Proposed is a heavy upgrading of the rail route from Beograd (Belgrade, population 1.6 million), to Timişoara (the second city of Romania, population 310 000). In practice that means closure, and construction of an electrified double-track line on the existing alignment, with some new cutoff sections. The upgraded line (Ausbaustrecke) complements the proposed inter-regional line Zrenjanin – Timişoara and proposed HSL from Budapest to Timişoara via Szeged.
Click to enlarge: Map of modern Banat by Andrei nacu, public domain.
The Banat is now divided between Serbia and Romania. The line south from Timişoara (Temesvár in Hungarian) to Vršac (Versec) was built as a main line in 1858. It ended at the Danube river port of Baziaş (long abandoned but still visible). The section within Romania is numbered line 922.
The Vršac – Pančevo route was built as two local lines: Vršac – Vladimirovac – Kovin in 1894, and Pančevo – Vladimirovac in 1896. (The dates are from a list in ‘100. godina željeznica Jugoslavije’, published 1949). Pančevo was for decades the terminus: the river was the frontier. The Danube bridge and the line Beograd – Pančevo only opened in 1935, under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Within Serbia, the Vršac line is numbered line 44. Although it carries international trains, it is essentially a single-track rural line.
Click to enlarge: The line around 1910, when Pančevo was a river port. The map is an Austro-Hungarian military map, with Hungarian and German place names. The 1935 line to Beograd is shown in red, the proposed new alignment toward Vršac in green.
The Danube rail bridge at Beograd now connects to a cross-city tunnel, leading to the new central station, Beograd Centar. The bridge carries all rail traffic across the river, including the developing ‘S-Bahn’ system Beovoz. Widening the present bridge is impossible: there are road lanes on either side. A new rail bridge could be built adjoining the west road lanes, and the road approach reconstructed. The best solution is probably a new bridge location, with a new cross-city tunnel.
North of the Danube, the rest of the line to Pančevo can easily be 4-tracked. Pančevo (population 77 000), is 23 km from Beograd Centar. The “Main Station” is not well located, but it gives interchange with the proposed fast Zrenjanin line (currently Serbian line 40). Some trains could serve the older and better located “Town Station” (Pančevo Varoš).
Beyond Pančevo, the alignment toward Vršac is almost straight until the first village Banatsko Novo Selo (population 7000). From there, there is a winding alignment, past several villages. The solution is a new cut-off line, replacing the alignment through Alibunar. It would start at a new station in Banatsko Novo Selo, and rejoin the old alignment east of Nikolinci. It would cross higher ground, at the edge of the Deliblatska_Peščara dune ridges, but with easy gradients.
Click to enlarge: The line as built, from the Austro-Hungarian military map. The new alignment is shown in green.
The new alignment can serve four of the five villages on the existing line. It would be logical to abandon the old alignment, provided the new line has sufficient capacity for regional services. At Vladimirovac (population 4000), Banatski Karlovac (population 6000), and Nikolinci (population 1200), the stations would be relocated.
From Uljma (population 3600) to Vršac, the line would use the existing alignment. Only an S-curve, where it crosses the Danube – Tisa -Danube Canal, needs to be replaced. The two villages here are probably too small to justify a station.
Vršac (population 37 000), is built on a hill at the edge of the plain. The line curves quite sharply into the station, but that is not a problem, if all trains stop there. This is the largest town between Pančevo and Timişoara, and it serves about 100 000 people. Vršac station would also be the junction with the cross-Danube rail line from Smederevo and Kovin. The station itself has more than enough room for extra traffic. The upgraded Pančevo – Vršac line would be 60-65 km long, depending on the length of the new section.
North of Vršac, the existing alignment is almost straight, and the terrain almost flat (85-95 m elevation). With realignment of a few curves, it can certainly be upgraded for 200 km/h. About 6 intermediate stations would be retained: the most important is Deta (population 6000).
Approaching Timişoara, the existing line (from Şag) has been rerouted along the outskirts of the city. It would be replaced by a new alignment, about 10 km long, shared with the proposed fast inter-regional line Zrenjanin – Timişoara.
Click to enlarge: the new line into Timişoara, starting near Şag
Timişoara station (Gara Timişoara Nord) is aligned east-west. With construction of the proposed HSL via Szeged and Kikinda, it would be on the main rail route from Budapest to Bucharest (as it was originally). Trains from Beograd would probably terminate at Timişoara. The original line entered the station from the east, allowing trains to continue north to Arad – but that alignment has been completely built over.
The Vršac – Timişoara line would be 75 km long. The total route Beograd – Timişoara would be about 160 km long. Heavy upgrading should allow a journey time of 60-70 minutes, with stops at Pančevo and Vršac.