Novi Sad (population 250 000) is the capital of the Vojvodina region. It is connected to Zrenjanin, the region’s third city, Serbian rail lines 31 and 40. Passengers travelled indirectly via Titel and Orlovat: first north-west, then eastwards, and then back north-west to Zrenjanin. The route is de facto abandoned.
The railway bridge over the Tisa at Titel: image by Marek Ślusarczyk, CC 3.0 licence…
That would also shorten the line to Titel. It could remain as a regional line, but it would be more effective to extend it toward the Belgrade region. The proposal here is to extend it south-east to Pančevo (population 77 000), rather than Belgrade itself. The reason is simply that the line would serve more people. The region directly north of Belgrade is largely empty. It is former marshland, the Pančevački Rit, lying between the Danube and the Tamiš River.
Click to enlarge: former marshes, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of 1897, with German and Hungarian place names.
The marsh was reclaimed for agriculture, and there is now some suburban development, but it is concentrated at the south end, within 5 km of Belgrade. More development is planned, but it would be more effectively served by the regional metro BG-Voz, or by a branch of the long-planned Belgrade Metro. The line proposed here is not a regional or urban metro. It is also not intended as a link between Novi Sad and Belgrade: there is already a direct line, and a parallel high-speed line was proposed here earlier. In any case, Pančevo itself would become a major interchange station, with the construction of the proposed northern bypass of Belgrade.
The most logical option is to extend a regional line, as a regional line. The new Titel – Pančevo section would be similar in function to the existing line Novi Sad – Titel, serving villages about 4 – 8 km apart. The new section runs parallel to the Tamiš River for about 35 km, and the villages lie on that river.
Trains to Pančevo would use the proposed new north-eastern exit line from Novi Sad station. That is primarily intended for the new line to Zrenjanin, and it would follow the main road, crossing the DTD Canal. Trains would rejoin the existing Titel line near the village of Kać. The first 10 km of the route would therefore be on new alignment, avoiding the present detour north of Novi Sad. Trains would continue toward Titel on an upgraded and electrified line. (Electrification is not a precondition, but it is not worth building a new low-quality line).
At Titel, trains would cross the Tisa River: via the new exit line, the bridge is 44 km from Novi Sad station. The new alignment to Pančevo would diverge from the existing line, about 2 km east of the Tisa bridge. It would run south-east to Čenta, pass south of that village, and then and east of Opovo.
The alignment would pass east of the smaller villages of Sefkerin and Glogonj, and then west of Jabuka. Here it would cross the river Tamiš into the Pančevački Rit. On the outskirts of Pančevo, it would join the existing line from Belgrade, which crosses the Tamiš again. There would be 42 km of new alignment between Titel and Pančevo, with five new stations at the named villages, which have about 3000 to 6000 inhabitants.
From the junction, it is another 2 km to the Main Station at Pančevo. Trains would enter the station from the west, so they could continue to the “Town Station” (Pančevo Varoš), closer to the city centre. At the Main Station, there would be interchange with the proposed northern bypass of Belgrade, and with InterCity and regional trains to Belgrade.
The new Novi Sad – Titel – Pančevo line would be 90 km long, with over half on new alignment. On the existing line to Titel it would have six intermediate stations, at Kać, Budisava, Šajkaš, Vilovo, Lok, and Titel (with Knićanin 7000 inhabitants). The total population served is about 30 000 on the line to Titel, and 20 000 from there to Pančevo. Given the proximity of the villages to Novi Sad and Pančevo, that would be sufficient to justify the line. Between Novi Sad and Titel, and from Čenta to Pančevo, the line would carry commuter traffic.
Near both cities, trains would share track with other services, so a pure light-rail service is not an option. On most of the line however, a simple single-track regional line is sufficient, so the proposed infrastructure is not excessive. It is appropriate for the Vojvodina, a flat agricultural region with large villages in linear patterns. The line should have two tracks at all stations, and if necessary some double-track sections, to allow 30-minute interval services in both directions. With 11 intermediate stations, modern light trains, and half the line on new alignment, journey time should be about about 90 minutes.