Eastern rail exit from Belgrade

The previous post on Belgrade as a European rail junction noted the poor quality of the railway lines south of the city. That has geographical and historical origins: mountainous terrain, and the historical isolation of the Ottoman territories in south-eastern Europe. Belgrade (Beograd) was a fortress city, built for defence, not transport. There are broad rivers to the north, and hills to the south. The three railways southwards follow winding valleys through these hills.

These hills can be avoided by a new exit line east of Belgrade, to Smederevo. From there, it can turn south along the broad valley of the Velika Morava. There is no historical precedent for this route – not surprising, since it must cross the Danube twice. The previous post did propose a northern bypass of Belgrade, running from Batajnica via Pančevo to Smederevo. Although it is intended as a bypass, it would also create a north-eastern exit from Belgrade: trains could use the existing line to Pančevo, and then the bypass to Smederevo.

Click to enlarge: Northern bypass…

Beograd north bypass

The eastern exit line proposed here, is a shorter version of that route — about 45 km long. The two projects are compatible, but the eastern exit line would allow construction of a new central station on the Danube bank, within Belgrade itself. That was not foreseen in the earlier proposals.

The new line would run north from the old main station, and turn east parallel to the Danube. East of Karaburma it would enter a long tunnel, emerging directly onto a Danube bridge. On the opposite bank it would cross flat open farmland to a new Smederevo bridge. Via an upgraded line through Smederevo, it would reach the existing junction at Mala Krsna, in the Morava Valley.

Components of the route

The proposal requires a reconstruction of the old main Station (Glavna Stanica), with underground through platforms. Reconstruction was proposed here earlier, but the earlier proposals are not consistent with an eastern exit line.

From the new platforms, trains would enter a curved tunnel under the historic city, about 2500 m long. It would emerge at the existing Beograd-Dunav station, or close to it. The line would then continue eastwards, passing under the approaches to the existing Pančevo bridge.

That would allow construction of a new station, aligned east-west, just south of the existing Pančevački most station. The station would have interchange with the regional metro BG-Voz, and regional services (Beovoz). The area is still suitable for major redevelopment, although less so as the Danube waterfront is redeveloped. The platforms of the new station will be at right angles to the line from the Pančevo bridge, as it enters the Vračar tunnel. They would probably be at a lower level, since a viaduct would conflict with the bridge approach roads.

East of this station, the line would continue to Karaburma. A connection from the Vračar tunnel toward Karaburma is already planned, and that would allow through services to the new eastern exit. This area is relatively undeveloped, although that too will inevitably change.

Click to enlarge…

Karaburma-Danube tunnel

The line would then enter a tunnel, about 7-8 km long, under the ridge south of Visnjica. The exact alignment depends on local circumstances, but the shortest variant would pass under the village of Slanci. The line would emerge from tunnel south of Veliko Selo, and cross the Danube and floodplain, on a combination of viaduct and bridge.

On the opposite bank, the line would pass between Starčevo and Omoljica, and then turn to a new Danube bridge at Smederevo. That bridge was proposed here earlier as part of a Smederevo – Kovin – Vršac line, which could also function as an eastern bypass of Belgrade.

Click to enlarge…

Starcevo line

The alignment of the proposed rail bridge at Smederevo is constrained by the historic riverside fort, and it can not cross the river at right angles. A bridge further east would not have that problem, but then the new Smederevo station would on the wrong side of an industrial area. In any case the new line can turn as it approaches the bridge: turning on viaduct, because it must cross an old Danube channel and a low-lying island.

The line to the Smederevo bridge could certainly be combined with the proposed northern bypass. In that case, it would probably run north of Starčevo, as shown on the diagram below. It would join the Pančevo – Smederevo line east of that village. The tunnel from Karaburma would be somewhat shorter, and the viaduct across the floodplain longer.

Starcevo combination

The floodplain here is a nature reserve, but if that is a problem, the line can also run further south, and joining the Pančevo – Smederevo line further east. In fact, it could pass south of Omoljica, but that is only marginally shorter, and it is better to allow for some form of shared alignment with the northern bypass, and also for a shared link toward Kovin.

The new line would be 44 km long, and journey time about 20 minutes. The variant alignments around Starčevo will not substantially change that. The line would be purely for through traffic: the only intermediate stop is the proposed transfer station at the Pančevo bridge. (For the villages on the northern bank, a more appropriate infrastructure is a local line from Pančevo to Kovin.)

Eastern rail exit from Belgrade

Sombor – Osijek inter-regional line

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.

Sombor - Vinkovci line options

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…

New HSL Budapest - Baja - Novi Sad at Sombor, and regional lines.

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:

High-speed lines to / from Vinkovci

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.

Sombor - Apatin

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.

apatin - 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.

Sombor – Osijek inter-regional line

New high-speed link Brăila – Galați

The proposed Wallachian Plain high-speed rail corridor would link Bucharest (București) to Galați, and could be extended to to Odessa. This post is about the Brăila – Galați section.

The new high-speed rail line would run north-east from Bucharest to Urziceni, and then alongside the existing line 700, bypassing Făurei. The result is an almost straight rail line to Brăila station. (The diverging high-speed lines toward Buzău and Tecuci are not relevant here).

High-speed rail lines across the Wallachian Plain northeast of Bucharest.

However, the existing line from Brăila to Galați, part of line 700, is far from straight. The two cities are only 20 km apart, but between them is a floodplain, at the confluence of the Siret and Danube rivers. The railway turns west and then back east, to cross the Siret. At Galați, it makes a long detour around the city to the main station.

The floodplain was reclaimed after the railway was built, but it is still low-lying, and protected by a river dike. A new road is planned across the farmland, and a new rail line could run alongside it, or parallel to it. Because of the flood risk, a new line would preferably be on viaduct.

The marshes between Brăila and Galați, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1900


The long route around the suburbs of Galați is also determined by topography. The city is built on a ridge, extending north from the Danube. The railway crosses it in tunnel, north of the city centre, and then turns south to the main station, Galați CFR. The station at Barboși, just after the bridge over the Siret, is more convenient for much of the city.

Tracks at Galați, from OpenStreetMap…

urban area

The new line would have four distinct sections. First, there would be a new exit tunnel from Brăila station, dropping to lower ground at the edge of the city, and passing about 15 m below housing.

The new line would then cross the farmland between Brăila and Galați. At the Siret river it would rejoin the existing alignment. This section would be parallel to the existing line into Barboși station. (The line from Tecuci, line 704, joins the Brăila line here). The line would then enter a 6-km tunnel under Galați.


The new HSL would have a station at Barboși, allowing interchange with the existing line. (The city’s small tram network would be extended, to serve this station). The HSL would continue alongside the old line, as far as the road overbridge, and enter the western tunnel portal. It may be easier for the new line to cross the old line twice, to give a better alignment.

The ground rises here, so the rail line would not descend to tunnel. Both portals would be at about 10 m elevation, and the tunnel would run level, about 30-40 m under the city. Although it passes under the city centre, there will be no station there. 40 m is too deep, and if the tunnel climbed nearer the surface, it would conflict with deep foundations.

Indicative tunnel alignment…


The line would emerge from tunnel about 300 m from the main station, and pass just south of it. Here too, the terrain slopes down from the city centre, so the HSL would stay level as it emerges from tunnel. It would cross the station zone on viaduct, at right angles to the existing platforms. The second Galați HSL station would be on this viaduct, allowing interchange with all existing lines.

A possible alternative alignment would have a tunnel portal further south, allowing the HSL to turn north into Galați CFR. That would require substantial demolition in a residential area. (With an additional viaduct eastwards, some trains might then serve the HSL station at Barboși, pass through the tunnel, and continue toward Reni without further stops).

At Galați CFR, high-speed trains would connect with the line from Tecuci, (line 704), the existing line 703 to Bârlad (Birlad), a possible line along the Prut valley line (which would use line 703 to exit Galați), and the broad-gauge line to Reni, which continues to Basarabeasca and Chișinău. The Reni line could also be extended to Izmail, another Danube port, 65 km east of Galați.

Rail routes from Galați, with new links…


East of the new viaduct station, the line would continue eastwards into a undeveloped zone with some industry. It can connect there to existing alignments and rail yards. A HSL extension toward Odessa would simply follow the existing line out of Galați, toward the Prut river bridge, Giurgiulești, and Reni.

The new line would be about 22 km long, station to station. The highest speeds are only possible on the open section between Brăila and the Siret bridge into Galați. Speeds in the city tunnel would be lower, and all trains would stop at Galați CFR anyway. Journey time would be about 9 minutes from Brăila to Galați CFR, more it the train stopped at Barboși. Although the existing line would be retained for freight, all passenger services would use the new line. To avoid overloading long-distance high-speed trains, there should be a shuttle service between Brăila, Barboși and Galați CFR. The tunnel under Galați could also be used by fast trains from the Tecuci line, but all others would use existing routes into Galați CFR.

New high-speed link Brăila – Galați