Revised with new maps: High-speed line Budapest – Szekszárd – Novi Sad.
The high-speed line Budapest – Szekszárd, proposed here earlier, was intended as a route to Novi Sad and Belgrade. It can also be extended south to Osijek, creating a Danube right bank high-speed line (HSL). This line would have a similar function to the incomplete M6 motorway from Budapest to Osijek.
The HSL could simply follow the M6 motorway, crossing the hills south of Bátaszék, and passing 10 km east of Mohács. At first sight, that is the easiest option. However, the HSL could avoid the hills almost entirely, and serve Mohács, by crossing the Danube twice (shown in blue on the map).
That alignment would parallel the proposed regional line from Szekszárd to Mohács. South of Báta, the regional line would follow the Danube right bank, and the HSL would run inland from the left bank.
At Beli Manastir, the HSL from Szekszárd would join the proposed HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci. South of Beli Manastir, the existing rail alignment is very good, and the HSL would inevitably follow it.
HSL alignment from Szekszárd
The proposed high-speed lines from the north into Szekszárd are the HSL from Budapest, and the HSL from Győr via Székesfehérvár. The proposed Danube right-bank regional line via Dunaújváros, and the cross-Danube fast inter-regional line from Kecskemét via Kalocsa, would also enter from the north.
Between Szekszárd and Bátaszék, the existing rail line is indirect. The HSL would follow the M6 motorway, for most of the 17 km between them. The earlier proposal for a high-speed line connecting Pécs to Szekszárd and Baja included a triangular junction on the plain north of Bátaszék. With an additional HSL southwards, there would be four lines to consider.
The Szekszárd – Pécs HSL would certainly follow the the M6 motorway past Bátaszék: that would be the west side of the triangle. Some Pécs – Baja trains might stop at Bátaszék station, using a new curve onto the existing alignment. Through Pécs – Baja trains would run north of Bátaszék and Alsónyék, parallel to the new bypass, to join the existing Baja alignment. That is the south side of the triangle, also used by the link Szekszárd – Baja (shown in green on the diagram). The Mohács variant would leave the M6 north of Bátaszék, and pass between Bátaszék and Alsónyék (on the east side of the triangle).
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There would be no interchange station: these isolated ‘gares des betteraves’ on high-speed lines, are generally failures.
South of Bátaszék, the M6 alignment would, like the motorway itself, need to cross several ridges in tunnel (the edge of the Mecsek range). It would be logical to combine the HSL alignments toward Pécs and Osijek, so the ‘M6 alignment’ might run north of the M6 near Veménd. After junction 174, the M6 turns to the south, and is more aligned with the topography.
The parallel ridges south-west of Bátaszék: the motorway is not visible on this 2006 image…
East of Mohács, the HSL would descend to the plain. The line is too far from Mohács (population 19 000), to effectively serve the town, and a HSL station here is pointless.
The alignment along the M6 would be about 98-100 km long, from Szekszárd to Osijek. The alternative via Mohács would be about 5% longer, but apart from a 2500 m tunnel at Báta, it crosses level terrain. It would be easier to build, and more suitable for higher speeds. It would also include a HSL station in Mohács, close to the town centre.
Báta – Mohács HSL alignment
The Mohács HSL would diverge from the M6, about 3-5 km north of Bátaszék. It would pass between Bátaszék and Alsónyék, and then follow the never-completed Bátaszék – Mohács railway. This old alignment toward Báta would also be used by the proposed regional line to Mohács.
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The regional line would turn south around Báta, to follow the Danube bank, but the HSL would cross the river. It would first enter a tunnel near Báta, pass under the ridge, and emerge on the Danube river escarpment. It would then continue as a viaduct and bridge, crossing the Danube to just north of Dunafalva. The line would then turn south-west, to run parallel to the river on the left (east) bank.
Click to enlarge: HSL in purple, regional line in green, superimposed on the original railway geography, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910.
At Ujmohács, the line would cross the Danube again, directly onto the existing rail alignment. This local line from Pécs via Villány (Hungarian line 65), is built at right angles to the river – evidently in preparation for a railway bridge. The town centre is close to the river, and the HSL station would be close to the bridge, on viaduct.
From the station, the HSL would drop to ground level, and follow rail line 65 to the M6 motorway. It would then turn south, to follow the motorway to Beli Manastir. (This alignment minimises environmental impact, but the HSL could also run straight toward Beli Manastir, saving about 2-3 km).
Some inter-regional trains would stop at Beli Manastir (population 12 000). The HSL would use the existing rail alignment, which lies west of the small town. From Beli Manastir, it is 25 km to the Drava River opposite Osijek.
Click to enlarge: The line Monostor (Beli Manastir) to Esseg (Osijek), as built, taken from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910…
The options for a new Drava bridge or tunnel, were considered in the earlier proposal for a Pécs – Osijek HSL.
The longer alignment via Mohács would be compensated by higher speeds, on its straight and level sections. Even with additional time for a stop at Mohács, the journey time via both options would be about the same – under 40 minutes from Szekszárd to Osijek. The journey time on the proposed 300 km/h HSL Budapest – Szekszárd would be close to 40 minutes, giving a total Budapest – Osijek time of close to 80 minutes.
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.
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…
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 …
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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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.
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).
This proposal would create a new transversal rail route across the Danube, south of Budapest. It would cross existing and proposed radial routes from Budapest, creating new connections between Southern Transdanubia, and eastern / north-eastern Hungary. Trains would run from Pécs to Szolnok, using a new alignment between Szekszárd and Kecskemét.
That assumes the construction of the proposed high-speed line from Pécs and Zagreb into Szekszárd. Without that high-speed line (HSL), the logic of a Szekszárd – Kecskemét route is undermined. Pécs (population 157 000), is the largest city of Southern Transdanubia, and a Szekszárd – Pécs line is the logical route toward Slavonia and Zagreb. The proposed HSL Novi Sad – Szekszárd – Budapest would also connect to the transversal line. (Those high-speed lines are not described further here).
The line proposed here is compatible with another transversal route: the proposed Székesfehérvár – Szolnok cross-Danube line.
At present, there are only two rail bridges across the Danube, between Budapest and Novi Sad. One is on Hungarian line 154, the Bátaszék – Baja rail line: the other is further south, between Osijek and Sombor. It is possible to travel by rail from Pécs to Kecskemét via Baja, but the route is very indirect. For this kind of journey, travel via Budapest may be easier, despite the long detour.
The deficit in Danube crossings is recognised, but there are no current plans for new rail lines. The incomplete M9 motorway provides a new Danube road crossing – also east of Szekszárd.
The proposed transversal line would use the existing alignment north of Szekszárd, to Tolna-Mözs station (line 46). It would be very substantially upgraded, for three new proposed lines:
- a HSL Novi Sad – Baja – Szekszárd – Budapest
- a HSL Szekszárd – Székesfehérvár – Győr, and
- a Danube right-bank regional line to Budapest via Dunaújváros.
The line to Kecskemét would diverge from the Dunaújváros line, north of Tolna. It might serve a new station, at the north end of Tolna itself. The line would then turn east, to cross the Danube, passing the north end of the village of Fadd.
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Kalocsa (population 17 500) is about 6 km from the bank of the Danube. It was served by a single-track branch line from Kiskőrös, line 153, with a station just east of the centre. The line was closed in the 2007 railway closures. The new line would pass the southern edge of the built-up area, with a new station on the main road to Baja, at about 21 km from Szekszárd station.
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From Kalocsa, the new line to Kiskőrös would roughly parallel the closed line 153. It could run straight toward Kiskőrös (the shortest option, green dashed line), or it could use the old alignment east of Kecel (variant in blue, old line in white). With 9000 inhabitants, Kecel is the only village large enough to justify a station. Depending on the alignment, this section would be about 30 km long.
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The new line would certainly follow the old alignment into Kiskőrös station. Kiskőrös (population 14 500) is on the old main line from Budapest, to Subotica, Novi Sad and Beograd (Belgrade), the Kelebia line. As with other Hungarian main lines, this route was cut by the new borders after the First World War. It should be doubled and upgraded for 200 km/h. Kiskőrös station would need reconstruction, and the junction should be grade-separated.
Kiskőrös is 107 km from Budapest Keleti Station, but that includes an indirect route via the Budapest ring line. The proposed Taksony – Budafok link, across Csepel Island, would re-route the Kelebia line into Kelenföld Station. (That would improve connections, and access the proposed cross-city line).
Click to enlarge: the rerouted Kelebia line south of Budapest…
North of Kiskőrös station, the new transversal line would turn north-east toward Kecskemét, on a completely new 40-km alignment. It would roughly parallel the old narrow-gauge line 148 Kiskőrös – Kecskemét. That line was closed in the 2009 round of rail closures.
The new line would follow the old line more closely, about half-way between Kiskőrös and Kecskemét, where it passes between two zones of the Kiskunság National Park. The new line would approach Kecskemét in a broad curve, south of the built-up area.
Click to enlarge: the alignment is schematic…
Kecskemét (110 000 inhabitants) is on the existing line 140 to Szeged. It would be an interchange station on the proposed high-speed line Budapest – Beograd via Ferihegy airport, and that implies substantial enlargement of the station.
The line from Szekszárd to Kecskemét would be 100-105 km long. Of that, about 90 km would be new alignment, some of it parallel to older lines,
Trains from the new line would continue from Kecskemét, on an upgraded (double-tracked) line 140. This is the present main route from Kecskemét to Budapest, via Cegléd. The proposed HSL via Ferihegy would carry most traffic if it was built, but line 140 should be upgraded anyway.
Trains from Szekszárd would then use a new high-speed curve, by-passing Cegléd, to reach line 100 toward Szolnok, the main line east from Budapest. They would terminate at Szolnok (population 75 000), with interchange for trains east and north-east, to Debrecen and Oradea.
This is a specifically transversal line. It is intended for fast inter-regional services, with connections to the other lines it crosses. In principle trains from Pécs to Szolnok would stop at only four stations: Szekszárd, Kalocsa, Kiskőrös and Kecskemét. Trains would pass through Tolna and Nagykőrös on existing alignments, and additional stations are possible at Fadd and Kecel, and possibly between Kiskőrös and Kecskemét (to give access to the National Park). These extra stops would be served by separate services: if all trains stopped there, then the line would lose its inter-regional function.