Regional line Pančevo – Titel – Novi Sad

Novi Sad (population 250 000) is the capital of the Vojvodina region. It is connected to Zrenjanin, the region’s third city, Serbian rail lines 31 and 40. Passengers travelled indirectly via Titel and Orlovat: first north-west, then eastwards, and then back north-west to Zrenjanin. The route is de facto abandoned.

The railway bridge over the Tisa at Titel: image by Marek Ślusarczyk, CC 3.0 licence

038_Titel,_Knicanin,_Tisa,_Danube_-_Serbia

A new direct line via Žabalj was proposed here earlier. It would use a new eastern exit from Novi Sad station, shared for about 4 km with the proposed regional line Szeged – Bečej – Novi Sad.

That would also shorten the line to Titel. It could remain as a regional line, but it would be more effective to extend it toward the Belgrade region. The proposal here is to extend it south-east to Pančevo (population 77 000), rather than Belgrade itself. The reason is simply that the line would serve more people. The region directly north of Belgrade is largely empty. It is former marshland, the Pančevački Rit, lying between the Danube and the Tamiš River.

Click to enlarge: former marshes, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of 1897, with German and Hungarian place names.

Pancevacki Rit

The marsh was reclaimed for agriculture, and there is now some suburban development, but it is concentrated at the south end, within 5 km of Belgrade. More development is planned, but it would be more effectively served by the regional metro BG-Voz, or by a branch of the long-planned Belgrade Metro. The line proposed here is not a regional or urban metro. It is also not intended as a link between Novi Sad and Belgrade: there is already a direct line, and a parallel high-speed line was proposed here earlier. In any case, Pančevo itself would become a major interchange station, with the construction of the proposed northern bypass of Belgrade.

The most logical option is to extend a regional line, as a regional line. The new Titel – Pančevo section would be similar in function to the existing line Novi Sad – Titel, serving villages about 4 – 8 km apart. The new section runs parallel to the Tamiš River for about 35 km, and the villages lie on that river.

Titel - Pancevo line

Trains to Pančevo would use the proposed new north-eastern exit line from Novi Sad station. That is primarily intended for the new line to Zrenjanin, and it would follow the main road, crossing the DTD Canal. Trains would rejoin the existing Titel line near the village of Kać. The first 10 km of the route would therefore be on new alignment, avoiding the present detour north of Novi Sad. Trains would continue toward Titel on an upgraded and electrified line. (Electrification is not a precondition, but it is not worth building a new low-quality line).

Novi Sad north exit line

At Titel, trains would cross the Tisa River: via the new exit line, the bridge is 44 km from Novi Sad station. The new alignment to Pančevo would diverge from the existing line, about 2 km east of the Tisa bridge. It would run south-east to Čenta, pass south of that village, and then and east of Opovo.

The alignment would pass east of the smaller villages of Sefkerin and Glogonj, and then west of Jabuka. Here it would cross the river Tamiš into the Pančevački Rit. On the outskirts of Pančevo, it would join the existing line from Belgrade, which crosses the Tamiš again. There would be 42 km of new alignment between Titel and Pančevo, with five new stations at the named villages, which have about 3000 to 6000 inhabitants.

From the junction, it is another 2 km to the Main Station at Pančevo. Trains would enter the station from the west, so they could continue to the “Town Station” (Pančevo Varoš), closer to the city centre. At the Main Station, there would be interchange with the proposed northern bypass of Belgrade, and with InterCity and regional trains to Belgrade.

Jabuka - Pancevo

The new Novi Sad – Titel – Pančevo line would be 90 km long, with over half on new alignment. On the existing line to Titel it would have six intermediate stations, at Kać, Budisava, Šajkaš, Vilovo, Lok, and Titel (with Knićanin 7000 inhabitants). The total population served is about 30 000 on the line to Titel, and 20 000 from there to Pančevo. Given the proximity of the villages to Novi Sad and Pančevo, that would be sufficient to justify the line. Between Novi Sad and Titel, and from Čenta to Pančevo, the line would carry commuter traffic.

Near both cities, trains would share track with other services, so a pure light-rail service is not an option. On most of the line however, a simple single-track regional line is sufficient, so the proposed infrastructure is not excessive. It is appropriate for the Vojvodina, a flat agricultural region with large villages in linear patterns. The line should have two tracks at all stations, and if necessary some double-track sections, to allow 30-minute interval services in both directions. With 11 intermediate stations, modern light trains, and half the line on new alignment, journey time should be about about 90 minutes.

Regional line Pančevo – Titel – Novi Sad

Sombor – Osijek inter-regional line

This an alternative to the earlier proposal for a Sombor – Vinkovci inter-regional line. By constructing a new line across the Danube at Apatin, the route can serve both Osijek and Vinkovci, avoiding an extra interchange.

The earlier proposal: 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.

Sombor - Vinkovci line options

This direct Sombor – Osijek variant requires a new rail line across the Kopački rit nature reserve, on the Danube floodplain. It does not require an extra crossing of the Danube, however, and the alignment is simpler and shorter. If the impact on the terrain can be minimised, then this direct alignment seems preferable. In practice, that would mean a long section on viaduct, comparable to some sections of high-speed line (HSL) in China.

Function

The line is intended as part of an inter-regional route from Szeged. Between Subotica and Szeged, trains would use the proposed high-speed line Baja – Subotica – Szeged. Sombor would be linked to Subotica by an upgraded 60-km line. These two are aligned north-east to south-west, and it is logical to extend the route to either Osijek, Vinkovci, or Vukovar.

SzSuSAO

There is an existing line, through Dalj, but it is indirect. The earlier proposal for a Sombor – Vinkovci line would have shortened the route, but does not serve Osijek. In geographical terms the most logical alignment is certainly Szeged – Subotica – Sombor – Osijek, since they are almost in a straight line. This also has the advantage of sharing the proposed high-speed line into Osijek from the North, HSL Pécs – Osijek – Vinkovci, which might use a new tunnel under the Drava.

Sombor is on the proposed HSL Budapest – Szekszárd – Novi Sad. The Szeged – Osijek route would also connect there with the line to Vrbas, Serbian line 25.

The lines around Sombor, with proposed HSL…

New HSL Budapest - Baja - Novi Sad at Sombor, and regional lines.

At Osijek, the new line from Sombor would connect to the proposed Nova Gradiška – Požega – Osijek line, to the existing Drava plain line from Varaždin via Nasice (Croatian line R202), to the existing line to Djakovo (line M302), and to the proposed regional line Osijek – Odžaci – Novi Sad. South of Osijek, trains from Szeged and Sombor would again use the proposed HSL from Pécs, on a new alignment to Vinkovci, a major rail junction. The diagram shows proposed HSL and regional lines:

High-speed lines to / from Vinkovci

Vinkovci would be served by the proposed middle Sava high-speed line from Zagreb , the proposed Drava plain high-speed line and its extension to Novi Sad. With Vinkovci as terminus, the new route from Szeged would offer the same connections as the earlier proposed version.

The Sombor – Osijek route would create a new link across the rivers Danube and Drava, which are a historical barrier. Until the 20th century, the zone between Apatin and Osijek was marsh, with old Danube meanders. There is no historic road or railway across these marshes: all routes detour around the Danube bend at Erdut. Sombor and Apatin are in the Bačka region east of the Danube The western bank opposite Apatin is in Croatian Baranya, and Osijek itself is in Slavonia, south of the Drava.

Alignment

The new Sombor – Osijek route would be 45 km long, almost all of it on new alignment. Although the Sombor – Osijek section could be built to lower standards, the other sections would be new, or upgraded to the standards of the German Ausbaustrecken. It is therefore logical to design the Sombor – Osijek line for comparable speeds, 200 km/h or more. In practice, it will make little difference, since 150 km/h is standard for new lines in Europe anyway. There would be only one intermediate station, at Apatin (population 17 000).

The line would start at Sombor station, following the 1870 Sombor – Dalj – Osijek line. After leaving Sombor, that line turns south, towards the bridge at Erdut. Here, the new alignment would leave the existing railway, and run straight toward the western side of Apatin. It would follow only part of the 1912 branch line to Apatin, now Serbian Line 24. Most of Line 24 would be abandoned, except possibly on the western edge of Apatin – the new line would at least run parallel to the old line.

Sombor - Apatin

The new station in Apatin would preferably be close to the old station, and about 18 km from Sombor. The station would be on viaduct, because the line would climb here toward a Danube bridge (about 500 m from the station). The line would also turn here, to cross the Danube channel approximately at right angles.

On the west bank, the line would continue on viaduct through the marsh zone, heading toward Vardarac. The alignment shown follows an old drainage canal, but there is no definitive version. After it leaves the Kopački rit nature reserve, the line would run between Kopačevo and Bilje, toward the rail bridge at Osijek.

apatin - osijek

Approaching Osijek, the line would run parallel to the Bilje road. Close to the Drava, it would join the new HSL Pécs – Osijek, and then cross the river on a new bridge. If the HSL from Pécs crossed the Drava in tunnel, that junction would be further west, but that has little impact on the alignment as a whole. Assuming a bridge crossing, trains from the new line would share an upgraded line into Osijek station, about 2500 m from the Drava bridge.

With an almost entirely new alignment, the journey time should be about 23 minutes from Sombor to Osijek, including one stop at Apatin.

Sombor – Osijek inter-regional line