A new railway line from Belgrade (Beograd) to Šabac was already planned in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, before the Second World War. It is a cut-off line, avoiding a longer route via Ruma, but was also intended as part of a Belgrade – Adriatic route. In post-war Yugoslavia, the line from Šabac to Loznica was upgraded, and extended to Tuzla. Since the end of the Bosnian war, the Belgrade – Tuzla route passes through three states: Serbia, the Republika Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The proposal here duplicates the logic of the old Yugoslav plans, without specifying an alignment in detail. Like all proposals at this blog, it ignores the borders, their origins, and their political consequences.
There is one major difference with the old plans: the line can run through Belgrade airport. The alignment would be about 3 km longer, but the benefits of serving the airport outweigh that.
The 8-km airport section would also be used, by a regional metro to central Belgrade – the Beovoz system, or its successor. (A Beovoz airport line is already planned, but there is no construction date).
The new line is related to other proposals for the Belgrade region: for an introduction see New tunnels and Danube bridge in Belgrade. The Šabac line would enter Belgrade via Zemun, and it would share that route with the proposed Drava Plain high-speed route from Vienna via western Hungary, and a second HSL route via Novi Sad.
The line as proposed here would have an inter-regional function, primarily Belgrade to Tuzla traffic. It would have no intermediate stations other than the airport, and it would therefore be built as a high-speed line (HSL). Most of it crosses a flat plain anyway: building a a 200 km/h line is no more complex than building a 150 km/h line. Regional services from Zvornik would not use this line. They would terminate at Šabac, or reverse there and use the existing line to Ruma, on the main Zagreb – Belgrade line. (The Zvornik – Ruma route is Serbian line 12, but passenger traffic is suspended).
Services on the new Tuzla route would would not use the existing or proposed cross-city tunnels. They would start at the existing Main Station (Glavna Stanica). The Belgrade agglomeration has a population of 1,6 million, and is the logical terminus for this route.
Trains to Tuzla would use the existing 9-km line to Zemun: it probably needs to be quadrupled. They would stop at Zemun Novi Grad station, on a plateau above the old town. Zemun has 145 000 inhabitants: it is the logical interchange station, for regional lines west of Belgrade.
The airport line is already designated in the urban development plan: it would begin just west of the station, run parallel to the motorway, and then turn south-west to the terminal. The terminal car parks offer a suitable site for an underground station.
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The station exit line should allow for a tunnel, under a future second runway. (The official plan shows a connection to the orbital rail line, apparently avoiding a new runway). Tesla Airport Belgrade is a medium-sized airport, handling 2,5 million passengers annually.
The new line to Šabac would turn west after clearing the airport zone, and pass south of the village of Dobanovci. From there, in principle, it would run straight toward Šabac. The main problem is the low-lying terrain: former marshland north of the Sava river. There is no clear alternative route, across higher ground. Since the 1950’s the marsh has been used for artillery testing, but there is only one firing direction, so it could be crossed in tunnel.
Click to enlarge: Approximate alignment superimposed on an old map of the region around 1910, within the Kingdom of Hungary. Most of the marshland was later reclaimed. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, with Hungarian and German place names.
The line would pass north of Grabovci, and then cross the Sava river, on a new bridge. Originally, the standard-gauge line from Ruma ended on the north bank. The line on the south bank was the narrow-gauge line to Loznica, built for timber transport. It was converted to standard gauge, after the Second World War.
In Šabac, the existing station adjoins the town centre, but it is aligned parallel to the river. The new bridge would be about 1500 m to the east, and the new line would descend from the bridge alongside an industrial siding. The rundown station would be completely rebuilt.
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Šabac (Шабац) (population 55 000) is the largest urban centre on the route to Tuzla. From there, trains would use the existing alignment toward Zvornik. This is a converted narrow-gauge line, but the first 50 km to Loznica are on relatively level terrain, and can easily be upgraded. After Loznica, the line follows the Drina: a new 3-km tunnel at Banja Koviljača would avoid a bend in the river. The only towns on the route are Loznica (population 35 000) and Zvornik (circa 15 000).
A long-planned railway will link Loznica to Valjevo, connecting to the Belgrade – Bar railway. This would complete a freight transit route through Bosnia to the Adriatic, but with little effect on the Belgrade – Tuzla passenger route.
South of Loznica, the line from Šabac continued along the river Drina to Zvornik. It was later extended to Tuzla later, crossing the Drina north of Zvornik. As a result, the station is no longer in Zvornik itself, but 5 km north of the town. The extension to Tuzla was built to a higher standard, but it would need a second track. It crosses by tunnel from the Drina valley, to the basin of the river Spreča, which is relatively flat. At Živinice, it joins an older line into Tuzla.
Tuzla: image by Boabo at de.wikipedia.org, under Creative Commons License 3.0
The city of Tuzla (population 130 000) lies in a narrow valley, separated from the basin by hills. The line from Zvornik in effect makes a U-turn around these hills, to enter Tuzla from the west. A tunnel under the hills would shorten the route: that option is not considered further here. The simple station, which has enough space for expansion, is about 2 km west of the historic centre of Tuzla.
The new line from Belgrade to Šabac would be approximately 75 km long. That includes 9 km Belgrade – Zemun, and an 8-km airport line. The section across the plain to Šabac, would be about 55-60 km long, depending on the exact alignment.
The rail route Šabac – Zvornik – Tuzla is about 140 km long. It is indirect: the great circle distance is only 86 km. New tunnels at Banja Koviljača and Tuzla, would shorten it by about 15 km. Otherwise, there is not much that can be done. Bosnia is a mountainous place: the rivers are the only easy routes for transport infrastructure, and they are not straight. A Belgrade – Tuzla journey time of 2 hours, would be a reasonable target for this route.