Rail transport in Albania

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HSH train on the Tirana-Durrës line

The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives. The system is considered by many travel guides as a tourist attraction and de facto a panoramic train journey.

History[edit]

The country's first standard gauge line was not built until 1947, although some narrow (decauville) gauge lines were built earlier during World War I. There is one international link with Montenegro, the Podgorica–Shkodër railway, which has only ever been used for freight traffic, and whose last station in Albania is the Bajzë Rail Station.

The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private motor transport was effectively prohibited.

Since the collapse of the former regime, there has been a considerable increase in car ownership and bus usage. Whilst some of the country's roads are still in a very poor condition, there have been other developments (such as the construction of a motorway between Tirana and Durrës) which have taken much traffic away from the railways.

Timeline[edit]

  • November 1947 - Opening of the first standard gauge railway line (Durrës to Peqin).
  • June 1957 - Introduction of diesel-electric locomotives.
  • July 1973 - Completion of the railway line from Elbasan to Prrenjas, the first Albanian line through the mountains.
  • September 1986 - First international rail freight (to and from Montenegro, then part of Yugoslavia).
  • 2000 - HSH ceases to be a state enterprise, becoming a limited company (although state owned).
  • 2005 - Other rail operators allowed track access.[citation needed]

The present day network[edit]

The HSH passenger system presently consists of the following lines:

The rails from the line Milot–RubikRrëshen have been partially removed to repair the line to Montenegro. The line should have led to the Nuclear Power Plant of Klos, but was never finished. Currently a new railway link is being built between Rrëshen and the border to Kosovo.

Prrenjas railway scrap yard

The Librazhd-Pogradec line, the most beautiful part of the Albanian railway network was closed for passenger traffic in 2012. The stored locomotives and wagons from Prrenjas are being moved to Elbasan. As a result, the railway is probably going to be dismantled, as it doesn't link any major cities.

There are several freight-only branch lines. Regular freight trains run between Podgorica and Shkodër every weekday (with an Albanian or a Montenegrean locomotive alternating daily) and between Durrës and the oil refinery at Ballsh about once a week. The Tirana-Shkodër and the Durrës-Elbasan lines are normally served by mixed trains.

Ice cream man on train

The country's rail system is in need of considerable investment. Some trains and railway equipment were damaged during the 1997 unrest in Albania. Virtually all the carriages now used have been obtained secondhand from other European railways and some are in a dilapidated condition. Although the official maximum speed limit is 80 km/h, the April 2007 edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable shows that a journey from Shkodër to Tirana (98 kilometres) takes 3½ hours. Many travel guides recommend taking the Albanian railway system for experiencing the peculiar atmosphere and beauty of the Albanian countryside.

Train between Librazhd and Prrenjas

Periodically, some lines do not run on full schedule due to naturally occurring landslides or from the stealing of rail track components for iron scrap.

The UIC Country Code for the Albanian railway system is 41.

Statistics[edit]

Usage of the railway network of Albania is declining year by year.[1]

Albania Railways annual statistics
1950 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1989 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Passengers in thousands 3.961 4.022 3.739 3.389 1.820 2.269 2.270 2.381 2.676 2.270 2.070 1.758 1.440 1.659 1.091 822 645 430 453 448 329
in milions pass.-kms 223 215 197 168 95 116 121 125 138 123 105 89 73 80 51 41 32 19 18 16 12
Freight in thousands tonnes 539 522 574 521 284 305 361 412 258 340 520 417 404 450 399 355 343 403 317 142 151
in milions ton.-kms 54 53 53 42 23 25 27 28 19 21 31 32 26 36 53 52 46 66 50 25 23
Network length[2] in kilometres 115 143 193 272 319 421 447

Rail links to adjacent countries[edit]

Neighbouring railways have the same gauge.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Railway transport of goods and passengers (1993-2013). INSTAT (Institute of Statistics). Tirana, Albania
  2. ^ Sako Z. Ilir MBA MSc (2008), Railway market: Albanian Railways - a difficult heritage

External links[edit]