Revised with new maps: High-speed line Vinkovci – Novi Sad.
The main north-south route through Bosnia was completed in 1966 in Tito’s Yugoslavia. It runs through Samac, Doboj, Sarajevo and Mostar, to Ploce on the Adriatic. However, it starts at the village of Vrpolje, which is on the main Zagreb – Belgrade line, but otherwise ‘in the middle of nowhere’. This illogical route was included in Pan-European Corridor Vc, only because nothing better was planned. No major work was done anyway, and these corridors are now under review.
The logical place for the north-south axis to start is Vinkovci, which is already a main railway junction. It would become more important with the high-speed lines (HSL) proposed here earlier. The Drava plain high-speed line, and the roughly parallel Sava valley high-speed line would converge at Vinkovci, and diverge again as high-speed routes to Belgrade, and to Novi Sad. The HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci would be the main north-south route into the region. Traffic form the Zagreb direction would however use the proposed Derventa cut-off line.
A new cut-off line from Vinkovci to Šamac would shorten the route between Vinkovci and Doboj, and create a much more logical junction with all other lines in the region.
There are no topographic obstacles to the line, although the area is low-lying. For about 15 km between Vinkovci and Cerna, the new line would parallel the existing branch line to Županja. The new line would also parallel the planned Sava – Danube canal (it has been planned since 1792).
Šamac is located at the confluence of the Bosna and Sava rivers. The original Austro-Hungarian line from Vrpolje opened in 1878: it terminated on the opposite bank of the Sava. The river was the border with Bosnia, which had just been occupied by Austria-Hungary. Only after the Second World War, was Šamac connected to Doboj and Sarajevo, replacing the earlier narrow-gauge route from Slavonski Brod. The line Šamac – Doboj follows the Bosna river: that is a logical route, but the connection to Vrpolje is not.
Click to enlarge: The original railway geography, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, Šamac branch highlighted in blue…
Šamac is geographically in Bosnia, and is sometimes known as Bosanski Šamac. However, it is part of the Republika Srpska, which calls it simply Šamac. The settlement across the river, on the Croatian side, is known as Slavonski Šamac. The existing road/rail bridge (single-track) is sufficient for the limited traffic. A new line would need a double-track bridge, with a better approach curve.
At Vinkovci, the new cutoff line would approach from the west, alongside the local line from Županja (Croatian line L210). It would join the main line from Zagreb near the station. The low density in Vinkovci would allow a surface line with overbridges.
The alignment between Šamac and Vinkovci would be determined by local conditions. The planned canal is also intended for drainage, and runs through the lowest terrain, following smaller rivers. The new rail line can not entirely avoid these former marshes, which are clearly shown on the 1910 map. The best option is probably an alignment just west of Babina Greda, crossing both the canal and the motorway. It would then turn north-east, following the canal toward Cerna: this section would be on viaduct.
The new line is intended for long-distance traffic, and would have no intermediate stations. The local line to Županja would be left much as it is, with a third track alongside the new line in Vinkovci itself. The new line would be about 38-40 km long, from the Sava bridge to Vinkovci station. That is about 15 km shorter than the existing route via Vrpolje, and with a new alignment, the journey time will be much shorter.
This proposed high-speed line (HSL) parallels the existing Zagreb – Vinkovci line, through the Posavina region, along the middle course of the river Sava. The line is part of Pan-European Corridor X and upgrading is officially planned – but nothing on the scale proposed here.
West of Vinkovci, this proposed HSL would join the earlier proposed Drava plain high-speed line, from Maribor and Vienna (Wien). From Vinkovci two high-speed routes would continue to to Beograd (Belgrade), one along the motorway and one via Novi Sad. The new HSL would also connect to other new lines, into Bosnia: more on that later.
The existing line is 255 km long, and consists of Croatian lines M102, M103, and M105. It was not built as a single line, and was not completed until 1929. During the first and second Yugoslavia (1918-1992), it became the national rail axis, and a transit route to south-eastern Europe. Nevertheless, the line is single-track to Novska: there is a parallel line to Novska via Sisak, south of the Sava. The main Yugoslav highway, now the Croatian A3 motorway (E70), was built roughly parallel to the railway.
The line runs between the Sava and the Slavonian hills. Between the two is agricultural land, with many villages. The image below shows a typical section, near Novska. From left to right are the marshland of the Sava (liable to flooding), the motorway, the agricultural land, the railway, the old highway with settlements, and the hills.
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The terrain is flat, and much of the line consists of straight sections. However, they are separated by sometimes sharp curves. A new high-speed line can run alongside the existing line in some places, and along the motorway in others. The existing line should also be upgraded, to allow for intensification of services.
Long passenger rail lines have a problem: slow trains obstruct fast trains. If all trains stop at all stations, travel times will be too long. Express trains can overtake stopping trains at some stations, but that works best with a few trains per day. Frequent services require each train to arrive on time at the overtaking station: any delay disrupts all following trains. Adding reserve time minimises delays, but leaves trains standing at platforms for too long. The longer the line, the worse the problems.
Splitting the services is one solution: terminating trains must have their own terminal platforms or reversal tracks, or they will block through trains. The pattern of services partly determines the necessary infrastructure on the Sava valley line.
From Zagreb to Dugo Selo (21 km), there would be separate fast and slow tracks. High-speed trains would not stop at Dugo Selo, all others would: that requires a 6-track station there, or a bypass. Urban-regional services (S-Bahn) would terminate at Dugo Selo. There is no point in extending them another 18 km, to serve one more station at Ivanić-Grad: it can be served by regional and inter-regional trains.
Regional services from Zagreb, every 30 minutes, would stop at all stations after Dugo Selo, and terminate at Slavonski Brod, 190 km from Zagreb. A separate regional service would operate from Slavonski Brod to Vinkovci (65 km).
There were 21 stations and 20 halts between Dugo Selo and Vinkovci, but only four towns. Some villages are too small to justify a station, on an upgraded line. 20-25 stations are enough for this line, giving an average station spacing of around 10-12 km.
Fast inter-regional services (every 30 minutes) would use the fast tracks to Dugo Selo. They would serve only Ivanić-Grad ( 39 km from Zagreb, population 15 000), Kutina (population 15 000, 79 km from Zagreb), Nova Gradiška (population 16 000, 140 km from Zagreb), and Slavonski Brod. The inter-regional service would terminate at Vinkovci. To allow overtaking of regional services, all the remaining stations should have separate through tracks and platform tracks. Services diverging from the line would conform to this pattern of stops. (More later on the branch lines, and new lines).
The high-speed line itself will start at Dugo Selo, or possibly at the Zagreb ring motorway: it would continue all the way to Vinkovci station. Much of it would simply be built parallel to the existing line, on its southern side. At some places, the HSL can better diverge from the existing rail alignment.
On the first 45 km, the HSL could bypass Dugo Selo on the south, and Ivanić-Grad on the north. An alternative is a line along the A3 motorway, starting near the Zagreb ring. The Dugo Selo – Novska section was built in 1897 as a local line: it has many straight sections, with curves between them.
Click to enlarge: The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, using some German place names.
At Kutina, the HSL can run about 300 m south of the existing station. The old line then turns away from the Sava, to Banova Jaruga station, the junction for the branch line to Pakrac. The HSL can certainly bypass this section, along the motorway: in fact the whole line can be relocated, since Banova Jaruga has only 750 inhabitants. At Lipovljani, the relocated line and the HSL would both rejoin the existing alignment. (With about 3 km of extra track east of Kutina station, the Pakrac branch can be kept operationally separate from the main line, and upgraded as a regional line from Kutina).
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Near Kutina, a new line across the Sava from Sisak would join the HSL, and the main line. A similar link is officially planned, but from Sunja to Novska. Both variants allow the Sisak line to duplicate the Sava main line, as a route out of Zagreb. (It is used in this way already, but the L-shaped route Sisak – Novska is inconvenient). With a new cross-Sava link, Novska would lose its role as a junction station, except for a local line to Dubica.
The HSL would continue alongside the main line, to Okučani. On this section, a new line to Banja Luka can diverge south, crossing the Sava at Gradiška, formerly Bosanska Gradiška. (This line was already planned in the first Yugoslavia, before the Second World War).
From Okučani to Zapolje, the HSL can follow the motorway, bypassing Nova Gradiška. East of Nova Gradiška, the old alignment is generally better (straighter), and suitable for a parallel HSL.
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A short bypass at Nova Kapela would avoid two curves, and the junction station (lines to Požega and Našice). This junction would also disappear, with the construction of a new tunnel between Nova Gradiška and Požega. The junction station would then be Nova Gradiška itself, a more logical arrangement. On the main line, another short new section is needed, to avoid a sharp curve at Sibinj.
Between Nova Kapela and Slavonski Brod, a new cut-off line can diverge toward Derventa and Doboj. This line would be used by high-speed trains from the HSL, and inter-regional trains from the upgraded main line.
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At Slavonski Brod, the motorway passes through the built-up area. So does the rail line, but it is straight. The best option here is to widen the existing alignment, with a tunnel for the HSL under the station zone. Slavonski Brod (population 62 000), is a the largest urban centre on the line. This is a traditional crossing point on the Sava, and the urban area extends across the river. That part is now in the Republika Srpska, and it is called Srpski Brod by Serbs, and Bosanski Brod by Bosnians.
Brod was the junction for the narrow-gauge line to Sarajevo, in Austro-Hungarian times, and is a possible junction with a regional line on a similar alignment: more on that later.
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East of Slavonski Brod, the rail line turns away from the Sava, toward Vinkovci. This is an almost straight line across an open plain, and the HSL can simply follow the existing 65-km alignment. About 20 km west of Vinkovci, the Drava plain HSL would join the HSL from Zagreb.
On the main line, the existing junction station at Strizivojna-Vrpolje would lose most of it functions. The Drava plain HSL would serve Djakovo, and a new cut-off line would link Vinkovci directly to Šamac (Slavonski and Bosanski Šamac). The old line would be retained for freight, and possibly a regional service Osijek – Djakovo – Šamac.
Vinkovci is not a large city (33 000 inhabitants), but it is a railway junction, and would retain that function, for the proposed high-speed lines.
The connecting HSL, from Vinkovci to Belgrade, is not described here. With a new alignment along the motorway, it would be about 150 km long. (The alternative HSL route via Novi Sad is not much longer, about 165 km).
The total route from Zagreb to Belgrade would be about 400 km long, with about 95% on new alignment. There are no topographic obstacles on the route: the line crosses the Sava once, in sight of Belgrade station. A line speed of 300-350 km/h is therefore feasible, and a journey time of under 2 hours, with one stop at Vinkovci.
This inter-regional rail line is an extension of the earlier proposal to upgrade the 60-km line Subotica – Sombor. That line connects to the Subotica – Szeged line, which is part of the proposed east-west high-speed route Baja – Subotica – Szeged. These lines would be upgraded to the standards of the German Ausbaustrecken, for 200-230 km/h.
On the diagram: proposed 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.
Note that there is a later alternative for the proposals described here: a direct line Sombor – Osijek via a Danube bridge at Apatin.
The old Szeged – Subotica – Sombor lines form part of a longer rail route, the Alföld – Fiume line. It was built in 1870, as a single line from Oradea to Osijek, for traffic toward the port of Fiume (now Rijeka). At the time the entire line was in the Kingdom of Hungary: it is now divided between Romania, Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia. The line was at right angles to the radial lines from Budapest, which were also cut by new borders.
A Sombor – Osijek link was an integral part of the Alföld – Fiume line, but it was not a straight line, like much of the route. The Danube floodplain here is very wide, and uninhabited. The line turned south, to cross the Danube at Erdut. At first that was by wagon ferry – a bridge was not built until 1910. The line then ran west, parallel to the Danube and Drava, to Osijek.
The line is 61 km long. It is numbered line 20 in Serbia, to the Danube bridge, and then Croatian line R104, as far as Dalj. From Dalj to Osijek, it is line R202.
The line proposed here is a modern version of this link. It would not run to Osijek, which has a relatively isolated position in the rail network, but to Vinkovci, 30 km further south. It would therefore restore the function of the original Dalj – Vinkovci line, built in 1878.
Vinkovci is a classic rail junction: much more so with the proposed Drava plain high-speed line from Vienna, a high-speed line (HSL) from Zagreb, a rerouted line from Sarajevo via Samac, a HSL from Pécs via Osijek, and a completely new HSL to Novi Sad via Vukovar.
There are several possible alignments between Sombor and Vinkovci, all of them using some existing rail lines, including the rest of local line R202, Osijek – Vukovar. The main issue is where the line crosses the Danube. The wide floodplain at the Drava confluence is still an obstacle, and most of it is now a national park. One possible alignment, via Vukovar, would avoid it entirely.
The simplest option is to upgrade the existing lines, with a short new link toward Vinkovci. The alignment on the west side of Sombor, where it turns south, would be improved (new curves shown in red). The line south past Prigrevica and Sonta is almost straight anyway. The old railway bridge at Erdut would be replaced, and the curves into the approach tracks widened (in red on the map).
Click to enlarge: The original railway geography, and new alignments. The base map is an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910, without present borders, and with old Hungarian and German place names.
The line to Dalj is straight, and so is the line south to Borovo, but the line turns 90° between them. A wider curve, cutting a small part of Dalj, is the solution. The station for Dalj (population 4500) would be on the north side of the village, to allow interchange with services to Osijek.
At Borovo, there is another sharp curve, where the existing line (here M601) turns toward Vinkovci. The upgraded line could go straight on here, and then curve south-west, to join the proposed HSL from Novi Sad to Vinkovci.
Click to enlarge: The original railway geography at Vukovar, with the proposed HSL Vinkovci – Novi Sad, and the link curve to Borovo, in red.
The pattern of services would be simplified:
- inter-regional service Sombor – Dalj – Vinkovci on the upgraded line
- regional service Sombor – Dalj – Osijek, the existing route across the Danube
- regional service Osijek – Dalj – Odžaci – Novi Sad
- regional service Osijek – Borovo – Vukovar (no interchange at Dalj with the other three services).
Regional services on the existing Borovo – Vinkovci line (Croatian line M601), might be abandoned. The proposed HSL Vinkovci – Vukovar – Novi Sad would carry almost all traffic Vinkovci – Vukovar.
The disadvantage of upgrading the original alignment, even with with better curves, is the zig-zag route via Erdut. The line would be 75 km long.
Click to enlarge: Original alignment in black; HSL and new Borovo curve in orange.
There are two alternatives for this route. One is essentially a cut-off line between Sombor and Dalj, starting on the west side of Sombor. Where the existing line turns south, the new line would go straight on to Apatin, with a new station on its eastern edge. This option is shown as a dashed green line on the maps. It would replace the existing branch line Sombor – Apatin (not on the 1910 map, since it was built later).
Click to enlarge: Original alignment in black/white; Apatin cut-off in green; HSL and new Borovo curve in orange.
The new alignment would then turn south, aligning itself with the Dalj – Borovo line. It would cross the Danube, and join this line. The new section would be about 35 km long. That would create two rail lines, almost at right angles: there would be a new station where they crossed. (The best place is beside the existing station, north of Dalj). The line would continue to Vinkovci via Borovo, as described above.
There is however a ridge north of Dalj, parallel to the Danube (Daljska planina). It is not very high (100 m above the plain), but the line would need a 2500m tunnel – and an 800m bridge, and a 2500m viaduct over the flood plain. This variant would however shorten the route by 10 km, and also serve Apatin. There would be only three services: Sombor – Dalj – Vinkovci, Osijek – Dalj – Odžaci, and Osijek – Vukovar.
The third option would re-route the Sombor – Vinkovci route via Vukovar. Trains would use the existing line south from Sombor. Instead of crossing the bridge at Erdut, they would continue south over a new line, passing Vajska. Near the Danube it would join the proposed HSL from Novi Sad. Trains would cross the Danube into Vukovar, serving the HSL station there, and then continue for 16 km to Vinkovci.
Click to enlarge: Original alignment in black/white; HSL and new link in orange.
The total route Sombor – Vinkovci would be 70 km long. The new section could be built for high speeds. In fact that is the only logical option, for a straight line across a flat plain, with no stations. The line would not serve Dalj, and would not connect with other services.
That undermines the logic of this variant, because there is a simpler alternative. A link west of Odžaci could connect the two proposed high-speed lines to Novi Sad – from Budapest via Sombor and from Zagreb via Vinkovci and Vukovar. The link line would be about 25-35 km long, depending on the alignment. This HSL route Sombor – Vukovar – Vinkovci (passing Odžaci), would be about 80 km long, but journey time would be shorter, However, trains from Subotica could not use it without reversal.
Of the options described here, the shortest is through a tunnel under the Dalj ridge. The construction of a new viaduct, bridge and tunnel might however outweigh its advantages. In that case the upgraded original alignments are the best option. (The later proposal for a direct line via Apatin avoids these issues, but the price is a new line across a nature reserve).
This proposal for a high-speed rail line (HSL), from Vinkovci to Novi Sad, is complementary to earlier proposals for a Drava plain high-speed line. That line would extend the high-speed line from Vienna (Wien) to Nagykanizsa, through the Podravina (Drava plain) to Vinkovci, and on to Beograd (Belgrade). At Vinkovci it would also connect to the proposed Sava valley HSL from Zagreb, to the proposed high-speed line Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci, and the lines to the south (Tuzla and Sarajevo).
The proposal here also assumes the construction of a high-speed line, north-west from Novi Sad, toward Sombor and Baja. That makes sense in combination with a HSL southward from Budapest, via Szekszárd, to Pécs and Baja. Part of the new line from Vukovar to Novi Sad, would be shared with this HSL from Sombor. There is an existing line from Novi Sad to Sombor via Odžaci, but a new HSL alignment to Brestovac may be preferable. In any case, both high-speed lines would meet somewhere near Bački Petrovac. The route Vukovar – Petrovac is described schematically here. Apart from the villages, there are no constraints on a route through the plain of the Bačka.
The new line would carry trains starting west of Vinkovci, to Beograd, via Novi Sad. It would substantially shorten journeys through Vinkovci from Novi Sad, for instance to Zagreb. (At present, that requires a detour via Indija, on the main line to Beograd). The new line would serve Novi Sad itself, with a population of 305 000. It would connect there, to local transport in the Vojvodina region, especially the South Bačka and Central Banat districts, with a combined population of 800 000. It would also allow interchange with a possible HSL to Budapest via Subotica, and a (partly new) inter-regional line to Timișoara, via Zrenjanin.
The new line would start just east of Vinkovci station: the town itself is not large (33 000 inhabitants), but this is a major railway junction. The line would follow the Beograd line through the exit curve, continue east, and then turn north-east toward Vukovar, about 17 km away.
The logical site for a station in Vukovar would be at the old station – near the river, on the main road into the town, and about 2 km from the centre. The town was almost destroyed during the Croatian War, and the population has not fully recovered (now 26 000).
The line would cross the River Danube immediately after the new station, which must be on a viaduct. After the bridge, the line would turn almost due east, for the long section across the plains. It would then join the HSL from Sombor: the simplest option is a junction south-east of Bački Petrovac. Both lines would then have a shared alignment, on the southwest bank of the Savino Selo Canal, part of the Vojvodina canal system.
The line from the Vukovar bridge to the junction would be about 55 km long: it is another 18 km into Novi Sad. Closer to Novi Sad, the new line would leave the canal alignment, to join the existing main line from Budapest (via Kelebia). At the edge of Novi Sad, this rail line turns east into the station, located northwest of the historic centre, at the end of a main axis road toward the Danube. (After the station, the rail line turns south-east again, to cross the Danube east of the centre).
New lines into Novi Sad…
The total length of the new line would be about 90 km. On a completely new line across flat plains, very high speeds are possible. A Vinkovci – Novi Sad journey time of under 30 minutes is feasible, even with one stop at Vukovar.
This proposal is complementary to the proposed high-speed line Koprivinca – Pécs, which would create a Zagreb – Pécs high-speed line (HSL). Near Pécs, it would also share some track, with a possible HSL to Budapest (via Szekszárd).
Pécs, with a population of 157 000, is the only large city between Budapest and the Drava River, and the largest city of Southern Transdanubia, with nearly one million inhabitants. The city is located at the foot of the Mecsek range (the vertical axis is exaggerated on the images). Pécs station lies 1500 m south of the historic city (Belváros). It is a through station on an east-west line, but the line on each side is very different.
Click to enlarge: Pécs, the red dot is the station…
The line from the west, Hungarian rail line line 60, is level and almost straight. Trains from Budapest enter Pécs over this line: they join it at Szentlőrinc, after going around the Mecsek hills. The line eastwards is the former Pécs – Bátaszék rail line, line 64. This winding line along the foot of the Mecsek hills, was closed in 2009, or earlier abandoned.
About 2 km east of Pécs Station, line 65 to Villány and Mohács splits off from line 64. It runs generally south-east to Villány. The area is characterised by parallel valleys, cut by streams off the Mecsek range. The higher ground between the valleys is fairly level, at around 200 m altitude. Villány itself is at the eastern tip of the Villány Hills.
Click to enlarge: Villany at the tip of the ridge: the rail line curves around the town…
South of this east-west range, lies the flat plain of the Drava, at about 100 m altitude. From Villány, line 66 continues across the plain to the border, and then as Croatian line M301 to Osijek. This line is supposedly part of Pan-European Corridor Vc, but in practice the corridor consists of roads only.
The HSL to the Drava would run approximately parallel to the existing lines. It can be split into three distinct sections:
- a new eastern exit from Pécs, which would also be used by a new line to Szekszárd
- a new line south-east to Villány, and
- a HSL across the plains, to a new Drava crossing (bridge or tunnel).
Villány is a logical interchange point for regional services, including the closed Barcs – Villány line (line 62, 101 km) and the 24-km branch to Mohács. That justifies a new station there, even if the population (under 3000) does not. Its location would be determined by – rather than along the curving valley floors, like the existing line. The new line would need to climb about 50-60 m, just east of Pécs.
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Pécs Station is at around 120 m altitude, the junction of lines 64 and 65 about 140 m. The new line could follow the existing Villány line for about 2 km. To reach the ‘plateau’ visible on the image, a tunnel of about 2500 m is then needed (red-white line). From there, the line could run almost straight across the plateau, which falls to about 130 m near Villány. The alignment would rejoin line 65, about 3 km west of Villány station. In that case, the station would stay where it is. A more eastern route is slightly shorter, but can not pass through the existing station. Both are shown below.
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If the eastern route is chosen, the station can be relocated to the eastern side of the town (shown in red below). It is just as clode to the town, but the branch to Mohács would need a new curve, and Pécs – Mohács trains would need to reverse. The western option must avoid the sharp curve after the station, the new line could also by-pass Magyarbóly. In both cases, interchange with line 62 is possible: it runs along the southern edge of the Villány Hills, and then curves around Villány into the station.
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Either at Villány or Magyarbóly, the new line will join the existing alignment. With the exception of the curves at Beli Manastir and Drada, it is suitable for a high-speed line to the Drava. (North is at the left on the image). Beli Manastir (population 12 000) could be served by inter-regional fast trains.
At Beli Manastir, the line would be joined by the proposed HSL Szekszárd – Osijek.
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The line would now cross the Drava River into Osijek. How that should be done depends on the alignment in the city itself. Osijek is a city of 115 000 inhabitants. It spreads for more than 10 km, along the south bank of the Drava. The rail line is also aligned parallel to the river. This is Croatian regional line R202, the line along the Drava plain. It is joined west of the station by local line L209 from Vinkovci, and regional line M302 from Djakovo. North-south trains cross the Drava bridge, turn west into the station, and then south. The HSL could use that option, with a new bridge. A north-south tunnel under the existing station is also an option (shown in red, schematic).
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The shortest alternative is a new bridge, followed new station (probably on viaduct) at the crossing of Vukovarska and Kralja Petra Svacica. It would continue as a new line due south along the Kralja Petra Svacica, partly in cut-and-cover tunnel. This would transform the local environment, even if demolition was limited. The main station would be moved 1500 m east. (Satellite imagery may be out of date due to local construction, but the options shown follow major axes, which are unlikely to change).
Click to enlarge…
In all cases, the line would then follow a straight line to Vinkovci – about 30 km across flat open countryside. It would enter the station there, by a north-to-east curve. The variant shown below is the shortest, through a relocated Osijek Station: others would be slightly longer.
At Vinkovci, the line would connect with the proposed Drava plain high-speed line to Beograd (Belgrade). That in turn would connect to the proposed high-speed line from Vienna (Wien) to Nagykanisza. It would also connect with the proposed HSL from Zagreb along the Sava, a possible new HSL to Novi Sad via Vukovar, the line to Tuzla via Brcko, and a re-routed line to Sarajevo via Doboj.
The section Pécs – Villány would be about 32-35 km long, from there to the Drava bridge/tunnel about 43 km, and then about 32-35 km to Vinkovci. Total length would be about 110 km. A train stopping only at Osijek should take about 40 minutes, with two other stops (Villány and Beli Manastir) about 50 minutes. Pécs – Vinkovci is the logical pattern of service, but the line could also carry a Pécs – Beograd service.
See the first half of this post, for the high-speed line from Vienna (Wien) to Nagykanizsa, via Szombathely and Zalaegerszeg. This second half describes the section through the Podravina (Drava plain), and on to Beograd (Belgrade).
South of Nagykanizsa, the new high-speed line (HSL) would follow the existing line 60 to Murakeresztúr, near the crossing of the Mura River. Here it would turn onto a completely new alignment, and then cross the Mura and the Drava. It would then run south to Koprivnica, population 31 000, capital of Koprivnica-Križevci County (115 000). The new line could also run through the hills south of Nagykanizsa, passing the village of Surd (orange line), but an alignment through the plains seems easier.
At Koprivnica, the high-speed line (HSL) would split. Fast trains to Zagreb would serve Koprivnica station, using the existing north-south alignment through the town. The route to Zagreb, Croatian line M201, is already a main line, but upgrading is not described further here. Koprivnica is also served by a local line from Varaždin. It could be upgraded (with a cut-off line near Varaždin), for a fast inter-regional service on the axis Graz – Maribor – Ptuj – Koprivnica – Osijek.
From Koprivnica, the HSL would turn south-east along the Drava plain – Podravina. High-speed trains to Belgrade HSL could serve the station, but an eastern bypass would enable them to avoid the town, maintain high speed, and shorten the route to Belgrade.
The HSL along the plain would run approximately parallel to the existing main road (Croatian National Highway 2) and the regional rail line (line R202), as far as Našice. The road and railway mainly follow the edge of the Bilo Gora and Papuk mountains, which parallel the Drava. In places, the HSL would run north of the existing line, but possibly alongside it on straight sections (for instance into Pitomača). From near Pitomača, a 15-km connection is possible across the Drava to Barcs, connecting with Hungarian line 60 to Pécs (population 157 000). With upgrading of the Barcs – Pécs line, this would form a HSL Zagreb – Pécs.
The route along the Podravina to Našice is about 140 km long, with no large towns. There would be a station about half-way, at Virovitica (population 15 000, capital of Virovitica-Podravina county, population 85 000). With some demolition, the HSL can run through the town, very close to the existing alignment. Virovitica would be the interchange point for the parallel regional line, and for a local service from Bjelovar via Kloštar (across the Bilo Gora, line L204).
At Našice itself, a small town with 8000 inhabitants, the HSL can run north of the town, with a link to the existing line in both directions. The existing station must be relocated, but that would bring it closer to the centre.
The existing regional line turns north-east at Našice, toward Osijek, the regional centre of Slavonia (population 108 000). Some trains could therefore leave the HSL, serve Našice, and continue to Osijek, 48 km further. Obviously, that line must be electrified and substantially upgraded. An additional curve would allow trains to reach Osijek without a stop in Našice.
The HSL itself would run on a completely new alignment of about 35 km, to Djakovo (population 19 000). The station would be relocated, and reached by a relatively short tunnel under the north end of the town. The Virovitica – Djakovo section would be 100-105 km long.
South of Djakovo, the line would then turn to the east, to reach the existing alignment of the Zagreb – Beograd line, the ‘main line’ of former Yugoslavia (and a former route of the Orient Express). This is the route of the proposed Sava valley HSL, and the two high-speed lines would join, about 20 km west of Vinkovci.
Parallel to the existing main line, the new HSL would reach the railway junction of Vinkovci, population 32 000. This section of the HSL would be short, about 33 km long. At Vinkovci, there would be interchange with lines in six directions. That could include a new HSL to Pécs via Osijek, and a possible new HSL to Novi Sad, via Vukovar. The line from Sarajevo via Doboj and Šamac, could also be re-routed directly to Vinkovci (at present it joins line M105 at Vrpolje). In combination with the Pécs line, that would re-route Pan-European Corridor Vc through Vinkovci.
East of Vinkovci, the HSL would first follow the main rail line, with a station at Sremska Mitrovica (population 38 000, the capital of Srem or Syrmia, population 311 000). East of this town, it would run alongside the motorway A1/E70: this alignment is shorter than the existing rail line via Stara Pazova. From Vinkovci to Sremska Mitrovica is 75 km, and from there to Belgrade about 72-75 km.
On the outskirts of the city, the line would rejoin the existing alignment, with a short tunnel under a hill between motorway and rail line. It would then cross the Sava River into the old main station, or the new Beograd Centar Station at Prokop. (The ‘new’ central station has in fact been under construction since 1971).
With a population of 1 600 000, Belgrade (Beograd) is the largest city between Vienna / Budapest and Athens / Istanbul. It is a logical terminus for HSL services originating in Vienna, with onward connections to the south and south-east. See the post on Belgrade as a European rail junction.
The section Wien – Sopron is about 63 km long: then (approximately) Sopron – Szombathely 52 km, Szombathely to Zalaegerszeg 55 km, Zalaegerszeg – Nagykanizsa 50 km, Nagykanizsa – Virovitica 95 km, Virovitica – Djakovo 105 km, Djakovo – Vinkovci 33 km, Vinkovci – Sremska Mitrovica, 75 km, and from there to Beograd 75 km. The total length of the new line would be around 600 km. The fastest trains, stopping only in Nagykanizsa, would certainly take less than 4 hours. In fact, a completely new high-speed line, half of it on on level plains, with a maximum speed of 330 km/h, should allow a journey of under 3 h 30 min.