Romania to study first high-speed railway and revamp rail infrastructure
Making use of the European funds to recover after the pandemic, Romania aims to improve rail infrastructure in order to eliminate speed bottlenecks. It will also launch a feasibility study for the country’s first high-speed railway. Lastly, sustainable rolling stock with ETCS signalling on board will be acquired. What do these plans look like exactly?
Romania has big plans to increase the use of the railways by investing in the infrastructure. By 2026, train ridership for passengers should be increased by 25 per cent, is the goal. The same goes for an increase in the volume of freight transportation by rail. These goals are set for Romania’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which was approved by the European Commission last year.
In total, 3.9 billion euros of the Recovery and Resilience Plan will go to rail, including modernising railways, but also to acquire electric or zero-emission rolling stock. Among this, the plan is to acquire 12 hydrogen-powered electric trainsets and 55 upgraded electric locomotives. 20 shunting locomotives will also be upgraded from diesel to electric and plug-in, and all purchases of new rolling stock will have European signalling system ETCS on board.
High-speed railway from Bucharest to Budapest
To realise the goal of increasing railway use by 25 per cent, an action plan for the development of the railway infrastructure and the modal shift of passenger and freight transport to the railways was launched. Part of the plans is that a feasibility study for the construction of the first high-speed railway in Romania will be conducted, which should be finished by 2026. The budget of the study is around 120 million euros.
The Romanian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure is interested in a high-speed rail connection of faster than 200 kilometres per hour, connecting Constanța and the Port of Constanța area with the Romanian capital Bucharest. It would further connect to the Hungarian capital Budapest and with the European railway network. The plan fits the European objective of doubling high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050.
For the high-speed train line that would link the national railway network of Central and Western Europe, the Ministry of Transport presents two variants. The first route is through the Olt Valley, passing Sibiu, Cluj and Oradea with a length of 590 kilometres and an estimated cost of 17 billion euros.
The other variant is a hybrid approach, which includes sections with a speed of 160 kilometres per hour for part of the route, for example at mountain crossings. Other sections would have speeds over 200 kilometres per hour, depending on the geographical aspects and economic profitability.
The feasibility study will include a cost-benefit analysis, look at servicing the main urban centres and growth poles in the southeast-northwest direction, and take into account the fact of not doubling other investments that have a similar objective, such as the ongoing modernisation of the Rhine-Danube railway corridor. Also, an analysis of geology, the impact on the environment is to be carried out on the basis of specific field studies. Lastly, the optimal operating speed of the trains will be predicted. The full study on the opportunity to build a high-speed line Constanța – Bucharest – Budapest should be finished by 2026. A preliminary report on the opportunity to build a high-speed line Constanța – Bucharest – Budapest should be finished in 2023.
Quick wins to increase speed
Another part of Romania’s Recovery and Resilience Plan is that a number of ‘Quick Wins’ for railway infrastructure across Romania will be undertaken. This refers to specific works to eliminate speed restrictions, increasing the speed of trains and improving safety on the railway. Speed restrictions are reduced through small-scale works consisting of improving the superstructure of the railway, such as rails, crossbeams, track devices, and ballast.
In total, on 2,426 kilometres of railway track, these “quick wins” will be undertaken, covered by the Resilience Plan. Additionally, 315 kilometres of rail track will be upgraded with ERTMS level 2, where speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour will be possible, and 110 kilometres of railway will be electrified. The Quick Wins projects will be followed by full modernisation projects, including the installation of ERTMS. They will be financed with funds from the Recovery and Resilience plans, but also with state budget and other funds.