Cross-Danube rail line Smederevo – Kovin – Vršac

A new rail link across Danube, between Smederevo and Kovin, is a logical addition to the rail network east of Belgrade (Beograd). A new road bridge was built there, on the M-24 highway, opened in 1976. A parallel rail link is officially planned, although no date is given. It seems to be intended primarily as a freight bypass, and might bypass Smederevo itself. The proposal here is more extensive, and includes new passenger services. The website Donau-Info has a clear topographic map of the area covered by the proposal.

low-res link to

From Kovin, a new line would connect the new bridge or tunnel, to the existing line to Vršac and Timişoara. The proposal assumes heavy upgrading of the existing Belgrade – Vršac – Timişoara route. The new Danube crossing would carry an interregional service running east of Belgrade: Timişoara – Vršac – Smederevo – Kragujevac.

A second line from Kovin would connect the river crossing to Pančevo, creating a new orbital link north of Belgrade. This might be the fastest route to Smederovo: the present journey requires a reversal at Mala Krsna.

As with the road bridge, the new rail link would allow some traffic to bypass Belgrade. The rail junctions there are being fully renewed, with a new central station, but there is still only one Danube bridge. (A cross-river freight line is planned between Vinča and Starčevo, beside the planned ring motorway).

Click to enlarge: the new lines through Kovin superimposed on the original railway geography. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, with Hungarian and German place names.

Smederevo - Kovin rail link across Danube

When the first railways in this region were built, the Danube was the southern boundary of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Hungarian network was much better developed, and there were no Danube bridges. The bridge at Belgrade was only built in 1935, and the next one is at Ruse, almost 700 km downstream.

Inside the Kingdom of Hungary, the line south from Timişoara (Hungarian Temesvár) to Vršac (Versec) and Bela Crkva (Fehértemplom), formed the rail axis of the County of Temes.

Click to enlarge…

Temes County in the Kingdom of Hungary

The line continued to a river port on the Danube, at Baziaş – where its remains are still visible. At present, Bela Crkva is the terminus of a local line from Zrenjanin via Vršac (Serbian line 43). The line to the Danube is abandoned – Baziaş is now in Romania.

Smederevo (population 110 00) is an industrial city on the Danube, 50 km downstream from Belgrade. There is however, no rail line along the river bank. Instead, there is a 12-km branch, north from Mala Krsna station, on Serbian line 60 (main line to the south-east). It runs at the edge of the hills, just above the flood plain of the Morava river.

Click to enlarge…

Smederevo - Kovin rail link across Danube

It would be relatively easy, to build a rail line beside the M-24 bridge, but it would pass east of Smederevo. The existing rail line runs north from Mala Krsna, and bends west into a station with minimal platforms, opposite the fortress ruins. A tunnel would start further back, away from the city centre, so a bridge seems the best option. The bridge approach line could run between the river harbor and the old fortress, where there is enough room. This is almost a straight line from the existing alignment, and the station (on viaduct) would be close to the city centre.

Click to enlarge…

Smederevo - Kovin rail link across Danube

This option does mean a longer river crossing. The line would cross a low-lying island, and that probably means a long viaduct. The line would then turn north-east to Kovin: it should also allow for a possible line towards Omoljica. The Smederevo – Kovin section would be about 12 km long.

At Kovin (population 14 000, municipality 37 000), the line can use a former railway alignment beside the M-24, and the zone of the abandoned station. Beyond this station, the line would split.

The line to Vršac would turn more to the east after Kovin. It would follow the road toward Bela Crkva, passing the village of Gaj. The most difficult section is east of Dubrovac: the line must cross the dune ridges of the Deliblatska_Peščara.

Dune landscape of the Deliblatska Peščara, image by Sors bona, public domain…

Deliblatska Peščara

Fortunately the maximum dune heights are further north, so the line can cut the ridges and fill the valleys. (The line would be similar to the Amsterdam – Arnhem line between Ede and Arnhem, which also crosses an inland dune region).

After the dunes, the line would turn north, and join the existing alignment near Crvena Crkva, 25 km from Vršac. Much of the remaining line to Vršac is straight, but the curves north of Jasenovo would need a new alignment. At Vršac (population 37 000), the line would join the upgraded Belgrade – Timişoara route. The Kovin – Vršac section would be about 65 km long.

Click to enlarge…

new Kovin - Vršac rail line

East of the dunes, there would also an 8-km link link, via Vračev Gaj, to Bela Crkva (population 11 000). It lies in a basin on the flanks of the Banat Mountains (Munţii Banatului, part of the Carpathians). There was another rail line into what is now Romania, part survives as line 924, from Iam to Oraviţa. (Restoration would be possible, but the line was very indirect anyway).

The line from Kovin to Pančevo would be simpler, in planning and construction. Directly after Kovin station, it would turn north-west, and follow an old rail alignment to Bavanište. The only intermediate station would be at that village (population 6000). From there, the line would run parallel to the main road (still highway M-24), but south of it.

Click to enlarge…

New Kovin - Pančevo rail line….New Kovin - Pančevo rail line

Pančevo (population 77 000) is also an industrial city. The new line would join the existing alignment from the east, allowing it to serve the older ‘Pančevo Town’ station (still known by its Hungarian name ‘Pančevo Varoš’). At the newer Main Station, there would be interchange with an upgraded line to Zrenjanin (Serbian line 40).

The Kovin – Pančevo section would be 30 km long. From Pančevo, it is 23 km to the new central station in Belgrade, via the cross-city tunnel. The line would also connect to the proposed new Beovoz tunnel under central Belgrade.

Cross-Danube rail line Smederevo – Kovin – Vršac

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