1,000 km of Transylvanian railway now abandoned

If the trend from recent decades continues, traveling by train will become just a nice memory, as railways are being abandoned across Romania. In the past 30 years or so, road infrastructure has become the priority — although there are currently only 800 kilometers of highway in Romania —  and more than 1,700 kilometers of railway have become obsolete. The trend is the same in Transylvania, as the total length of abandoned railway track nears 1,000 kilometers.

In total, 25 railway lines have been abandoned, although a few of them are still in use for some heavy-goods transportation. But that’s about it.

As passengers vanished because they preferred to travel by car, so did the trains, and nature reclaimed the ground occupied by the railways.

A Maszol report identifies three major waves in the closing of railway lines operated by the Romanian National Railway Company CFR S.A.: 1997-1998, 2012, and 2018. A few private railway companies did appear to try to monetize the existing infrastructure, but to no avail.

The longest such obsolete railway line is located in Bihar/Bihor County. It is 109 kilometers long and originally connected Nagyvárad/Oradea to Vaskó/Vașcău, with a total travel time of four hours. The railway was technically already in poor condition during the communist era, but a landslide officially terminated the connection in 1998.

The Maros County alternative

As some of the unused infrastructure is narrow-gauge, an initiative from Károly Császár, a senator for the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its acronym of RMDSZ), aims to transform the abandoned real estate into a bicycle path in Maros/Mures County to foster tourism in the area.

The only railway line closed during the communist era was the 109 kilometers that connected Segesvár/Sighișoara to Nagyszeben/Sibiu, which had been originally opened in 1910.

The maximum speed reached by the train on this railway was 15 km/h in the 1960s, so in 1965 the line was closed and the track dismantled.

In 2018, the line connecting Brassó/Brasov and Bodzaforduló/Întorsura Buzăului was closed after the Bodola/ Budila (Brassó County) bridge collapsed. CFR has plans to rebuild the bridge, but plans also take willingness to see the project through. For instance, there was also a plan to rebuild a bridge located in Gradistea that collapsed in 2005. But 15 years have apparently not been enough to get the new bridge up and allow for a direct railway line between Bucharest and Giurgiu.

Title image: Part of the narrow-gauge railway in Maros County. Image credit: Vince Haáz/Székelyhon

Author: István Fekete