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Budapest-Belgrade Railway Line: A Miracle Happens, Construction Could Finish Six Months Early

Previously, there were reports of delays in the renovation of the railway line.
However, recent revelations suggest that if all goes according to plan, the construction of the Hungarian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway, the complete renovation of Line 150, may soon come to an end. This would mean that travelling the distance between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals could be done in just 2 hours and 40 minutes.

A new, even earlier completion date for the Hungarian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line has been announced.

As before, the source of the latest date is the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic. President Vucic shared details about the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line during an interview with the Chinese broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) at the end of February. CGTN is a relatively new, state-owned Chinese television station (owned by China Media Group), which began its operation on December 31, 2016.

In the interview, Serbia’s leader disclosed specific information about the Budapest-Belgrade railway line’s construction timeline.

WHEN WILL THE BUDAPEST-BELGRADE RAILWAY LINE BE COMPLETED?

Firstly, Aleksandar Vucic mentioned that China is a close friend of Serbia, and the Chinese and Serbian people have always maintained a good relationship. He highlighted the free trade agreement signed last October, which he believes will open a huge market for Serbian agricultural products – especially Serbian wine. The agreement would also enable the import of Chinese products at lower prices.

Later, he shared that Serbia's three largest partners are Chinese companies (with discussions ongoing about further investments in Serbia), and Chinese companies also play a prominent role in infrastructure developments. Prior to this discussion, President Vucic focused on the Budapest-Belgrade railway line. He confirmed that Serbia aims to finish the construction of the more than 180 kilometers long Belgrade-Subotica railway line by the end of 2024. Then he expressed hope that "our Hungarian friends will finish their side by the end of 2025 or by February-March 2026,

thus connecting Belgrade with Budapest and Vienna.” The newly announced date is particularly significant as it is at least six months earlier than previously known. The Serbian President had stated last October that the Hungarian section of the Budapest-Belgrade line would be completed by the summer of 2026 at the latest. It appears, then, that the work has progressed so well over the past six months that a completion by the end of 2025 is now possible.

WHY IS THE BUDAPEST-BELGRADE RAILWAY LINE IMPORTANT?

If all goes well, the Hungarian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line and the complete renovation of Line 150 could be finished by then. This means that the journey between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals could be made in just 2 hours and 40 minutes. Domestic long-distance trains would be able to make the journey from the Hungarian capital to Kelebia one hour faster, and suburban passengers in Budapest could expect a reduction of about twenty minutes in travel time to Kunszentmiklós–Tass.

And that’s not all, as the travel time for the Budapest-Vienna train route could be reduced to 2 hours by the turn of 2025-2026. Thus, it would take less than 5 hours to reach the Austrian capital from Belgrade by rail. However, the significance of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line goes beyond this.

The Hungarian section's development spans 152 kilometers with the construction of a double-track line covering a total of 339 track kilometers. The approved speed will increase to 160 kilometers per hour, and boarding and alighting will be barrier-free for passengers. Five new station buildings will be constructed, and eight existing buildings will be completely renovated. New pedestrian underpasses will be created, and new elevators will be installed throughout the line, modernizing passenger information and installing life and property protection equipment and platform surveillance cameras.

Yet, the primary significance of the Budapest-Belgrade line is not passenger transport but the cargo business sector.

The development will create a high-quality, direct connection for the transportation of Asian goods from the port of Piraeus. With this investment, Hungary will offer the fastest transportation route between the ports of Greece and Western Europe, streamlining the flow of goods from China, which previously traveled through various means. The goods transported by sea to the maritime port will now arrive in Europe by rail.

Critics often point to the long timeframe for the return on investment for the BuBe project, which, by some overly exaggerated calculations, could be several hundred years. However, the project is of strategic importance to both Hungary and Serbia as it is part of the unified European railway network (TEN-T) and the X corridor. The ongoing railway investment boom in the Balkan region highlights these corridors' key importance, closely aligning with the domestic section of the Budapest-Belgrade project.

Typically funded by Chinese sources and costing billions of euros, the new West Balkan railway infrastructure is motivated by the recognition that if it can connect with the Budapest-Belgrade project and its development sections south of Belgrade, the West Balkan transportation corridor will be significantly shorter than the main route of the east-east Mediterranean rail cargo transportation corridor.
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