This proposed upgrading of the Békéscsaba – Oradea line would extend the proposed fast Szeged – Békéscsaba rail line. Both sections are on existing alignments. They were built as part of the long Alföld – Fiume line, when the region was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The division of Hungary in 1920 cut the line, between Gyula and Salonta.
Click to enlarge: The original railway geography: Békéscsaba – Salonta line, without the line from Arad, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910.
Békéscsaba (population 65 000), is on the main line from Budapest, to Arad, Timişoara, and București (Bucharest). The Szeged – Oradea route is roughly at right angles to that line, and Békéscsaba is about half-way between them . It is the largest city on this line, and the capital of Békés County (population 377 000).
Otherwise, the Békéscsaba – Oradea line serves only a few villages and small towns. It crosses the flat, open agricultural land of the Crişana region. (The section inside Hungary is operated as part of Hungarian Line 128). The alignment consists of straight sections with curves between them, and most of the line is in open fields, so the line can be upgraded for high speeds, over 200 km/h. Obviously, it would be double-tracked and electrified.
The station at Békéscsaba is aligned with the main line: the line to Gyula turns east, about 1 km from the station. At that point, it is almost clear of the built-up area: there is room for a grade-separated junction, and some improvement of the curve. There is also more than enough room to expand the station itself.
The line runs almost due east to Gyula, population 32 000. There is a sharp curve east of the station, which is not a problem if trains stop there anyway. For through services, a northern bypass of the town is possible, the only major new infrastructure on this route. The 6-km bypass would shorten the route by only 700 m, and is only justifiable with frequent high-speed trains not stopping at Gyula.
The curve at Városerdő is in open fields, with room for realignment, and at Sarkad there is room for high-speed tracks just south of the existing station. Otherwise, the line here is dead straight. (Trains on Hungarian line 128 reverse at Kötegyán station, and turn north).
At Salonta (Szalonta, Nagyzsalonta, population 20 000), the line joins Romanian line 310, from Timişoara and Arad. Historically, it was the other way round: the line from Gyula was built first, the line from Arad was connected to it. Most of Salonta is east of the railway, and there is enough room for a grade-separated junction, and an expanded station.
North of Salonta, the line is again almost straight, right into Oradea. It has three rural halts, two in open fields. Although this route links the three main cities of western Romania, the line is not electrified, and this section is single-track. The assumption is that the whole Timişoara – Oradea route would be upgraded anyway, but only the 40-km Salonta – Oradea section is considered here.
Line 310 in regional context, extract from Romanian network map by Andrein, licence CC 3.0
At Oradea (population 245 000), the line turns east onto Romanian line 300, the northern Budapest – Bucharest route. Just outside Oradea, it would be joined by the proposed regional line from Szolnok and Gyoma. It then runs at the western edge of the city, before turning sharply onto line 300, about 2 km from Oradea Central Station. Line 300 is right at the edge of the Apuseni Mountains, but there is enough room for some improvement of the curve, and another grade-separated junction. (The line on the west side on the city has potential for urban-regional services with new stations, and there is enough room for extra tracks).
The rail line toward Satu Mare (line 402) extends in the same general direction as line 310, but it also enters Oradea from the west. Trains would have to reverse to continue, but it seems more logical to split the services.
The Békéscsaba – Oradea line is 90 km long, and would carry fast inter-regional services, starting at Szeged or further west. Some would stop at Gyula and Salonta, others would run non-stop between Békéscsaba and Oradea. A regional service would serve the smaller stations on the line – about 6-7 of them, after closure of rural halts in open fields.