IC246/247 Citadella: Ljubljana-Budapest Déli

jamesontheroad

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About twenty years ago, I caught the daily Citadella train from Murska Sobota to Ljubljana.

While doing some pandemic-times-armchair-Interrailing with the European Rail Timetable I was reminded of the train. After some YouTube and VagonWeb.cz searches I see that it still exists (in normal, non-COVID times) as a daily pair of trains from Ljubljana (09:25) to Budapest Déli (16:59) and return (09:00 - 16:37).

However, despite high standards of EuroCity trains that cross Slovenia between Germany, Austria and Croatia, this apparently major international intercity route is treated as a kind of declassified IC train in both Slovenia and Hungary. It has no catering or first class.

Did this train ever amount to a higher status EuroCity route? Is there a lack of commercial interest in offering a restaurant car or first class? There are no direct flights or (as far as I can tell) direct buses between the two cities.

Any thoughts, experiences or insights of the train are appreciated.
 
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CC 72100

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I used the train from Székesfehérvár to Budapest Déli in 2018 and was amazed and its standard for an apparently international route. It was still advertised under that name and was formed of a standard Hungarian M43 series electric loco with a load of ex German n-wagen stock.

Here it is arriving into Székesfehérvár - hopefully you can see on the screen that it is advertised as Citadella .

1622811742845.png

And on arrival at Budapest:

1622811800603.png
 

route101

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I've not use this service but have used the Budapest to Belgrade. Last time this a few MAV coaches and one Serbian open coach.
 

87015

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I used the train from Székesfehérvár to Budapest Déli in 2018 and was amazed and its standard for an apparently international route. It was still advertised under that name and was formed of a standard Hungarian M43 series electric loco with a load of ex German n-wagen stock.

Here it is arriving into Székesfehérvár - hopefully you can see on the screen that it is advertised as Citadella .

View attachment 97552

And on arrival at Budapest:

View attachment 97553
Is that two aircons on the back? Expect that is the Ljubljana portion and it was being shunted onto a Szombathely service at the time, it seems to vary between being a portion or not.

Not done it (and unlikely to!) since the 664s came off but it certainly always had a restaurant in those days, except the year it was running to/from Maribor that was two aircons and a full brake. Another case of a line upgrade being followed by a train downgrade by the looks of it if it hasn’t got one now!
 

CC 72100

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Is that two aircons on the back? Expect that is the Ljubljana portion and it was being shunted onto a Szombathely service at the time, it seems to vary between being a portion or not.

Not done it (and unlikely to!) since the 664s came off but it certainly always had a restaurant in those days, except the year it was running to/from Maribor that was two aircons and a full brake. Another case of a line upgrade being followed by a train downgrade by the looks of it if it hasn’t got one now!
Quite possibly - I travelled in the front coach and didn't walk down to the back, but certainly could well be as they look very similar to the standard MAV Intercity stock which does have air con (apparently).

I was more of a fan of the fresh air ventilation method as it was boiling during my whole time in Budapest!
 

jamesontheroad

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Thanks for the memories and photos.

Given the investment in other international routes, I would have expected it to offer more than a couple of second-class carriages. Some YouTube videos show it with as few as two, even pre-pandemic, before picking up some more in Hungary. It looks very much like both SZ and MAV regard it as a low-demand domestic route that only goes as far as their national border.

I’d love to sample it in its current form. I’m slightly afraid it could be upgraded and lose its charm!
 

HamworthyGoods

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I’d love to sample it in its current form. I’m slightly afraid it could be upgraded and lose its charm!

The Pragersko to Hodos section in Slovenia has been rebuilt beyond recognition in many places with total rebuilding of many stations and electrification.
 

70014IronDuke

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The Pragersko to Hodos section in Slovenia has been rebuilt beyond recognition in many places with total rebuilding of many stations and electrification.
Indeed, a massive amount of money spent on building subways instead of foot crossings for what is a lightly used, slow speed line (at least at stations like Ormoz). Bonkers.

Same could be said for the many wayside stations rebuilt on the Hungarian side between Zalaegerszeg and the border. Staggering sums of money for peanuts of passengers - but most of it was courtesy the European taxpayer and the construction companies were not complaining.

Sadly, there really is very little need for passenger travel between Ljubljana and Budapest. The two cities barely know one another. The former is linked economically to Munich/Southern Germany, and to a lesser extent, northern Italy, the latter is linked to Austria and Germany.

Back when the Hodos line was reopened, I think there were three trains a day over the route, but passenger traffic was light. Outside the summer and eurorailers with their rucksacks, I have counted the number of passengers crossing the border on two hands on regular weekdays.

The trains today take something like 8 hours, and driving takes about half that time, keeping to the speed limits. Beautiful ride through the Sava valley though, especially in Spring.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Indeed, a massive amount of money spent on building subways instead of foot crossings for what is a lightly used, slow speed line (at least at stations like Ormoz). Bonkers.
Isn't the upgrade largely for freight to/from Adriatic ports (Koper, particularly) for the TEN network?
That's also the basis for redualling Maribor-Graz.
There's also a new or rebuilt line planned to Koper.
All for cross-European container trains I think, mainly funded by the EU.
I suspect we will continue to contribute to those projects which were approved while we were an EU member, via the withdrawal agreement.
 

70014IronDuke

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Isn't the upgrade largely for freight to/from Adriatic ports (Koper, particularly) for the TEN network?
That's also the basis for redualling Maribor-Graz.
There's also a new or rebuilt line planned to Koper.
All for cross-European container trains I think, mainly funded by the EU.
I suspect we will continue to contribute to those projects which were approved while we were an EU member, via the withdrawal agreement.

Well, certainly to a large extent, yes - so then close all those silly stations, save the vast expense of rebuilding them, and run a decent bus service. Nobody ever uses the first two stations between Ormoz and Ljutomer, nor several of the tiny ones north of Ljutomer and Murska that I've seen, the service is so sparse it's useless in the modern world. Ditto on the Hun side, although the service is more frequent.
 

jamesontheroad

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From about 2003-08, SŽ drove one of their three ICS Pendolinos for a daily roundtrip to Ljubljana to Venice, taking about four hours each way.

(For an even shorter period 2004-05, it was extended to/from Maribor: Maribor d. 08:32 a. Venezia Santa Lucia 14:21; d. Venezia Santa Lucia 15:44 ar. Maribor 21:33).

I'm guessing that the ICS could do it faster because of the tilt, but perhaps extending the train to Venice could increase its appeal. Assuming 4-5 hours Ljubljana-Venice, the train could do the trip Venice-Budapest in about eleven or twelve hours.
 

dutchflyer

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Just for the record: in past times MAV on INTernational trains like this-or also into ROmania, had a domestic portion, often non-AC and detached at last (convenient) HU-stop, whereas the few through cars would have been to the prescribed MInimum standard=AC, but no need for restaurant or whatever. Into RO it might very well be possible that stop further-Inside RO, new Romanian CFR-cars would be attached! This also had to do with quite different rules for domestic and INternational tickets. In the past before SLO became independent, there was no passenger railline between that part of Yugoslavija and Hungary.
Here in NL NS also had for a year a train-in fact the AMSterdam_Hook of Hld boattrain labelled as EuroCity, but this had to forfeit the title as (and they knew this very well in advance) IC-VIRM set also dit not comply to the set EC minimum standard-and was also too slow.
 

The exile

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I've not use this service but have used the Budapest to Belgrade. Last time this a few MAV coaches and one Serbian open coach.
Interestingly this one is classified as EuroCity (or at least was in 2018). Among the criteria for this are: all air-conditioned stock , food service , stopping only at stations serving large cities. The photos I have don't show the food service (how do you photograph something that wasn't there), but clearly Hungary has a different definition of "large city").
IMG_2875.JPG
One of the many stops at "stations serving important cities": Tabdi - population 1196!

IMG_2877.JPG
OK - so this is an important city (Budapest) and at least the coaches are air-conditioned. What's more - it was actually working. I assume that it didn't continue its run to Vienna as only a 3-coach train!
 

LNW-GW Joint

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OK - so this is an important city (Budapest) and at least the coaches are air-conditioned. What's more - it was actually working. I assume that it didn't continue its run to Vienna as only a 3-coach train!
I used IC 342 Avala from Belgrade to Vienna 3 years ago (12 hours).
It started out (from the old station, in its last week of operation) as 3-car; it was still 3-car arriving in Budapest K, and was still 3-car on arrival in Wien Hbf.
The stock was then due to return in the night service, presumably with sleepers attached.
Today (when it runs), the service has been reduced to a Novi Sad-Budapest service (named Ivo Andric and without an IC moniker), as the line onwards to Belgrade is being rebuilt.
Hopefully when Budapest-Belgrade is finally upgraded to 160km/h (by Chinese and Russian contractors) it will return as a better train.
 

The exile

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I used IC 342 Avala from Belgrade to Vienna 3 years ago (12 hours).
It started out (from the old station, in its last week of operation) as 3-car; it was still 3-car arriving in Budapest K, and was still 3-car on arrival in Wien Hbf.
The stock was then due to return in the night service, presumably with sleepers attached.
Today (when it runs), the service has been reduced to a Novi Sad-Budapest service (named Ivo Andric and without an IC moniker), as the line onwards to Belgrade is being rebuilt.
Hopefully when Budapest-Belgrade is finally upgraded to 160km/h (by Chinese and Russian contractors) it will return as a better train.
That was about a month after my trip, then. Bit of contrast to the Budapest - Vienna railjets!
 

Austriantrain

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That was about a month after my trip, then. Bit of contrast to the Budapest - Vienna railjets!

Yes. Vienna - Budapest is mixed RJ/classic LHCS but in my experience the RJs are vastly more popular.

In addition to the often low speeds, very old unrefurbished rolling stock is often a deterrent on these routes.
 
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route101

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Interestingly this one is classified as EuroCity (or at least was in 2018). Among the criteria for this are: all air-conditioned stock , food service , stopping only at stations serving large cities. The photos I have don't show the food service (how do you photograph something that wasn't there), but clearly Hungary has a different definition of "large city").
View attachment 97862
One of the many stops at "stations serving important cities": Tabdi - population 1196!

View attachment 97861
OK - so this is an important city (Budapest) and at least the coaches are air-conditioned. What's more - it was actually working. I assume that it didn't continue its run to Vienna as only a 3-coach train!

I used the route in 2009 and 2015. First time was non air conditioned MAV compartment stock and second was 2 MAV coaches and 1 JR open coach.

In 2009 we passed the Avala northbound heading to Prague, think it was CD stock.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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After bit of digging, it seems the SI-HU route via Hodoš is part of TEN-T Corridor D, which explains some of the recent investment (resignalling, electrification).
The full corridor is: Valencia – Barcelona – Lyon – Turin – Milan – Trieste – Ljubljana – Budapest.
The national infrastructure agencies are supposed to be installing ETCS on the route, partly funded by the EU.
This explains the money spent on what in national terms are local lines with little cross-border traffic.
I suspect the linked station improvements are part of the EU rules for new/upgraded lines - you can see the same thing in Romania, for instance, where lines are being upgraded.
 

Cloud Strife

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Well, certainly to a large extent, yes - so then close all those silly stations, save the vast expense of rebuilding them, and run a decent bus service. Nobody ever uses the first two stations between Ormoz and Ljutomer, nor several of the tiny ones north of Ljutomer and Murska that I've seen, the service is so sparse it's useless in the modern world. Ditto on the Hun side, although the service is more frequent.

It's the same story with the odd trains that run to Čakovec, as they see almost no usage from locals. I spoke to the border police there about this, and they said that the only time the trains from SLO into Čakovec saw any usage was when there was some special event in Čakovec. Other than that, they reckoned that they were checking a maximum of 5 people in Središče on each return trip that the train made.
 

70014IronDuke

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After bit of digging, it seems the SI-HU route via Hodoš is part of TEN-T Corridor D, which explains some of the recent investment (resignalling, electrification).
The full corridor is: Valencia – Barcelona – Lyon – Turin – Milan – Trieste – Ljubljana – Budapest.
The national infrastructure agencies are supposed to be installing ETCS on the route, partly funded by the EU.
This explains the money spent on what in national terms are local lines with little cross-border traffic.
I suspect the linked station improvements are part of the EU rules for new/upgraded lines - you can see the same thing in Romania, for instance, where lines are being upgraded.

Upgrading this route as a strategic, long-distance link is fine by me: I don't know about the finacials, but at least it has the potential to take a lot of lorries off the roads. What I'm saying is a stupid waste of taxpayers' money is rebuilding every tiny halt, and, in the case of the Hungarian section, designing and rebuilding a string of relocated halts between Zalaegerszeg and Zalalovo when that line was straightened and upgrades c 2005 - 2012 (I can't remember the exact dates).

Some of these halts surely see some use (I've never caught a local train, but I'm sure they see more use than their equivalents on the Slovene side) but the massive sums involved in rebuilding them would have been better spent subsidising buses, which would be more convenient for 75% of passengers to these villages.

On the Slovene side, they didn't relocate any stations, but they did spend awful sums building passenger subways at stations like Ormoz and Ptuj, where, for 100+ years, people simply used foot crossings. Even with electric traction, there are not enough trains to worry about, nor are they speeding past when they do come. Foot crossings were perfectly adequate - and in any case, tracks are unfenced even within Ljubljana and anyone can wander across them, where services are much more frequent and fast. ie I'd say it is dangerous to try crossing. But Ptuj, Ormoz, Ljutomer and Murska? A waste of money.

It's the same story with the odd trains that run to Čakovec, as they see almost no usage from locals. I spoke to the border police there about this, and they said that the only time the trains from SLO into Čakovec saw any usage was when there was some special event in Čakovec. Other than that, they reckoned that they were checking a maximum of 5 people in Središče on each return trip that the train made.

Well, sort of the same: Clearly next to nobody will use these services. Car ownership is Slovenia, even in the poorer Prekmurje, must be about as high as it can get in eastern Europe (Slovenes take great pride in their cars, of course). And the Croats in Cakovec are not exactly poor either. But there has always been a service, of course, as far as I know.

Re-opening Cakovec to Lendava is nuts though, for two trains e/w per day. (Or it was, last time I looked.)
 
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