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.
This proposal would create a new high-speed route from Wien (Vienna) to Beograd (Belgrade), by-passing Budapest. It assumes construction of a high-speed line (HSL) between Wien and Győr, which is not described further here. It is also conditional on the earlier proposal for a high-speed line Budapest – Szekszárd – Novi Sad. The HSL from Győr via Székesfehérvár, would join that line near Sárbogárd. Trains would continue to Szekszárd, Baja, Sombor, Novi Sad and Beograd (Belgrade).
The line would use a natural route through the Transdanubian central range: the Mór graben or Móri-árok. This trench is a tectonic feature, and subject to earthquakes: it lies between the Bakony and Vértes hills. It is aligned north-west to south-east, almost on a line between Győr and Székesfehérvár. National road 81 runs through the valley, and rail line 5, which begins at Komárom. However, these are not main transit routes (which are centred on Budapest). The only intermediate towns are Mór (population 14 500) and Kisbér (7 500). Line 5 was closed in the 2009 round of rail closures, but that closure has now been reversed.
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Győr has a population of 129 000. It is on the southern rail route from Wien to Budapest, half-way between the two. (This is Hungarian line 1). Trains would exit the station along this (upgraded) line, as far as the minimal station Győr-Gyárváros. The new line would then diverge, turning south-east through an undeveloped area, roughly parallel to highway 81. The new line would cross the motorway M1, and then continue for about 30 km to Kisbér. At first the land is flat (130 m altitude), but about 10 km from Kisbér the line would begin to climb to 200 m. The line might be used by a fast regional service (which would use the existing line after Kisbér).
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The new section would join line 5 at the south end of Kisbér, about 2 km from the station. This point is 39 km from Győr station. (For regional trains, there would be a link to the station). From Kisbér to Mór (about 20 km), the new line would closely follow the old, but the curvature must be improved.
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From Mór, the new line can follow line 5, in an almost straight line to the outskirts of Székesfehérvár. There, it curves east, and joins the lines from Lake Balaton and Veszprém, about 1200 m west of the main station. (The curve has a radius of about 1000 m, which is acceptable since all trains will stop). The line from the junction at Kisbér would be about 46 km long, giving a total of 85 km from Győr. Székesfehérvár is a railway junction, although the dominant axis is clearly the Budapest – Lake Balaton – Nagykanizsa – Ljubljana line. The historic city has a population of 102 000, and is the regional centre of Central Transdanubia.
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To exit the station, trains would use the Budapest line, which turns south-east at first. The next section of new line would diverge from this section, and then turn toward highway 63 (toward Sárbogárd). South of Belsőbáránd, it would follow the local line 45 to Sárbogárd. This section (shown in red) would be about 35 km long. At Sárbogárd, the new line would join the HSL Budapest – Szekszárd – Novi Sad (shown in blue). (South of Sárbogárd, that HSL would follow line 46, along the Sárvíz valley, toward Szekszárd).
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The line from Székesfehérvár to Szekszárd would be about 100 km long. Total line length from Győr to Szekszárd would be 185 km, of which 65 km are shared with another HSL route. Because the line follows tectonic and river valleys, it can be aligned for high speeds (300 km/h). A one-hour journey from Győr to Szekszárd is feasible, even with one stop at Székesfehérvár. That would dramatically improve inter-regional rail services, as well as providing a new European high-speed route.
A high-speed rail line (HSL) from Pécs, to a triangular junction south of Szekszárd, would allow the proposed HSL from Budapest to Novi Sad via Szekszárd to become the main route to Pécs (population 157 000). It would also complete the proposed HSL Koprivnica – Pécs carrying services from Ljubljana, Maribor, and Zagreb. These could be logically extended toward Szeged via Subotica (an existing but partly disused alignment).
Pécs, the red dot is the station…
The line would be about 45-50 km long. Unfortunately, the line would run at right angles to the local topography, for most of its length. Pécs is located at the foot of the Mecsek range (the vertical axis is exaggerated on the images). The terrain to the south of the hills is dissected by numerous streams from the range, and the line would cross many small valleys. The pattern is especially evident between Véménd and Bátaszék. The existing Pécs – Bátaszék line is therefore very winding and indirect: east of Pécsvárad, it has been abandoned and the rest was closed in the 2009 round of rail closures.
The new line would require a high-speed exit from Pécs station. For a few kilometres, this would be shared with the proposed high-speed line Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci. The lines would split at the existing junction of lines 64 and 65. From there to the outskirss of Pécs, a tunnel under the main road (highway 6, Pécsváradi út) is probably the best option.
The closed line from Pécs to Pécsvárad, 23 km long…
As far as Pécsvárad, the new line would parallel the existing line, but it would be more heavily engineerd (and therefore shorter). From Pécsvárad, the line would turn due east to Véménd, between two hills, and parallel to the Karasica stream. This section would be about 15 km long. (It is the only section, where the topography is relatively favourable).
From Véménd to Bátaszék, the old line made a long diversion, to avoid crossing the parallel valleys. The new line would pass through a tunnel, or a series of tunnels and viaducts. South of Bátaszék, the new line would join the new M6 motorway. Several kilometres further, it would split at the new triangular junction. Trains from Pécs would turn either north to Szekszárd, and the HSL to Budapest, or east to Baja (about 20 km from the junction).
From Baja the old rail route to Szeged would be reactivated and upgraded. This is one of many lines cut by the new borders after the First World War. (Some of it is in use as Hungarian line 154). The line to Subotica via Bácsalmás is 60 km long, easy to upgrade. It also favours interchange at Subotica station, with the other proposed high-speed line, from Budapest to Novi Sad and Beograd.
The old alignment from Subotica to Szeged is also suitable for heavy upgrading: it is 41 km long. Only part of it is in use (Hungarian line line 136). Trains from Subotica would serve a new station on the proposed high-speed line Budapest – Kikinda -Timisoara, and then contine to the existing city-centre station.
Szeged is the logical point to terminate high-speed services through Pécs, and originating as far back as Ljubljana and Zagreb. The whole route from Pécs to Szeged would be about 165 km long. Over new and upgraded lines, with two intermediate stops (Baja and Subotica), a journey time of close to one hour should be feasible.
This proposal for a high-speed rail line (HSL) from Budapest to Novi Sad via Szekszárd, is complementary to an earlier proposal for a HSL Vinkovci – Novi Sad (on the Zagreb – Beograd route). If the line connects (south of Szekszárd) to a new high-speed line to/from Pécs, it would become the main route Budapest – Pécs. Between Budapest and Novi Sad, it would serve Szekszárd, Baja, and Sombor, crossing the Danube near Baja. Trains continuing to Beograd (Belgrade) would cross the Danube again, as they leave Novi Sad.
As far as Szekszárd, the HSL would generally parallel the proposed Danube right-bank regional line via Dunaújváros, but they would have different functions. One is a regional line, the other a high-speed line with no intermediate stops. The HSL would carry trains from the proposed cross-city tunnel, but trains from the regional line would probably terminate in Budapest.
Both lines would pass Érd, at the edge of the Budapest agglomeration (total population 2,5 million). The existing lines out of Budapest (Line 30a and the parallel Line 40a) have insufficient capacity, and curve around the hills south of Buda. A first requirement is a new south-western exit from Budapest, would also be used by trains toward the Lake Balaton high-speed line. A direct tunnel from Kelenföld Station to Érd would be at least 15 km long. A simpler alternative is a shorter tunnel combined with 10-km bypass of Érd.
At the railway junction just south of Kelenföld Station, were Line 1 splits from Lines 30a / 40a, a new line would go straight on and dive into tunnel. The terrain slopes upward here, so the line would soon be underground, but some demolition is unavoidable. The bored tunnel would run almost due south under the hills, up to 80 m deep, and then turn slowly southwest. As it reached Nagytétény ut, it would continue in cut-and-cover tunnel, cross Line 40a and the ring motorway, and join the alignment of Line 30a west of Budatétény station. The new exit line would be 7 km long, almost all in tunnel.
The Érd bypass would start at Kastélypark station, and run mainly parallel to the M6 motorway. It would join the alignment of the existing line 40 to Pusztaszabolcs, near junction 22 on the motorway. Together, they would create a completely new exit route from Kelenföld Station, out of the built-up area. A short section parallel to Line 30a would have a junction with existing tracks, allowing some trains to serve Érd. Trains toward Lake Balaton could use extra tracks through Érd, but the bypass could also be extended 5 km to line 30 at Tárnok.
South of Érd, the HSL would approximately parallel line 40. It could run partly alongside the M6 motorway, avoiding the old line between Százhalombatta and Iváncsa. The area is crossed by streams at right angles to the line, but there are no deep valleys.
From Pusztaszabolcs, the HSL would follow line 40 closely, to Sárbogárd. There, it would be joined by a HSL from Győr – which is not described further here. The new line would then follow line 46, along the Sárvíz valley, toward Szekszárd. The flood plain is full of meanders, ponds, and lakes: the rail line runs on the higher ground beside it. Approaching Tolna, line 46 turns away from the river. The new line would by-pass Tolna-Mözs station, and then rejoin the straight alignment into Szekszárd.
Szekszárd (population 34 000) would become an interchange station, for high-speed lines toward Budapest, Győr, Pécs and Novi Sad. The town itself is small: it is the capital of Tolna County, but realistically it serves only three districts (Kistérség), with a population of about 170 000. The convergence of four high-speed lines is not because of its population, but because of its location: between the hills and the Danube flood plain.
South of Szekszárd, the existing line 46 toward Bátaszék has an indirect route through villages. The HSL would use a new exit line from Szekszárd, and join the M6 motorway again. At a triangular junction north of Bátaszék, it would join a HSL from Pécs. This would allow high-speed services from Pécs to Budapest (via Szekszárd), and also across the Danube (toward Baja and Subotica). See also the later proposal for a connecting HSL to Osijek via Mohács.
From the triangular junction, the combined line would cross the Danube toward Baja, parallel to the existing line 154. The L-shaped high-speed route from Szekszárd follows the existing road and railway through the Duna-Dráva National Park. The line is now on the Pannonian Plain, with only minimal relief (a 30 m fall, over the 130 km to Novi Sad).
Baja has a population of 38 000, the district population is 75 000. A HSL station here would allow interchange with a (heavily upgraded) line to Subotica. This line (Hungarian line 154) was cut by the new borders after the First World War. Baja would be the only interchange station on a high-speed service from Pécs to Subotica. There is a sharp curve between the existing Danube bridge and the station. If all trains stop there anyway, that is not a problem. In any case, the HSL could turn to cross the Danube north of the existing bridge, turning into the station in a wide curve. That requires no demolition in the built-up area.
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From Baja, the new line would turn south toward Sombor, on a new straight alignment. For about 2 km, the HSL would use the alignment of the old local line to Gara. (There was a second local line toward Sombor via Bezdan). The old alignment via Gara is unsuitable: it is indirect and runs alongside a road near Sombor. The HSL option shown runs west of Gara and Gakovo through open fields: it would be 48-50 km long. Local terrain and water table would determine the exact alignment.
Click to enlarge: Schematic HSL alignment in red. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, with Hungarian place names.
Sombor has a population of 51 000. The larger Sombor municipality, which includes rural areas, has 97 000 inhabitants, and is the capital of West Bačka District (population 215 000). The station is north of the centre, and all the lines through it were aligned east-west. Although the HSL runs north-south, relocation of the station is problematic. It seems best to retain the east-west orientation, with a new exit line turning south toward Novi Sad, on the alignment of the old line to Odžaci. A HSL bypass (shown in blue) could connect the Baja line to this exit line, for trains not stopping at Sombor.
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At Sombor, the HSL would allow interchange with an inter-regional line Sombor – Vinkovci, or the alternative direct line to Osijek via Apatin, and in the other direction with an inter-regional line to Subotica.
South of Sombor, the HSL would first follow the closed line to Novi Sad via Odžaci: the alignment is generally intact. It would leave this alignment at Bački Brestovac (by-passing Odžaci). From Brestovac, it would run in a straight line through the Bačka plain, to Bački Petrovac, where it would join the proposed high-speed line from Vinkovci and Vukovar. Both lines would share a common alignment for about 20 km into Novi Sad.
Near Novi Sad, the new line would join the existing main line from Budapest (via Kelebia), which then turns east into the station. (This would be the route of a possible HSL to Budapest via Subotica). The city of Novi Sad has a population of 305 000, and is the capital of the large Vojvodina region. Most trains would continue to Belgrade, 76 km further, on the proposed Novi Sad – Belgrade HSL.
Click to enlarge: new lines in and out of Novi Sad…
Even without exact alignments, the length of the proposed HSL can be estimated. The route from central Budapest to Pusztaszabolcs should be equivalent, or slightly shorter, than the existing line from Déli Station, 53 km. From there, the new line would almost exactly follow the existing lines (96 km), so the line to Szekszárd would be close to 150 km long. With a line built for 300 km/h, and one stop at Kelenföld station, journey time could be 40 minutes. The line from Szekszárd to Baja would be about 35 km long: the Baja – Sombor line about 50 km, and the route into Novi Sad about 85 km (including existing sections). Trains serving both intermediate stations should take just under one hour for the 170 km, and perhaps 50 minutes without stops.