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.

Function

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.

SzSuSAO

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.

Alignment

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

Brăila-Galați

 
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.

siret-floodplain-line

 
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…

tunnel-galatz

 
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…

Galati-radials

 
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

Székesfehérvár – Szolnok cross-Danube line

A new railway across the Danube south of Budapest, would provide a bypass of the urban area. It is a logical option, given the railway geography, and there have been plans for such a line. At present, a freight bypass is under consideration, with several possible alignments. The version proposed here is an inter-regional passenger line, connecting the railway networks east and west of the Danube. Preferably, it would link existing rail junctions – so alignment options are more limited.

Székesfehérvár is the logical junction west of the Danube, with five converging rail routes from west and south. On the eastern side, the line could run to either Kecskemét, Cegléd or Szolnok. A line to Szolnok would maximise connections eastwards, and most options for that route would pass through Cegléd anyway. (Kecskemét would be served by another proposed trans-Danube line, the fast inter-regional line Szekszárd – Kalocsa – Kecskemét).

The new line in the Hungarian rail network: base map by JolietJake under CC3.0 licence

New transversal rail line Székesfehérvár - Szolnok.

A new line between Székesfehérvár and Cegléd must cross the main channel of the Danube, the parallel Ráckeve channel, and between them Csepel Island. The line would also cross the M6 and M5 motorways. It would also cross 3-4 existing rail lines, and some lines proposed here earlier.

Alignment and connecting lines

The line would start at Székesfehérvár (population 102 000), the regional centre of Central Transdanubia. The city is a railway junction, and the new line would connect to Hungarian line 20 (Szombathely main line), to line 30 (Balaton main line towards Croatia), and to line 29 (Balaton north shore line). Székesfehérvár is also on the proposed high-speed line Győr – Székesfehérvár – Szekszárd, and the proposed Lake Balaton high-speed rail line.

West of the Danube, the new line would cross first Hungarian line 40, the existing Budapest – Pécs main line. The proposed high-speed line Budapest – Szekszárd would run through Pusztaszabolcs, after following the M6 motorway from Budapest (in purple on the map below). The high-speed trains would not stop there, but the trans-Danube link would have interchange with regional services on line 40.

Route of HSL from Budapest through Pusztaszabolcs.

The trans-Danube link would therefore follow the existing line 44 from Székesfehérvár, entering Pusztaszabolcs from the south (in brown on the map). The proposed Danube right-bank regional line via Dunaújváros would bypass Pusztaszabolcs, following the M6 between Iváncsa and Adony (shown in green). It would have no interchange with the new line.

From Pusztaszabolcs, trains would first use the line to Budapest. The new alignment would start near junction 44 on the M6, turning east to the Danube. It would cross the main channel by bridge, to Csepel Island. The island is served by Budapest suburban line H6 (line 252), terminating at Ráckeve. Without interchange, the line could run north or south of the built-up area., but the only logical site for a station is at the north end of Ráckeve. Demolition of some housing is inevitable here. The alignment shown is close to the existing station, and a separate interchange station would not be needed.

Cross-Danube rail line from Pusztaszabolcs, onto Csepel Island.

The line would then cross the Ráckeve channel, toward Kiskunlacháza. The line should allow interchange with line 150, the Budapest – Kelebia line. It is at present single-track, but planned for upgrading as a European corridor.

A tunnel under the village seems unavoidable here. Further east, the line must pass between gravel pits and the Kiskunság National Park, and avoid a former airbase. That implies an alignment near the existing Kiskunlacháza station, and if it is coming from Ráckeve, it must pass close to the village centre.

Rail line across Danube channel, from Csepel Island to Kiskunlacháza.

The tunnel would not be long: the village is aligned north-south and the line would cross it at right angles. The Kelebia line has a sharp curve near the station, which should be realigned: there would be a new two-level station on that section.

The transversal line next crosses line 142, a secondary line to Kecskemét via Dabas. The proposed Budapest urban-regional would incorporate this line, as far as Dabas. The most logical place for an interchange station is the existing station site, near the centre. To reach it, another tunnel is needed, through the built-up area of Dabas. Again this is a short tunnel, probably a cut-and-cover tunnel with limited demolition: it crosses only four streets. Following the main road (highway 50), the new line would turn southeast. It would have new platforms close to the existing station, at the edge of the built-up area.

New cross-Danube rail line, passing through Dabas built-up area,  in tunnel.

From Dabas, the line would turn east toward Cegléd, and cross the M5 motorway. This is also the alignment of the proposed high-speed line Budapest – Novi Sad – Beograd. That high-speed line (HSL) would start at Ferihegy airport, and run alongside the M5 motorway to Kecskemét. The transversal line would have a west-to-south junction, onto the HSL, allowing fast interregional trains between Székesfehérvár and Kecskemét.

The new transversal line would then join line 100, the main line east from Budapest via Cegléd. The line is double-track, but the existing alignment through Albertirsa needs improvement. The new line could avoid the built-up areas, and join line 100 at Budai út. station, on the northeastern edge of Cegléd.

Section of trans-Danube transversal rail line, from Dabas to Cegléd.

Trans-Danube trains would continue for another 29 km, from Cegléd to Szolnok. They could go further – to Debrecen, Oradea or Arad (lines 100, 101 and 120). Alternatively, they could terminate at Szolnok, for interchange with services from Budapest. (Even the fastest trains on these routes would stop at Szolnok (population 75 000), a major railway junction. The exact pattern of services is not considered here.

On this alignment, the new trans-Danube line would be about 115 km long, from Székesfehérvár to Cegléd. Almost all would be on new alignment, some of it parallel to existing rail lines. The new section would have only four intermediate stations, not necessarily served by all trains. The fastest trains would take about 75 minutes, for the 145 km Székesfehérvár – Szolnok journey. However, the line is not primarily intended for travel between these cities. Many passengers would travel from west of Székesfehérvár to east of Szolnok, and transfer to/from other lines at those stations.

Székesfehérvár – Szolnok cross-Danube line

Regional line from Mohács: to Szekszárd or Baja?

Mohács (population 19 000) is located on the bank of the Danube, 45 km south of Szekszárd. It has a relatively isolated location, because there is no bridge here, but it is on a main north-south road route. It is the terminus of a local rail line from Pécs via Villány (Hungarian line 65, a very indirect alignment). A new rail route, from Szekszárd south to Villány, could be created by constructing a new link Bátaszék – Mohács. See also the later proposal, for a parallel high-speed line from Szekszárd to Osijek via Mohács.

Click to enlarge: The line superimposed on the original railway geography, taken from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910.

Rail link Bátaszék - Mohács, along the Danube.

A line along the right bank of the Danube, through Mohács, was planned since the First World War, as a long-distance north-south line. (The new M6 motorway has the same function). Construction near Bátaszék started in the 1940’s, but was abandoned. The alignment is still clearly visible from the air, and in the landscape.

Click to enlarge: the unfinished line across the plain from Bátaszék to Báta…

Unfinished rail line Bátaszék - Báta (line to Mohács).

The line is viable as a regional route, extending the proposed right-bank inter-regional line Budapest – Dunaújváros – Szekszárd. Earlier proposals here would create a junction of high-speed lines (HSL) at Szekszárd – the proposed HSL Budapest – Szekszárd – Baja – Novi Sad, and the proposed HSL Győr – Székesfehérvár – Szekszárd. The proposed inter-regional line from Kecskemét via Kalocsa, would create a new route into Szekszárd across the Danube.

Diagram: inter-regional line from Kecskemét, and high-speed lines …

New inter-regional rail line Pécs - Kecskemét - Szolnok

These lines would transform the function of Szekszárd in the rail network, and upgrading of connecting regional routes is logical. The existing line south from Szekszárd (line 46) turns east at Bátaszék, to cross the Danube (toward Baja). Bátaszék was formerly the junction with the Pécs – Bátaszék line (line 64), but this line has been abandoned east of Pécsvárad. Mohács is about 25 km south of Bátaszék.

The new section would connect the two north-south lines (line 46 and line 65), roughly parallel to highway 56. Trains would run from Szekszárd to Villány, about 65 km. Although that is a very small town, it is a former railway junction, and it would be served by some trains on the proposed HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci. The new regional service would use the existing line 46, for the 19 km between Szekszárd and Bátaszék. The proposed parallel HSL to Pécs and Baja would carry most passenger traffic, so there would be no capacity problem. At Bátaszék, the line would cross the Dombóvár – Baja route (line 50, and part of line 154). That is a regional route with limited utility for passengers, because of the long detours to Szekszárd or Pécs. It is the only Hungarian freight line across the Danube, south of Budapest.

Bátaszék itself is a small town with 7000 inhabitants: the station is aligned east-west, on the north side of the town. Both Bátaszék and Mohács lie in flat alluvial plains. However, between them is a plateau – the edge of the Baranya hills, which end in a ‘headland’ at Báta (1700 inhabitants). The incomplete 1940’s alignment, first runs through the plain, and then around this hill: it is visible as a semi-circle on the image.

Click to enlarge…

Old rail alignment visible at Báta headland on the Danube.

South of Báta, there is an escarpment along the Danube: the alignment follows the river bank, through the villages Dunaszekcső (2000 inhabitants) and Bár (500 inhabitants). A tunnel under the ridge to Dunaszekcső would shorten the route, but the alignment might require substantial demolition there. A longer alignment with more tunnels, is not appropriate for a regional line. The 1940’s alignment, curving around Bata, seems the best option.

Click to enlarge…

Danube escarpment at Dunaszekcső.

The alignment through Dunaszekcső and Bár is a problem, since the main road and most houses lie in the narrow strip, between escarpment and river. Two short flank tunnels are unavoidable, turning into the escarpment to avoid the houses on the river bank. After Dunaszekcső and Bár, the line would turn south to Mohács. It could follow an existing industrial siding, to a relocated station (the present Mohács Station is directly on the river bank).

Click to enlarge…

Route of rail lines from Villány and Bátaszék into Mohács, on the Danube.

The new Bátaszék – Mohács section, using the incomplete 1940’s alignment, would be about 32 km long. From Mohács, it is 14 km to Villány. This small town is on an existing rail route south, consisting of the regional line to Pécs (the remainder of line 65, 36 km), and the minor international line to Osijek via Beli Manastir (line 66 in Hungary). With a station on the proposed HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci, it would be more important as a junction. That would also justify reopening of the currently closed line 62, Villány to Barcs (101 km).

Double bridge, no tunnel

An alternative is to use an alignment similar to the proposed high-speed line Szekszárd – Osijek via Mohács. The line would pass the eastern tip of the ridge at Báta, cross the Danube, and then turn toward Mohács. This alignment could serve two intermediate stations, at Báta and Dunafalva, but not Dunaszekcső (across the river from Dunafalva). It could use the old half-built embankment, but a new alignment further east is probably better. It must also cross reclaimed Danube meanders east of Báta, which are liable to flooding.

Báta landscape

The Báta station would be near the existing bridge over one of these old channels. On the other side, the ground is also low-lying. Part of the line will require viaducts – on a floodplain, they are preferable to embankments. The line can pass close to Dunafalva, with a station at the edge of the village.

Dunafalva line

This alignment could be built for high speeds, but there is no point. Village stations don’t belong on a high-speed line, especially with high service frequency, so a HSL does not need to pass close to Báta and Dunafalva anyway.

Villány – Mohács – Baja?

An alternative for the alignment Bátaszék – Mohács along the Danube, is a new line across the Danube, from Mohács to Baja. Construction would be simpler: the line in Mohács would simply rise to a new bridge, and on the other side is flat open terrain. This new line can use the alignment of the abandoned local line Sombor – Bezdan – Baja, joining it near Nagybaracska, or possibly near Bátmonostor. In both cases, the new section (20-23 km long) would run across open fields, with no stations. However, use of the abandoned Bezdan line for a rail line from Mohács, precludes its restoration as a regional tram line, which was proposed here earlier.

The cross-Danube line from Mohács to Baja would be about 34-37 km long. At Baja, it would connect to the proposed fast line Baja – Subotica – Szeged (101 km). Like Szekszárd, Baja would also be on the proposed HSL Budapest – Szekszárd -Novi Sad. However, unlike Szekszárd, it would have no rail connection northward, although historically there were plans for a Budapest – Baja line (parallel to the Danube). In the context of all other proposed lines, the north-south option along the Danube (Bátaszék – Mohács) seems better than the cross-Danube option (Mohács – Baja).

Regional line from Mohács: to Szekszárd or Baja?

New tunnels and Danube bridge in Belgrade

A new tunnel under central Belgrade, and a new Danube bridge, would provide capacity for the proposed new lines around the city. With a population of 1.6 million, Beograd (Belgrade) is a major destination, and also a strategic rail junction between Central Europe and South-Eastern Europe / Turkey.

The proposed new lines include a line from Kovin via Pančevo, an upgraded Belgrade – Vršac – Timişoara route, a new high-speed line (HSL) from Budapest, a HSL from Zagreb parallel to the existing main line, a HSL from Pécs via Osijek, a second HSL route from Vienna and Budapest via Szekszárd, a third HSL route from Vienna via Nagykanisza, and a second HSL via Novi Sad.

Despite Belgrade’s strategic location, the rail infrastructure is of poor quality. The historical explanation is the city’s frontier location. In the 19th century Belgrade was part of the Ottoman Empire, in an increasingly autonomous Serbian principality. The later Kingdom of Serbia (from 1882) also stopped at Belgrade. On the other side of the Sava and Danube, was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was economically more developed.

Click to enlarge: The original rail geography, around 1910. The rivers were international boundaries, Zemun was an Austro-Hungarian frontier town, and the north bank of the Danube was marshland. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, with Hungarian and German place names.

Old map of Belgrade (Beograd) with rail lines

The main line from Budapest was built in 1880-1883, to Zemun. In 1884, it was extended across the Sava into a terminal station in Belgrade itself. In the same year, a line was opened south from Belgrade station to Niš. This became the main line to Sofia, Athens, and Istanbul: all other lines to the south and south-east diverge from it.

All traffic from the west and north-west – from northern Italy, München, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Budapest – passes through Novi Beograd station and crosses the Sava, into the main station. Traffic to the south and south-east exits Belgrade, through Rakovica station on the line to Niš. This was, and is, the main traffic flow. Through trains on this axis must reverse at the Main Station. The line north across the Danube (Pančevo bridge) was not built until 1935: it has a tortuous connection to the main station, via the river port. (The bridge was blown up twice, and the present rail bridge is a temporary version built by the Red Army in 1945).

A new route through Belgrade has been planned for decades: the Belgrade Junction Project. It includes a new central station ‘Beograd Centar’, also known as Prokop (from its location). Like the older station, is also accessible from the west, across the Sava. Unlike the old station, trains would reach the south-eastern lines without reversal, via the new Dedinje tunnel. Beograd Centar is also connected, via the new Vračar Tunnel, to the Danube rail bridge.

Video on new station project: commentary in Serbian, many maps and diagrams.

The new rail layout has ‘design faults’ which limit its utility. However, that is not yet relevant, because the new station is still under construction – since 1977. (Two decades of war, international isolation, and economic stagnation, did not help). See the Beobuild Forum Prokop thread for many images and construction updates.

The only fully operational part of the project is the Beovoz line from north to west, through the two completed platforms at Prokop. Beovoz is an urban-regional train network, in and around Belgrade. It is modeled on the German S-Bahn, but it has a long way to go. Services are irregular and infrequent, and the trains are decrepit. Beovoz is planned to connect to a future Belgrade metro, or alternatively a light metro, but that is even further away.

Video: decrepit Beovoz train, at decrepit Novi Beograd Station…

The new central station does not alter the main traffic flow: it merely duplicates the route through Belgrade, between Novi Beograd and Rakovica. It eliminates train reversal, but at a price: Beograd Centar is further from the city centre, on the other side of a motorway.

The proposal here starts from these premises:

  • European-level services will terminate in Belgrade: transit passengers will change trains. “Orient-Express” style trains, running more than 1500 km, are obsolete. Belgrade is the most logical terminus for such long-distance services, in south-eastern Europe.
  • interregional services (running 150-500 km) will pass through Belgrade, and do need a through station
  • urban-regional services (Beovoz) should have separate tracks, for instance across the Sava
  • the old main station (Glavna Stanica) should be retained: unlike Beograd Centar, it directly adjoins the city centre
  • the Vračar Tunnel is only suitable for Beovoz services, because of its three intermediate stations.

The main proposal here, is a tunnel north from the Main Station / Glavna Stanica. The new through platforms would be parallel to the existing main platforms, and possibly 5-10 m lower. That in itself requires major reconstruction: the station area is liable to flooding.

The tunnel would pass under the Old City, and then cross the Danube, toward Pančevo. The Old City is on a hill, 50 m higher than the station, which simplifies tunnel construction. The tunnel would be about 2100-2300 m long. Demolition is inevitable around its northern portal, where some alignments might cross the river port zone (major redevelopment is planned). The Danube bridge would be about 1300-1400 m long. On the north bank the line would turn north-east, to join the existing Pančevo line, which would be 4-tracked.

Click to enlarge: Three possible alignments. The white route is shortest, but requires a 1600 m bridge diagonally over the Danube, and a viaduct through the port zone. The red and blue variants are aligned with the street pattern on the south bank. The red variant is clear of other possible tunnels around Trg Republike.

New tunnel from main station in Belgrade, and new Danube bridge

This proposed tunnel under the city centre would have no stations: it is intended for long-distance traffic. Instead a second tunnel under the city centre would form part of an urban-region network, an upgraded version of Beovoz.

There are two possible alignments for the second tunnel. From Glavna Stanica, it could curve slowly east toward the Pančevo bridge station. A similar alignment was officially planned as a second regional metro line to Pančevo. Extension east of the Pančevo bridge is not considered here.

This variant (shown in red) would allow interchange with north-south trains, but there is no track connection with the Vračar Tunnel. The new tunnel would pass the port zone, and the line might even use the existing Dunav Station alignment. It would have three stations: near the central square Trg Republike, under the existing Pančevo bridge station, and one intermediate station near the river port zone. The tunnel section would be about 2500 m long.

Click to enlarge: Two indicative alignments, for a Beovoz line north from Glavna Stanica.

Alternative Beovoz tunnels under Old City in Belgrade (Beograd)

With an S-curve alignment, the second tunnel under the centre could connect directly to the Pančevo bridge. In that case, it would probably have two stations: one near Trg Republike, and one somewhere near Ulica Cvijičeva. It would have an underground junction with the existing Vračar Tunnel, and trains would use the existing Pančevo bridge station. In this variant it would be about 3500 m long. With tighter curves, the line could conform more closely to the street pattern, but trains would be slower.

Both variants are accessible from all lines into Glavna Stanica: either from the west (Zemun / Novi Beograd), or from the south-east. To improve service from the south-east, a new Topčider tunnel is also needed, replacing the existing curve around a hill. It would start near the E75 motorway bridge over the rail yards, and end about 400 m from Topčider station.

Click to enlarge: Topčider tunnel replacing the line around the hill…

New Topčider tunnel in Belgrade / Beograd

The proposals here assume that Beograd Centar will be completed, but with an altered function. Beovoz trains from Novi Beograd toward Pančevo, via the existing Vračar Tunnel, would still pass Beograd Centar, as at present. Beograd Centar would also be used by inter-regional services, from Slavonia and the Bačka region, on toward the south-east via Dedinje tunnel. (For optimal use of the station, it should have a 4-track access across the Sava).

Beograd Center would not however become an international through station, and would not be the main station for inter-regional travel. Passengers to/from the urban region will probably change trains at Novi Beograd, rather than Beograd Centar. The Prokop station will always be somewhat dysfunctional: no new lines can correct its bad location. An alternative is therefore abandonment of the Prokop location, and a completely new central station project.

New tunnels and Danube bridge in Belgrade