Kikinda – Timişoara line, even if this needs additional tracks.
Approaching Timişoara, the original alignment of this line needs to be restored. The main station (Gara Timişoara Nord), is only 1500 m from the edge of the built-up area, because of its asymmetric location. Timişoara (Temesvár in Hungarian) is the economic centre of the region, and the largest city between Budapest and Bucharest. With the construction of the proposed HSL via Kikinda, trains between these cities would pass through Timişoara, and it is an interchange for other main-line and regional services.
The proposed line would be about 117 km long, from the Szeged HSL station to Timişoara, via a tunnel in Sânnicolau Mare. Of that, about 40 km would be shared with the Szeged – Arad line via Makó. It would be 71 km from Szeged to Lovrin, and 46 km from there to Timişoara. It is not intended as a fast route: the Kikinda line provides that. On an upgraded electrified line, with some new sections, a through journey time of close to 90 minutes should be possible.