Croatian rail moves up a gear
The modernisation of the Vinkovci to Tovarnik section of the Zagreb to Belgrade railway is part of a broader sustainable development strategy to improve connections between Croatian regions, create a 'crossborder effect' with Serbia and bring the Balkans closer to the rest of Europe.
The Zagreb to Belgrade railway forms part of the Trans European Network Corridor X, going from Salzburg to Thessalonica. The section of line concerned by the project lies between Vinkovci, 256 km east of Zagreb, and Tovarnik, on the border with Serbia. It covers a total distance of 33,5 km, through the Vukovarsko-Srijemska region of Eastern Slavonia. This section of the line was severely damaged during the war with Serbia and its repair and modernisation is a high priority for Croatia: it connects the richest agricultural regions of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem with the largest industrial and consumer centres of central Croatia (Zagreb, Sisak, Karlovac), and with the ports of the Adriatic and the tourist destinations on the Croatian coast.
The line was last overhauled in 1974 and the overhead electrification equipment was renewed in 2000, following war damage. However, the current maximum speed along the section is just 40-60 km/h, due mainly to the absence of an automatic signalling system.
The main objectives of the project are: to improve the line capacity and speed capability; to facilitate growth in national and international passenger rail traffic; to accommodate greater volumes of international freight (46% of Croatia’s rail freight is export oriented); and to increase cross-border passenger and freight traffic between Croatia and Serbia.
The modernisation and reconstruction work includes the complete replacement of the tracks and sub-base, the modernisation of 12 level crossings and 10 railway stations and halts, the installation of new signalling, safety and communications equipment, the provision of drainage, and the realignment of overhead power lines along the route.
The redevelopment of the line will result in a speed capability of 160 km/h. This will considerably reduce passenger and freight travel time along this section (25 minutes less on average) and lead to a corresponding increase in throughput.
Safety of rail and road traffic will also be considerably improved: rail through the restoration of a modern automatic train protection system; and road by eliminating open unprotected crossings with no barriers or traffic lights and upgrading other crossings to current automatic half barrier standards.
"As the whole line on corridor X will be modernized gradually with the new IPA programme for Croatia, the speed and capacity increase should attract more traffic and we expect to restore the pre-war traffic volumes", says Zrinka Ivanovic Kelemen, Project Manager.