This an alternative to the earlier proposal for a Sombor – Vinkovci inter-regional line. By constructing a new line across the Danube at Apatin, the route can serve both Osijek and Vinkovci, avoiding an extra interchange.
The earlier proposal: high-speed lines in blue, inter-regional lines in dark green, regional lines in light green, Sombor – Vinkovci options in red. Not all lines are shown.
This direct Sombor – Osijek variant requires a new rail line across the Kopački rit nature reserve, on the Danube floodplain. It does not require an extra crossing of the Danube, however, and the alignment is simpler and shorter. If the impact on the terrain can be minimised, then this direct alignment seems preferable. In practice, that would mean a long section on viaduct, comparable to some sections of high-speed line (HSL) in China.
The line is intended as part of an inter-regional route from Szeged. Between Subotica and Szeged, trains would use the proposed high-speed line Baja – Subotica – Szeged. Sombor would be linked to Subotica by an upgraded 60-km line. These two are aligned north-east to south-west, and it is logical to extend the route to either Osijek, Vinkovci, or Vukovar.
There is an existing line, through Dalj, but it is indirect. The earlier proposal for a Sombor – Vinkovci line would have shortened the route, but does not serve Osijek. In geographical terms the most logical alignment is certainly Szeged – Subotica – Sombor – Osijek, since they are almost in a straight line. This also has the advantage of sharing the proposed high-speed line into Osijek from the North, HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci, which might use a new tunnel under the Drava.
Sombor is on the proposed HSL Budapest – Szekszárd – Novi Sad. The Szeged – Osijek route would also connect there with the line to Vrbas, Serbian line 25.
The lines around Sombor, with proposed HSL…
At Osijek, the new line from Sombor would connect to the proposed Nova Gradiška – Požega – Osijek line, to the existing Drava plain line from Varaždin via Nasice (Croatian line R202), to the existing line to Djakovo (line M302), and to the proposed regional line Osijek – Odžaci – Novi Sad. South of Osijek, trains from Szeged and Sombor would again use the proposed HSL from Pécs, on a new alignment to Vinkovci, a major rail junction. The diagram shows proposed HSL and regional lines:
Vinkovci would be served by the proposed middle Sava high-speed line from Zagreb , the proposed Drava plain high-speed line and its extension to Novi Sad. With Vinkovci as terminus, the new route from Szeged would offer the same connections as the earlier proposed version.
The Sombor – Osijek route would create a new link across the rivers Danube and Drava, which are a historical barrier. Until the 20th century, the zone between Apatin and Osijek was marsh, with old Danube meanders. There is no historic road or railway across these marshes: all routes detour around the Danube bend at Erdut. Sombor and Apatin are in the Bačka region east of the Danube The western bank opposite Apatin is in Croatian Baranya, and Osijek itself is in Slavonia, south of the Drava.
The new Sombor – Osijek route would be 45 km long, almost all of it on new alignment. Although the Sombor – Osijek section could be built to lower standards, the other sections would be new, or upgraded to the standards of the German Ausbaustrecken. It is therefore logical to design the Sombor – Osijek line for comparable speeds, 200 km/h or more. In practice, it will make little difference, since 150 km/h is standard for new lines in Europe anyway. There would be only one intermediate station, at Apatin (population 17 000).
The line would start at Sombor station, following the 1870 Sombor – Dalj – Osijek line. After leaving Sombor, that line turns south, towards the bridge at Erdut. Here, the new alignment would leave the existing railway, and run straight toward the western side of Apatin. It would follow only part of the 1912 branch line to Apatin, now Serbian Line 24. Most of Line 24 would be abandoned, except possibly on the western edge of Apatin – the new line would at least run parallel to the old line.
The new station in Apatin would preferably be close to the old station, and about 18 km from Sombor. The station would be on viaduct, because the line would climb here toward a Danube bridge (about 500 m from the station). The line would also turn here, to cross the Danube channel approximately at right angles.
On the west bank, the line would continue on viaduct through the marsh zone, heading toward Vardarac. The alignment shown follows an old drainage canal, but there is no definitive version. After it leaves the Kopački rit nature reserve, the line would run between Kopačevo and Bilje, toward the rail bridge at Osijek.
Approaching Osijek, the line would run parallel to the Bilje road. Close to the Drava, it would join the new HSL Pécs – Osijek, and then cross the river on a new bridge. If the HSL from Pécs crossed the Drava in tunnel, that junction would be further west, but that has little impact on the alignment as a whole. Assuming a bridge crossing, trains from the new line would share an upgraded line into Osijek station, about 2500 m from the Drava bridge.
With an almost entirely new alignment, the journey time should be about 23 minutes from Sombor to Osijek, including one stop at Apatin.