Regional line Szeged – Mezőhegyes – Békéscsaba

Hungarian line 121 connects Szeged with Békéscsaba, but indirectly: via Makó and Mezőhegyes. It is a secondary route with local traffic. The direct line was proposed for upgrading to a fast inter- regional line Szeged – Békéscsaba. Line 121 passes within 500m of the border with Romania: it escaped closure by the 1920 Trianon borders, but its location became peripheral. (All rural lines in Hungary are now under threat of closure anyway).

The proposal here is to upgrade the line, possibly with one new cutoff alignment. The section through Makó is part of the proposed regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad, and the proposed regional line to Timişoara via Lovrin. (With a more intensive service, the shared section would be upgraded to higher standards).

Rail line 121, Szeged - Mezőhegyes - Békéscsaba, Hungary

At present, line 121 starts on the south bank of the river Tisza, opposite Szeged city centre, at the isolated Újszeged station. The rail bridge was destroyed in 1944, and never rebuilt. Its proposed replacement on the high-speed line from Budapest would be further west. However, regional services on line 121 could still start at Újszeged.

On the map below, the proposed new bridge at Szeged is in blue, the new station in red. They are superimposed on an Austro-Hungarian map of around 1910, showing the former rail bridge into Szeged main station. With sufficient service frequency, Szőreg can serve as interchange station, so that passengers can reach both the new station, and Újszeged.

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Szeged HSL station, in red, on the new route across the river Tisza.

Upgrading of the line through Makó to Nagylak was already described, as part of the proposed regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad. The stations at Deszk and Kiszombor would be retained:the bridge over the Maros and the line through Makó, would be realigned. At Apátfalva, the regional line to Timişoara would diverge.

Just before Nagylak station, line 121 turns north-east, toward Békéscsaba. Trains to Arad would continue eastwards, using a new alignment through Nădlac village. This is the same place as Nagylak: the village is now in Romania, but the old station stayed in Hungary. (It might be retained, but only for trains on line 121).

Click to enlarge: Szeged – Nagylak, superimposed on the old Austro-Hungarian map

Upgraded rail line Szeged - Nagylak, part of line to Arad

Beyond Nagylak, line 121 is a typical rural line: it serves two large villages, Mezőhegyes and Mezőkovácsháza, and several smaller ones. Six stations is enough: the rural halts in the middle of nowhere would disappear.

At Mezőhegyes (6000 inhabitants, 20 km from Nagylak), line 121 crosses line 125. This was proposed for upgrading to a regional line Orosháza – Arad.

At Medgyesegyháza, line 121 turns east to Kétegyháza, where it joins the main Budapest -Bucharest line (line 120). Trains continue for 17 km over this line to Békéscsaba, with two stops, at Kétegyháza and Szabadkígyós.

The route via Kétegyháza is L-shaped. A new cut-off line would shorten it by up to 8 km, but there are several problems. The alignment must avoid the Kígyósi-puszta nature reserve, part of the Körös-Maros National Park. It would include a new Szabadkígyós station closer to the village, but it would serve no other villages. That is a marginal benefit, for 16 km of new line.

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Cutoff alignment via Szabadkígyós on rail line 121, Hungary

Without a cutoff, the line is 123 km long. The 60-km section from Nagylak to Kétegyháza would not be shared with any other services, so upgrading would be limited. Electrification is however a precondition, for any real improvement of the rural lines on the Alföld or Great Hungarian Plain. A journey time of 1 h 40 min, over the whole line, is an acceptable target: it implies a realistic average speed of 74 km/h.

Regional line Szeged – Mezőhegyes – Békéscsaba

Lines around Subotica and Szeged

This item simply lists the rail infrastructure proposals centred on the cities of Subotica and Szeged. Both would be served by the proposed high-speed line from Budapest, which would split south of Kecskemét. The high-speed line (HSL) via Subotica would continue to Beograd (Belgrade). The HSL to Szeged would use the existing route via Kikinda, to Timişoara.

The other lines with proposed upgrading, and new lines or sections, are:

upgraded line Baja – Subotica – Szeged, 101 km

upgraded line Subotica – Sombor, 61 km

fast inter-regional line Subotica – Senta – Kikinda, 76 km

Szeged – Bečej – Novi Sad regional line, 132 km

upgraded Szeged – Békéscsaba line

Szeged – Makó – Arad regional line

regional line Szeged – Lovrin – Timişoara

Kikinda – Lovrin – Arad

See the related list of lines on the Central Alföld, which partly overlaps with this list.

Lines around Subotica and Szeged

Regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad

This proposed line passes the Hungarian – Romanian border at Nagylak, the busiest entry point to Romania. The border was created by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which dismembered the Kingdom of Hungary. The present 47-km line from Szeged turns north just before the border – so you might think it was re-routed after 1920. However, that is the original alignment, visible on the base map used here, an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910. The existing Nagylak station did serve a village of that name, but it is now across the border, and uses the Romanian spelling ‘Nădlac’.

On the other side of Nădlac, a 52-km local line runs to Arad. This is Romanian line 215, operated by Regiotrans, with 8 trains a day. There may once have been a track connection between the two lines, but there was no rail line Szeged – Arad as such. The proposal here is to create one. Szeged is 100 km from Arad, and they both have a population of about 170 000. The only town between them is Makó, with 24 000 inhabitants: otherwise the line serves rural villages. It generally follows the river Maros / Mureş, which flows through Arad, and joins the Tisza at Szeged.

Click to enlarge…

The parallel road route is part of Trans-European priority Project 7, and will be upgraded to motorway. In Hungary, the M43 is already under construction. A double-track electric rail line on the same axis, is not unreasonable.

Szeged itself would be served by the proposed high-speed line from Budapest via Kecskemét. The original bridge over the river Tisza, near the existing Szeged station, was bombed in 1944, and never rebuilt. The proposed new link line would replace it, serving a new station for the high-speed line (HSL). The new bridge over the Tisza can also be used, to re-connect the Makó line to the rest of the network. At present, trains start from a small station on the other side of the Tisza: Újszeged, ‘New Szeged’.

The line to Nagylak forms part of line 121, an indirect rail route Szeged – Békéscsaba, via Nagylak and Kétegyháza. The first section would form part of a new line to Arad: the rest of line 121 (north of Nagylak) would remain as a rural line with limited upgrading. Like other Hungarian rural lines, the existing line is very basic. It is not surprising that they attract no passengers. Successive Hungarian governments are closing them, sometimes by simply abandoning them (without a formal closure procedure).

Trains to Arad would start from the new Szeged HSL station, not from the city-centre station. In this scenario, Újszeged station would close: the first station south of the river would be at Szőreg. With extra tracks from the Tisza bridge (shown in blue), trains to Arad could use the existing Szőreg station. (It is also possible to retain Újszeged station as a terminal for some local trains, with a new footbridge to the city centre).

The next stations on the Nagylak line are at Deszk (population 3500) and Kiszombor (4000).

The line crosses the Maros into Makó. The line here has a double S-curve, with Makó station between them. Probably the bridge must be renewed anyway, so the station approaches can be realigned, if possible (dotted lines). Makó station itself is well located, 1100 m from the centre: it would be 31 km from the Szeged HSL station.

From Makó, the alignment to Nagylak is almost straight, with some slight curves near Apátfalva (population, with Magyarcsanád, 4500). Here a regional line to Timişoara via Lovrin would diverge.

At Nagylak, a new alignment is needed, to connect to the Arad line. It must bypass the large border post, and include a new station for the small town of Nădlac (population 8000). The simplest solution is a new 5-km alignment, with a cut-and-cover tunnel under the low-density housing. The variant shown is aligned with the street grid: that makes it longer, but minimises demolition.

From Nădlac, the existing line follows the river, via Semlac / Szemlak (this section is not shown on the base map). A new direct alignment is better, alongside the main road (E68). It would rejoin the existing alignment at Pecica / Pecska (13 000), the only other station before Arad. The existing line runs north of Pecica, before turning back south. The new alignment would run on the north edge of town, with a new station, and join the Arad line further east.

At Pecica, the restored line from Orosháza via Battonya would join the line: they would share tracks into Arad.

After entering Arad itself, the alignment is wide enough, but needs improvement. The S-curve at the crossing with Calea Aurel Vlaicu could be eliminated by a link line, north of this road. This is an industrial area, where construction of a new line (shown in red) should not be a problem. A new station could be located where it crosses the Calea Aurel Vlaicu.

Near the main station, the line from Nădlac joins the main line from Budapest via Békéscsaba. The junction needs realignment and grade separation, but there is more than enough room for that. Arad station is large, and reasonably well located. A wide boulevard leads to the city centre: it is about 1700 m to the Town Hall.

The regional line would be about 101 km long, from the Szeged HSL station to Arad station. Mainly due to the new section along the E68, it is a very direct route – only 8% longer than a straight line. It should allow a journey time of about 70 minutes for regional trains – and under an hour for fast trains, stopping only at Makó.

Regional line Szeged – Makó – Arad

Upgraded Szeged – Békéscsaba rail line

This proposed upgrading of the 97-km Szeged – Békéscsaba line, is part of series of proposals for rail infrastructure in the region (Danube – Tisza, Dél Alfold, northern Vojvodina). The line is part of a strategic secondary route, built when the whole region was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The route extends from Osijek on the Drava river, via Szeged and Oradea, to Satu Mare on the upper Tisza. It is generally at right angles to the radial lines from Budapest. The route was cut by the post-1918 borders, and is now in four countries: Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania. The Szeged – Békéscsaba section remained in Hungary, currently as rail line 135. It links the two main routes into Romania.

Proposed is a technically simple upgrading, to a double-track electric inter-regional line with a line speed of 200 km/h, and through tracks at all intermediate stations. The only major infrastructure project is a new bridge over the river Tisza. Especially at the eastern end, this is a single-track line, with extremely simple rural halts. ‘Upgrading’ here means closing the line, and building a new one on the alignment, which is almost straight. In the towns, the station areas have enough space for improvements.

Szeged (population 170 000) is a logical terminus for services. The proposed high-speed line Budapest – Timişoara would become the main route through the city, serving a new station on the western edge. Trains from the west, via an upgraded line Baja – Subotica – Szeged would pass through the new station (shown in purple), and then terminate at the existing Szeged station. Some of these trains would come from Pécs or further east, via the proposed HSL Pécs – Baja.

Click to enlarge: The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, without the 1918 borders, and with older Hungarian spellings. The old bridge over the Tisza at Szeged station no longer exists.

In the same way, trains to Békéscsaba would leave from the existing station in the city centre, and then make a loop via the HSL station, and a northern station (Szeged-Rókus, on the main Budapest road). This is the present alignment, but the HSL station would be new, allowing cross-platform interchange with trains to Budapest. There would be one other station before the Tisza, at Algyő (population 5000).

At the river Tisza, the line has a double curve, to cross the river at right angles. Since the single-track bridge must be replaced, it can be realigned, with easier approach curves. 12 km from the Tisza, and 31 km from Szeged, is Hódmezővásárhely, with 47 000 inhabitants the largest town before Békéscsaba. It would retain its western station at Hódmezővásárhelyi Népkert, at the junction with the line from Csongrád and Szentes.

The only other town on the Békéscsaba line is Orosháza (population 30 000), 62 km from Szeged. It is a secondary rail junction, served by three rural lines (present Hungarian policy is to close all rural lines). The village of Székkutas, between the two towns, has 2600 inhabitants, just enough to justify its station. Csorvás, population 6000, east of Orosháza, would certainly keep its station. The village of Telekgerendás has only 1600 inhabitants, but it is a compact settlement with a real station, so retention might be justified.

That gives 7 intermediate stops: 3 in the two towns, and 4 village stations. The rural halts, some in open country, would be closed.

Békéscsaba (population 65 000), is the capital of Békés County (377 000). It is on the main line from Budapest, to Arad and Timişoara, and on to București (Bucharest). The line from Szeged curves south-east into the station, which is large but basic, and needs reconstruction.

Only the section Szeged – Békéscsaba is described here, but inter-regional trains would continue via an upgraded line to Oradea. Logically, the fastest services would run non-stop from the HSL station at Szeged (about 93 km): the intermediate towns are too small for a stop. The line should be upgraded sufficiently, to allow a 40-minute journey time.

Upgraded Szeged – Békéscsaba rail line