A high-speed rail line (HSL) through eastern Romania, was already proposed here, as part of the Kiev – Bucharest HSL. This post describes part of the corridor: a high-speed rail line north-east from Bucharest, across the Wallachian Plain, including new link lines to existing routes.
Bucharest (București) has about 2 million inhabitants. The main railway station is aligned to the northwest, symbolically toward western Europe. (It is called Gara de Nord, by analogy with the Gare du Nord in Paris). The rail route to north-eastern Romania first runs north to Ploiești. It then turns east to Buzău (line 500), and follows the edge of the Carpathian range.
A new high-speed line to Buzău wold be justified, simply to avoid the detour via Ploiești. It would inevitably run parallel to the existing line 700 out of Bucharest, and it is therefore logical to combine the high-speed routes. In turn, a HSL toward Brăila and Galați, along line 700, could form part of a shorter route to the Bârlad (Birlad) valley. That is the best corridor for a HSL to Iaşi, alongside the existing line 600.
Rail lines on the Wallachian Plain, extract from Romanian network map by Andrein, licence CC 3.0
The logical option is therefore a new high-speed alignment across the Wallachian plain, directly toward Brăila and Galați. Two lines would diverge from it. One would diverge near Urziceni and run to Buzău: one would diverge at Făurei, and run to Tecuci and the Bârlad valley.
Most of those high-speed lines could follow the existing railways across the plain: some are dead straight. However the line to Urziceni is indirect (because of the exit from Bucharest), and there is no railway Urziceni – Buzău.
A shorter route to Urziceni implies a new exit line from Bucharest. It could diverge from the existing line 800 – which starts at Gara de Nord, and turns almost 180 degrees, toward the Black Sea. A more ambitious option is a new eastern exit tunnel from Gara de Nord. This possibility is obvious from the map of Bucharest, but it requires tunneling under inner city areas.
The alignment should be compatible with a possible regional metro, but these projects can not be combined. (The exit tunnel would turn north, out of the built-up area, but the regional metro must serve the city centre).
From the edge of Bucharest, a new high-speed line would run to Urziceni. There are two options for this HSL. The western variant would run west of highway DN2, and join the existing line near Dridu station. It would have a connection into Urziceni station, but most trains would continue on a western bypass of the town, to join line 700 toward Făurei.
The eastern option would run east of Voluntari, and east of highway DN2. It would run in an almost straight line, to join the Făurei line at Manasia, just east of Urziceni. It could have a connection into Urziceni station, for interregional trains.
North of Urziceni, both variants would connect to a new HSL to Buzău, parallel to highway DN2. It would connect to line 500 near Buzău airfield. Avoiding the detour via Ploiești, this would become the main route from line 500 into Bucharest. For that reason, it might be logical to construct both the western and eastern lines to Urziceni. The eastern alignment would carry high-speed trains to Iași, Brăila and Galați.
From Urziceni, the HSL to Făurei would run alongside the existing line single-track 700, which is dead straight. Approaching Făurei, the new line would split. A western bypass of Făurei would cross the CFR test track, and join line 600 near Lake Jirlău. The HSL would be continue alongside line 600 to Tecuci. A southern bypass of Făurei would connect the HSL to line 700 toward Brăila, near Ianca. The Brăila – Galați section is described separately. Line 700 is already double-track and electrified, but the new HSL would be built alongside it.
From all three directions, high-speed trains could also access Făurei station, over existing alignments.
North of Făurei, the HSL would run alongside 600 (at present single-track), toward Tecuci. On this section, it would be joined by a high-speed link from line 500, starting somewhere between Buzău and Râmnicu Sărat. That link would create a high-speed route between Ploiești, Buzău, and Iași.
Near Suraia, the HSL would split again. The Iași line would continue as an eastern bypass of Tecuci, to join the Birlad valley line (line 600) further north. The other branch would be a HSL parallel to the Siret river, joining line 500 near Mărășești. This new line would become main route for fast trains toward Bacău, Neamt, Suceava, and Botoşani (i.e. north-eastern Romania except the Iași region). By using this link, they would bypass Focşani and Buzău.
The lines described above would create a high-speed route, all the way from Bucharest to either Mărășești or Tecuci, without any intermediate stations. Most of it is across open flat terrain, and it could be built for very high speeds. The last section to Mărășești avoids the Siret escapement. North of Mărășești, the broad Siret valley would allow local bypasses and an upgraded alignment of line 500.
The Siret and Birlad valleys, north of Mărășești and Tecuci, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1900…
Similarly, the relatively wide Bârlad (Birlad) valley would allow construction of a HSL, in places alongside the existing line 600. It would continue to the outskirts of Iași (population 310 000), the main city of north-eastern Romania.
Some additional lines would further improve rail transport on the plains north-east of Bucharest:
- an eastern freight bypass of Făurei, from line 600 to line 702
- a new Tecuci – Focşani link, for regional and interregional traffic from the Birlad valley line (line 600) to line 500
- a new freight line Râmnicu Sărat – Făurei, shortening the route to the port of Constanţa.
Those lines are not described further here. The HSL projects also assume electrification and upgrading of the existing lines parallel to the HSL, from Urziceni to Făurei and Tecuci.
The HSL to Suraia would be about 188 km long, and the section to Mărășești another 28-30 km. If the HSL served Mărășești station, it would be about 5-6 km shorter than the existing route from there to Bucharest, via Focşani, Buzău and Ploiești. The Bucharest – Suraia – Iași line would be about 390 km long, allowing a journey time of just over two hours.