Railway line between Serbia and Hungary opens for passenger trains after 8 years of closure

First trip of the train between Hungary and Serbia on 28 November 2023 MÁV

After 8 years, rail passenger transport between Szeged in Southern Hungary and Serbian town Szabadka started up again on November 28, announced Hungarian State Railways. Five pairs of passenger trains per day now run between the two countries.

Between Szeged-Rendező and the border near Röszke in Hungary, more than 13 kilometres of the railway track and its surroundings have been renewed. Freight trains have been running on the section since August last year, and passenger traffic has been able to start since 28 November.

János Lázár, the Hungarian Minister of Construction and Transport, described the Szeged-Szabadka railway line as a railway line of unity as a passenger of the first trip. “This railway line is a railway of solidarity, symbolising the solidarity, common past and future of Hungary and Serbia. But it is more than just a symbol: it is a real help in everyday life for students and workers who regularly commute between the two countries, and of course for families trying to keep in touch with their loved ones across the border. An important step: the beginning of a new era of cooperation between the two countries.”

First trip of the train between Hungary and Serbia on 28 November 2023 with Hungarian Transport Minister János Lázár on the right

There is one other railway line in use between Serbia and Hungary, which runs vertically between Budapest and Belgrade and also passes Szabadka. The recently reopened one runs northeastward from Szabadka however, towards Hungary’s third largest city Szeged.

Hungarian and Serbian trains

There are five pairs (or ten trains a day) between the two countries, four of which are served by Hungarian and six by Serbian Uzsgyi trains. The journey time between Szeged and Subotica is about one and a half hours, including border controls. The first train from Szeged departs at 5:19 and arrives in Subotica at 7:00, and from Subotica departs at 6:03 and arrives in Szeged at 7:25, ensuring the morning rush hour. With the timetable, a day trip from the capital to Subotica or Palic can be planned with the Sunshine IC departing from Budapest-Nyugati at 5:53 and arriving at 21:07.

The start of passenger traffic, originally planned for October 23, 2023, had to be postponed due to contractor deficiencies related to the installation and commissioning of the safety equipment at the time. In order to start the test operation, the deficiencies in the error list had to be filled and the permits had to be obtained.

Reconstruction works of the railway line on the Hungarian side, for which a 210-tonne, SMD-80 type track building and rebuilding machine was used

Transformation of the railway line

As part of the investment, the Röszke station was completely transformed, a new barrier-free elevated platform was built, and new rain shelters were installed on the platforms In the area of ​​Szeged, a noise protection wall was built with a length of approximately 1,408 meters. Railroad crossings with light and semi-barriers have also been built and are being built on the railway line section. The investment to improve the Szeged-Szabadka railway line should be fully completed in 2025. Until then, in accordance with the provisions of the environmental protection permit, freight trains may continue to run at a reduced speed of only 60 kilometres per hour, according to the Hungarian Railways. The speed of passenger trains can be increased in several stages by completing the remaining construction tasks.

Speaking on behalf of the Hungarian state-owned railways, Zoltán Pafféri, CEO of MÁV Zrt said: “Close and efficient cooperation of Hungarian and Serbian railway experts was necessary to resume not only freight traffic but also passenger traffic on this line after eight years of interruption, with a schedule – no less than 5 train pairs per day – that can serve the real mobility needs. Thank you to all railway workers, both at the border and beyond.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

Former Editor RailTech.com

1 comment op “Railway line between Serbia and Hungary opens for passenger trains after 8 years of closure”

Roland Bol|01.12.23|14:54

Szabadka is the Hungarian name for the Serbian town Subotica. The article uses both names.

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