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Railroads in Albania

In 1991 Albania's 509 kilometers of standard-gauge rail lines linked Shkodër with Durres, Tirana, Elbasan, Pogradec, Ballsh, and Vlora. The country's only international rail link, opened in 1986 and connected Shkodër with Yugoslavia's rail system. Albania's communist government focused on developing new rail lines to serve mining regions and the coastal plain.

According to official figures, Albania's railroad in 1987 and 1988 carried about 33 percent of the country's total freight tonnage for that period. The opening of the rail link with Yugoslavia facilitated the movement of goods to Europe, and Yugoslav railroads reportedly shipped 174,300 tons of Albanian goods in the first half of 1990, a 19.4 percent increase over the first half of 1989.

None of Albania's railroads was electrified. In 1991 vandals and thieves caused so much damage to the tracks and rolling stock that the rail system's transport capacity was cut in half; operations later ceased altogether.

Rail Transport in Albania

The railways in Albania are administered by the national railway company Hekurudha Shqiptare (HSH) (which means Albanian Railways). It operates a 1435mm gauge (standard gauge) rail system in Albania. All trains are hauled by Czech-built ČKD diesel-electric locomotives.

The country's first standard gauge line was not built until 1947, although some narrow gauge lines were built earlier. There is one international link, with Montenegro, although this line (from Shkodra to Podgorica) is currently disused. The HSH passenger system consists of the following lines:
    • Shkodra-Milot-Durres-Rrogozhina-Fier-Vlora
    • Vora-Tirana
    • Rrogozhina-Elbasan-Pogradec

There are also several freight-only branch lines.
The railway system was extensively promoted by the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, during which time the use of private 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 Durres) which have taken much traffic away from the railways.

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 Shkodra to Tirana (98 kilometres) takes 3½ hours.
The UIC Country Code for the Albanian railway system is 41.

History of the Railway Lines in Albania

The first railway lines in Albania were military and mineral narrow gauge lines, built between the years 1917 and 1930 by Austro-Hungarians and Italians.

The construction of a standard gauge railway system started in 1947 and continued rapidly reaching its current size of 677 km in 1987.

The rail network extends from the Port of Durres, on the Adriatic sea, and runs in three directions: north to the Albania-Montenegro border at Hani Hotit, south to Ballshi and the Port of Vlora, and east to Pogradec, near the Macedonian border. The rail does cover the more populated residential and industrial areas.

The Albanian Railways were built during the period of centrally planned economy, where the government placed very strong restrictions on other modes of transportation. Car ownership was banned and, on roads parallel to the railway, bus traffic and freight movements over 11 km were prohibited.

There were a number of manufacturing industries and a very active mining industry supplying Eastern European industries, through the railway connection with Montenegro, the only connection between HSH and the European railway network, only for the freight transport.

With the political and economic changes of the 1990’s the country’s transportation requirements have changed dramatically. There has been a rapid growth of private trucking and bus services and especially of private cars that have diverted the traffic from the railway. Many state owned factories and mines have closed, reducing seriously the railway traffic.

In this new transport climate, the Albanian Railways are making great efforts to become a marked oriented enterprise to face the challenges of time.

The main priority is the realization of the railway connection with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, part of Trans-European Corridor VIII. Important Historical Moments

  • November 1947 - Opening of the first standard gauge railway line (Durres 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.

  • Main Data Related to Railways in Albania

    • Gauge: the whole network is of standard gauge of 1 435mm.
    • Length: 447 km main line, 230 km secondary lines
    • Track: single
    • Electrification: no electrified section
    • Traction: CKD diesel electric locomotives of Class T-669.1, with 1.350 hp, for passenger and freight operations
    • Maximum designed speeds: up to 80 km/h for passenger and
    freight operations
    • Maximum axle-load: 20 tons per axle.
    • Weight per ml: 8 tons
    • Static maximum loading gauge: B (according to RIV standards)
    • Designed minimum radius: 500 m, 300 m for mountainous zones
    • Maximum gradient: 9 0/00 and up to 18 0/00 for mountainous
    • Types of rails: S-49 with 49.43 kg/ml and P-43 with 44.61 kg/ml
    • Types of sleepers: wooden sleepers, bi-block concrete sleepers

    HSH is member of:

    - The International Union of Railways - UIC
    - The International Rail Transport Committee - CIT
    - The South-east Europe Railways Group - SERG

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