Transport in Albania
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2009)|
Transport in Albania had been rather undeveloped during the Communist period (between 1945 and 1990), after which the country has had to make significant investment into transport infrastructure.
- 1 History
- 2 Highways, Expressways or Freeways
- 3 Railways
- 4 Waterways
- 5 Pipelines
- 6 Ports and Harbors
- 7 Merchant Marine
- 8 Airways
- 9 Airports
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Since antiquity, the area of modern Albania served as a crossroad of important caravan routes such as the Roman Via Egnatia linking the Adriatic with Byzantium (later Constantinople). Afterwards during World War I, occupying forces opened up new road sections mainly in the mountainous areas of the country. In King Zog's period, further road construction took place for instance at Krraba Pass between Tirana and Elbasan. The total length of Albania's roads more than doubled in the first three decades after World War II, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote mountain areas were connected, either by dirt or paved roads, with the capital city of Tirana, and ports on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. Private car ownership was not allowed and the only vehicles circulating were state-owned trucks, agricultural and official's vehicles, buses, motorcycles, and bicycles. The country's roads, however, were generally narrow, poorly marked, pocked with holes, and in the early 1990s often crowded with pedestrians and people riding mules, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts.
After 1947, a significant infrastructure undertaking was the construction of the country's rail network as Albania was considered as the only state in Europe not to have standard rail service. By 1987, 677 km of railway were constructed in total linking the main urban and industrial centers for the first time since the end of World War II. Train transport was the main public transportation method until 1990. After the collapse of Communism, the network fell into disregard, operating with second-hand carriages in a constant precarious state.
Central government funding of local road maintenance effectively ended in 1991, and the breakdown of repair vehicles because of a lack of spare parts threatened to close access to some remote areas. A group of Greek construction companies signed a protocol with the Albanian government in July 1990 to build a 200 kilometer road across the southern part of the country, extending from the Albanian-Greek border to Durrës. The project was scheduled to last four years and cost US$500 million. Despite the poor quality of Albania's roads, most of the country's freight was conveyed over them in a fleet of about 15,000 trucks. According to official figures, in 1987 Albania's roadways carried about 66 percent of the country's total freight tonnage.
Up until 1991, the total number of cars in Albania was between 5000 to 7000. In 1991, the Albanian government lifted the decades-old ban on private-vehicle ownership. As a result, car imports numbered about 1,500 per month. Traffic in the capital remained light, but traffic lights and other control devices were urgently needed to deal with the multiplying number of privately owned cars. Albanian entrepreneurs also imported used Greek buses and started carrying passengers on intercity routes that did not exist or had been poorly serviced during the communist era. The population is known for owning a large fleet of German cars. In particular, Mercedes Benz vehicles are widely preferred not only for their status symbol, but also for their durability on rural roads where half of the population resides, and the cheap price for buying used ones. Mercedes Benz cars were owned by Enver Hoxha and reportedly favored by his officials, giving the brand a foothold even before private ownership of cars was legalized. Air pollution has become a pressing concern as the number of cars has increased to over 300,000 in the capital Tirana. These are mostly 1990s and early 2000s diesel cars, while it is widely believed that the fuel used in Albania contains larger amounts of sulfur and lead than in the European Union. Albania is probably one of the few countries in Europe where vehicles imported from the United States, and from left hand traffic jurisdictions (for example the United Kingdom) can be found on the streets without any modifications brought from expats living abroad.
Since the beginning of the transition, foreign donors have funded no less than ten urban transport plans and studies for Tirana, prepared mainly by foreign consultants (in some cases invited by the City, in others hired directly by the donor organization). In most cases, the principal recommendation of these studies was to strengthen the public transport sector.
Highways, Expressways or Freeways
- Total: 18,000 km
- Paved: 12,920 km
- Unpaved: 5,080 km (2002 est.) 
country comparison to the world: 118
After the fall of communism in 1991, Albania began to revamp its primitive road infrastructure by building the first highway in Albania, SH2 connecting Tirane with Durres. Since the 2000s, main roadways have drastically improved, though lacking standards in design and road safety. This involved the construction of new roadways and the putting of contemporary signs. However, some state roads continue to deteriorate from lack of maintenance while others remain unfinished.
The biggest road project in the history of Albania is the construction of the Rrëshen-Kalimash dual carriageway from 2007 to 2010 linking Albania with Kosovo and part of the A1 Motorway. The segment involved the carving of a mountainous terrain, and the construction of a 5.6 km long tunnel and dozens of bridges. In October 2010, Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced plans to build several major highways.
At present, major cities are linked with either new single/dual carriageways or well maintained roads. There is a dual carriageway connecting the port city of Durrës with Tirana, Vlorë, and partially Kukës. In fact, there are three official motorway segments in Albania: Thumanë-Milot-Rrëshen-Kalimash (A1), Levan-Vlorë (A2), and partly Tirane-Elbasan (A3). Most rural segments continue to remain in bad conditions as their reconstruction has only begun in the late 2000s by the Albanian Development Fund .
The major priority of the government in 2014 is the completion of unfinished roadways due to lack of funding. Another major priority is the completion of the Arbër Highway (Rruga e Arbërit) linking Tirana with the city of Debar (Republic of Macedonia) through the current SH6. Eventually, this superstradë will become part of European corridor 8 linking Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Greece. Another objective is the completion of the Tirana-Elbasan Highway Motorway (Autostradë) including the Krrabe Tunnel. Other important goals are the launch of toll highways, and the construction of the Southern Axis of Albania (Boshti i Jugut) passing across central and southern Albania. The completion of the Eastern Ring of Albania (Unaza Lindore) passing through Valbonë, Kukës, Krumë, Bulqizë and Librazhd is also a priority. In the mountainous areas, roads can be windy with numerous serpentines and hairpins. When all corridors are completed, Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with its neighbors.
Despite considerable investments, some dual carriageways are partially up to either motorway or state road standards as they are badly configured, contain unfinished overpasses, uncontrolled access points, lack of fencing and either misplaced or missing road signs, inadequate entry and exit ramps, and are indiscriminately used by animals, mopeds, agricultural vehicles, and pedestrians.
A new road system has been introduced in the last decade and is classified as follows:
All roads are property of Albanian Road Authority (Autoriteti Rrugor Shqiptar, former Drejtoria e Përgjithshme e Rrugëve)  and maintained by Ndërmarrja Shtetërore Rruga-Ura. The government plans to create some toll highways in the near future. Albanian bitumen from Selenicë in Southern Albania is well known for its quality as it has been used on some European motorways.
- Motorway roads:
- State roads:
- SH1 Road (Tiranë–Shkodër–Hani i Hotit MNE)
- SH2 Road (Tiranë–Durrës)
- Tiranë–Elbasan–Pogradec–Korçë–Kapshticë GR
- Durrës–Fier–Gjirokastër–Kakavijë GR
- Shkodër–Pukë–Kukës–Morinë RKS
- Qafë Thanë/Kjafasan MK - SH3
- Vorë–Fushë Krujë
- SH75 Korçë-Ersekë-Përmet-Këlcyrë-Tepelenë
In recent years, a major road construction spree took place on the main state roads of Albania, including improving road signage, planting of trees, and greening projects. Works on most highways are mostly completed, though they remained unfinished between 2011 and 2013 as per lack of funds.
2006 - present
Below is a list of main roadways undergoing construction works in the last decade. Most works are completed as of 2015, though some are still underway:
- Fier Bypass started in 2013: Autostradë
- Rrogozhina Bypass
- Durres Bypass (Shkozet)
- Shkoder Bypass
- Fushe Kruje – Milot – Rreshen - Kalimash - Kukes – Morine: Autostradë
- Levan (Fier) - Vlorë: Autostradë, part of European Corridor 8. (24.20 km)
- Tirana - Elbasan: Autostrade
- Shkoder – Hani Hotit MNE
- Lezhë - Milot: Resurfacing
- Lin - Pogradec: Superstradë
- Korçë - Qafë Plloçë: Superstradë (29 km)
- Levan (Fier) - Tepelenë: Superstradë (70 km)
- Durrës - Rrogozhinë: Autostradë (35 km)
- Tepelenë - Gjirokastër: Superstradë
- Lushnjë - Fier: Autostradë, part of European Corridor 8 (21.70 km)
- Himarë - Sarandë: Superstradë
- SH20 Hani Hotit - Tamarë; Vermosh - Dogana MNE
- SH21 Koplik - Dedaj - Bogë: Rrugë
- SH22 Fierzë - Bajram Curri
- SH22 Bajram Curri - Tropojë: Superstradë
- K22 Valbonë - Dragobi - Bajram Curri
- SH38 Fushë Krujë - Krujë: Superstradë
- SH42 Dedaj - Razëm: Rrugë
- SH61 Tiranë- Brar Canyon - Dibër, part of Arbër Highway: Superstradë
- SH72 Lushnje - Berat
- SH81 Sarandë - Butrint: Superstradë
- Southwest Tirana Outer Ring: Autostradë
- Berat - Elbasan: Superstradë
- Qukës - Qafë Plloçë: Rrugë
- Ura e Kardhiqit - Sarandë: Rrugë
- Sarandë - Qafë Botë GR: Superstradë
- Bajram Curri - Margegaj: Superstradë
- Most coastal roads
- Other rural segments
- Qafa e Llogorasë
- Rrogozhinë-Peqin-Elbasan-Përrenjas-Qafë Thanë MK
Albania is the only country in Europe not participating in the E-road network most probably from its still unfinished road network and long isolation. However in 2006, Albania joined the E-road cooperation but did not ratify the AGR (European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries) treaty. As a result, the following routes only formally pass through the country. Thus, information in parentheses is tentative:
- E86: Albania (Lin - Pogradec - Korçë) → Krystallopigi – Flórina – Vévi – Géfira
- E762: Sarajevo – Podgorica → Albania (Hani i Hotit - Shkodër - Tiranë)
- E851: Petrovac → Albania (Muriqan - Shkodër - Milot - Rrëshen - Kukës) – Prizren – Pristina
- E852: Ohrid → Albania (Qafë Thanë - Elbasan - Tiranë)
- E853: Ioannina → Albania (Kakavijë - Gjirokastër - Fier - Durrës)
- Pan-European Corridor VIII: Durrës – Rrogozhine – Elbasan - Skopje - Pernik - Sofia - Plovdiv - Burgas - Varna.
Public transport and driving in Albania
Public transport in Albania is mainly characterized by the use of furgons, the equivalent of minibuses, vans or shuttles identifiable by yellow plates. They are convenient but do not follow fixed schedules, and are not usually equipped with A/C. Prices can be negotiated with the driver before departing. Bus transport is also available but they are usually older and slow. Tirana, the capital city does not have yet a central bus station. Minibuses and buses drop off and pick up passengers from various fixed places around the city and on route, while stopping for coffee breaks along the way.
Despite the perceived negative connotation to driving in Albania, most vehicles manage not to get into accidents by simply exercising common sense, and following their own way through the chaotic traffic. The law of the strongest fully applies on the Albanian roads. In cities, traffic is slow thus more secure than in rural areas. Expect reckless driving such as hair-raising overtaking even on turns, driving on the wrong side of the road, stopping on highways by the road side, uncontrolled crossing of cars, horse-drawn carts and pedestrians, and complete ignoring of stop signs and right of way at intersections. Albanian drivers are prone to using visual and acoustic aids regularly such as honking, headlight flashing, or high beams at night. Daytime running lamps must be activated outside urban areas. It is strongly recommended to have an up-to-date GPS, as many new roads have been recently added to the Albanian road network. In case the GPS does not work, its good to have an alternative paper or internet-based map. Street names on the ground do not always coincide with maps, as the current address system has only recently been introduced. In the mountains, some roads can be narrow and windy with hairpins/serpentines and missing guardrails. Drivers are encouraged to check engine liquid levels to avoid overheating in the summer months. Some roads still have few road signs or misleading ones. Its strongly advised to always keep a spare tire.
As vehicles more than doubled in recent years, traffic fatalities have increased especially in a country where private car ownership was banned until the early 1990s. Some experts also attribute the increase to the above road structural problems, lack of buckling up, the use of alcohol, excessive speed, and unaccustomed drivers such as expats returning home. In an effort to curb such a phenomenon, mobile police patrols have been deployed, road signage improved, and speed radars installed on major roadways and city intersections.
Total: 447 km
country comparison to the world: 120
Standard gauge: 447 km 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) gauge (2006)
Railway links with neighbouring countries:
Albania's main seaports are Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë, and Shëngjin. By 1983 there was regular ferry, freight, and passenger services from Durrës to Trieste, Italy. In 1988 ferry service was established between Sarandë and the Greek island of Corfu. A regular lake ferry linked the Macedonian town of Ohrid with Pogradec. The estimated total displacement of Albania's merchant fleet was 56,000 tons in 1986. The limited capacity of the wharves at Durrës caused severe bottlenecks in the distribution of foreign food aid in 1991. As of 2011, the Port of Durrës is undergoing major renovations.
Ferry services within Albania:
- Lake Komani Ferry operates between Koman and Fierza in Northern Albania
- Butrint Cable Ferry crosses the Vivari Channel at Butrint in Southern Albania
- Karaburun Ferry operates since 2014 between Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island along the Albanian Riviera in southern Albania  (seasonal)
- Crude oil 207 km (129 mi); natural gas 229 km (142 mi) (2008)
The construction of 1.2 billion dollar AMBO pipeline was planned to begin in 2007. This would connect the port of Burgas in Bulgaria with the port of Vlora in Albania. It is expected to ship 750,000 barrels (119,000 m3) to 1,000,000 barrels (160,000 m3) of crude oil each day. However, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline seems more likely to get started.
Ports and Harbors
|Port of Durrës (under expansion as of 2012)||Durrës County||www
|Port of Sarandë (under expansion as of 2012)||Vlorë County||www
|Port of Shëngjin (under expansion as of 2012)||Lezhë County||www
|Port of Vlorë (under expansion as of 2013)||Vlorë County||www
|Orikum Marina||Vlorë County||www
|Himara Harbour (domestic only)||Vlorë County||www
- Total: 24
country comparison to the world: 91
|Statistics for the shipping industry of Albania|
|Total: 7 ships (1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over)|
|Totalling: 13,423 GRT/20,837 metric tons deadweight (DWT)|
|Source: This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.|
In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece, opening the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to fly into Albania. By 1991 Tirana had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zürich, Vienna, and Budapest. Tirana was served by a small airport, Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza, located twenty-eight kilometers from the capital at the village of Rinas. Albania had no regular domestic air service. A Franco-Albanian joint venture launched Albania's first private airline, Ada Air, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days each week between Tirana and Bari, Italy, and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.
As of 2007 Albania has only one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. In December 2007 it served over 1 million passengers and had 43 landings and takeoffs per day.
- Total: 8 (2008)
Tirana International Airport is the only international airport in Albania. In 2005, TIA was given to an American-German consortium for a 20-year concession period. Despite the considerable modernization of the airport, prices are among the highest in Europe as per the monopoly over Albanian airspace, and limited carrier choices. As a result, low cost carriers are discouraged from entering the Albanian market, while neighboring countries offer much lower prices from their primary and secondary airports.
A number of regional airports have been renovated but are not operational. In 2014, it was announced that a new airport would be built in Southern Albania in the future. Kukës Airport was opened in 2008, making this the second civilian airport in Albania. A local news paper announced on March 16, 2007 that the Italian government would help rebuild the airport in Gjirokastër. The airport would be dual functional, both a civilian and military airport. Currently there are two feasibility studies being conducted for airports in Vlora and Korça. The plan for Saranda Airport was completed however there is no known investor willing to put in money at the time.
Total paved runways
- RWY 16 APPR 151°/RWY 34 APPR 331° Length 2800 m x 60 m
- RWY 17 APPR 167°/RWY 35 APPR 347° Length 2200 m x 25 m
- RWY 14 APPR 134°/RWY 32 APPR 314° Length 2840 m x 65 m
- RWY 19 APPR 192°/RWY 01 APPR 012° Length 1800 m x 45 m
- RWY 18 APPR 176°/RWY 36 APPR 356° Length 2750 m x 45 m
Total unpaved runways
- total: 5 (2008)
- over 3,047 m: 1
- 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
- 914 to 1,523 m: 1
- under 914 m: 1
- Total: 1 (2007)
- Tourism in Albania
- Border crossings of Albania
- Vehicle registration plates of Albania
- Driving licence in Albania
- Adriatic-Ionian motorway
- Hekurudha Shqiptare
- "Business: Albania to focus on new roads (SETimes.com)". 2010-10-15. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
- Identification of Roads Servicing International Traffic (E-Roads) (in accordance with Article 6 of the MoU)
- Kurani, Edison (8 September 2014). "Albania among the countries with the cheapest transport. Maybe because it doesn’t exist?". BalkanEU.com.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Transport in Albania.|
- Albanian Road Developments on Skyscrapercity Forum
- Public transportation in Albania (timetables and maps)
- Albanian Transport History
- Albanian Road Network History TV Documentary
- Freytag-Berndt Road Map of Albania
- Vektor Editions Albanian City Maps
- ARRSH - Albanian Road Authority Official Website (Albanian)
- MTI - Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure of Albania Official Website
- Tirana International Airport Official Website
- FSHZH - Albanian Development Fund Official Website
- Decentralization and Local Development Programme of Albania Official Website