This proposal is a rail service rather than a new rail line. It would start in Varaždin, and run north to Čakovec, Lendava, Rédics and Lenti, and on to Zalaegerszeg. The entire route is a old rail line, but parts are closed because the line crosses two borders.
The end of the line at Lendava: image by Ajznponar, CC 3.0 licence …
From Rédics, trains would share an upgraded Hungarian line 23, with inter-regional trains from Maribor (via Murska Sobota). Between Rédics and Zalaegerszeg, trains from Varaždin would provide a regional service. The inter-regional service would stop only at Lenti.
The new service would start in Varaždin (population 49 000), the capital of Varaždin County (184 000). The town is on the proposed high-speed line from Maribor -and Ptuj , which would continue as the Drava plain high-speed line to Beograd (Belgrade).
Varaždin is connected to Zagreb by the existing regional line R201. The proposed second Zagreb – Varaždin line would reduce journey times.
Both Varaždin and Čakovec lie in the basin of the Drava, and the 11-km line between them crosses the river. It is also part of Croatian regional line R201. Apart from the curve into Čakovec station, the line is dead straight, and can easily be upgraded. Čakovec itself (population 30 000), is the capital of Međimurje County (population 118 000).
Click to enlarge: the lines at Čakovec…
The 22-km line, north from Čakovec to Lendava (Croatian line L201) closed for passengers in the 2011 timetable. That is not surprising, given the history of the line.
Originally, Čakovec (Hungarian Csáktornya) was on the main line from Budapest to Trieste, the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The town was part of the old Zala County in the Kingdom of Hungary, and the line northwards connected it to the county capital Zalaegerszeg.
The east-west line through Čakovec is still the main route Budapest – Ljubljana, but it lost its original status, when the Kingdom of Hangary was divided. The Čakovec – Lendava section became a local line in Yugoslavia, the Lendava – Rédics section was closed, and the Rédics – Zalaegerszeg section became a local line in Hungary.
Click to enlarge: The rail lines through Varaždin and Čakovec around 1910. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map, using German and Hungarian place names.
When Yugoslavia collapsed, the line was cut again. The last section into Lendava was now in Slovenia, but unconnected to any other Slovenian line. Closure was the predictable result. The proposal here ignores the borders.
North of Čakovec, there are three village stations: Novo Selo Rok, Vratišinec, and Mursko Središće (population 6500). The line then crosses the flood plain of the Mur/Mura river, into Lendava – until 2010 the terminus of the local service. This section can also be easily upgraded.
Lendava station is 4 km from the river, which is the border. There are no intermediate stations on the Slovenian section. Lendava (population 11 000) lies at the foot of a hill, the station in the plain. (It is 100 m from the Lendava exit on the new A5 motorway).
Click to enlarge: the rail line at the edge of the Lendava hills, heights are exaggerated…
North of the station, the old line curved around the hills into Rédics: this abandoned section is 8 km long. The line can be easily restored, but it should be moved westwards at Dolga Vas (the north end of Lendava), to avoid the houses.
Rédics station is the present terminal of Hungarian line 23. From there to Zalaegerszeg, the existing alignment would be upgraded. At Rédics station, the Varaždin line also joins the proposed inter-regional line from Maribor.
Click to enlarge: the interregional line from Maribor, with new alignment through Murska Sobota…
Both services would stop at Lenti (population 8500), the next station after Rédics. On the rest of line 23, most of the rural halts would be closed, leaving 4-5 intermediate stations.
From Rédics, it is 49 km to Zalaegerszeg (population 62 000), the regional centre. The city would be served by the proposed high-speed line from Vienna to Nagykanisza and the Drava basin, which would also become the main route from Vienna to Zagreb.
The new regional line would be 90 km long. The first half, Varaždin – Rédics, crosses flat terrain and is often straight, so speeds could be relatively high. Line 23 would also be substantially upgraded. With about 10 intermediate stations, journey time over the complete route should be under 80 minutes.