Regional line Szeged – Mezőhegyes – Békéscsaba

Hungarian line 121 connects Szeged with Békéscsaba, but indirectly: via Makó and Mezőhegyes. It is a secondary route with local traffic. The direct line was proposed for upgrading to a fast inter- regional line Szeged – Békéscsaba. Line 121 passes within 500m of the border with Romania: it escaped closure by the 1920 Trianon borders, but its location became peripheral. (All rural lines in Hungary are now under threat of closure anyway).

The proposal here is to upgrade the line, possibly with one new cutoff alignment. The section through Makó is part of the proposed regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad, and the proposed regional line to Timişoara via Lovrin. (With a more intensive service, the shared section would be upgraded to higher standards).

Rail line 121, Szeged - Mezőhegyes - Békéscsaba, Hungary

At present, line 121 starts on the south bank of the river Tisza, opposite Szeged city centre, at the isolated Újszeged station. The rail bridge was destroyed in 1944, and never rebuilt. Its proposed replacement on the high-speed line from Budapest would be further west. However, regional services on line 121 could still start at Újszeged.

On the map below, the proposed new bridge at Szeged is in blue, the new station in red. They are superimposed on an Austro-Hungarian map of around 1910, showing the former rail bridge into Szeged main station. With sufficient service frequency, Szőreg can serve as interchange station, so that passengers can reach both the new station, and Újszeged.

Click to enlarge…

Szeged HSL station, in red, on the new route across the river Tisza.

Upgrading of the line through Makó to Nagylak was already described, as part of the proposed regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad. The stations at Deszk and Kiszombor would be retained:the bridge over the Maros and the line through Makó, would be realigned. At Apátfalva, the regional line to Timişoara would diverge.

Just before Nagylak station, line 121 turns north-east, toward Békéscsaba. Trains to Arad would continue eastwards, using a new alignment through Nădlac village. This is the same place as Nagylak: the village is now in Romania, but the old station stayed in Hungary. (It might be retained, but only for trains on line 121).

Click to enlarge: Szeged – Nagylak, superimposed on the old Austro-Hungarian map

Upgraded rail line Szeged - Nagylak, part of line to Arad

Beyond Nagylak, line 121 is a typical rural line: it serves two large villages, Mezőhegyes and Mezőkovácsháza, and several smaller ones. Six stations is enough: the rural halts in the middle of nowhere would disappear.

At Mezőhegyes (6000 inhabitants, 20 km from Nagylak), line 121 crosses line 125. This was proposed for upgrading to a regional line Orosháza – Arad.

At Medgyesegyháza, line 121 turns east to Kétegyháza, where it joins the main Budapest -Bucharest line (line 120). Trains continue for 17 km over this line to Békéscsaba, with two stops, at Kétegyháza and Szabadkígyós.

The route via Kétegyháza is L-shaped. A new cut-off line would shorten it by up to 8 km, but there are several problems. The alignment must avoid the Kígyósi-puszta nature reserve, part of the Körös-Maros National Park. It would include a new Szabadkígyós station closer to the village, but it would serve no other villages. That is a marginal benefit, for 16 km of new line.

Click to enlarge…

Cutoff alignment via Szabadkígyós on rail line 121, Hungary

Without a cutoff, the line is 123 km long. The 60-km section from Nagylak to Kétegyháza would not be shared with any other services, so upgrading would be limited. Electrification is however a precondition, for any real improvement of the rural lines on the Alföld or Great Hungarian Plain. A journey time of 1 h 40 min, over the whole line, is an acceptable target: it implies a realistic average speed of 74 km/h.

Regional line Szeged – Mezőhegyes – Békéscsaba

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